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Journal ArticleDOI

Academic performance programs: new directions and (dis)connections in academic reform.

01 Jun 2012-Journal of Intercollegiate Sport (Human Kinetics)-Vol. 5, Iss: 1, pp 83-89

AbstractThe purpose of this paper is to provide a response to Harrison’s (2012) work. The author suggests that the one-size-fits all approach the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has adopted when implementing academic reform measures ultimately hurts the athletes the reforms are intended to benefit.

Topics: Athletes (57%)

Summary (1 min read)

Personal and Professional Experiences in Athletics and Academics

  • I attended Smith College for my undergraduate degree.
  • The first few years of my student-athlete experience were under the auspices of the AIAW (Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women).
  • I remember some of the “changes” that occurred for us during my senior year—the first year that my undergraduate college became a NCAA member institution—when the authors were required to sign multiple documents about their “role” as student-athletes and the academic requirements that would be imposed on us if they wished to continue participating in sport.
  • I tell you these few “historical” facts about myself because they definitely impact my reaction to the academic reform movement in the NCAA in general and the content of Dr. Harrison’s paper (2012) in particular.

Impact of Policies on Student Success

  • From information on the NCAA web page, I found that the overall GSR, as calculated by the NCAA from data that Cal Poly provided to the NCAA, was 72%.
  • It is through this process of self-study and subsequent peer review that the faculty members are able to explore the quality of the educational programs along with the quantity (e.g., student success as determined by graduation rate) of students the authors serve in their degree programs.
  • I wonder if such reflection and study of quality of learning experiences for students who participate in athletic programs would be a great way to build more meaningful results from academic reform initiatives.

Suggestions for Consideration

  • They have all indicated a variety of reasons why a “one-size-fits-all” approach to academic reform is problematic.
  • At their institution, the authors find that nearly 30% of the students consider a change of major, with close to 25% actually changing their major.
  • Also, although athletics in their institution falls under the purview of academic programs, the director of athletics has very little voice or visibility with any other administrators on campus other than the president.

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83
Journal of Intercollegiate Sport, 2012, 5, 83-89
© 2012 Human Kinetics, Inc.
Academic Performance Programs:
New Directions and (Dis)Connections
in Academic Reform
Camille P. O’Bryant
California Polytechnic State University
The purpose of this paper is to provide a response to Harrison’s (2012) work. The
author suggests that the one-size-ts all approach the National Collegiate Athletic
Association (NCAA) has adopted when implementing academic reform measures
ultimately hurts the athletes the reforms are intended to benet.
I would like to begin by thanking the members of the colloquium planning com-
mittee for inviting me to serve as a reactor to Harrison’s (2012) work. It is an
honor to be in the company of so many scholars, administrators and faculty who
are committed to keeping the student in the term student-athlete and dedicated to
studying the complexities of the structure, organization, and impact of intercollegiate
athletics in our nation’s colleges and universities. I also want to thank the 100–150
students enrolled in my courses in the psychological and sociological aspects of
sport and physical activity each quarter at California Polytechnic State University
(Cal Poly)—especially those students who are also athletes. I know how much I
enjoyed my intercollegiate sport experiences but also struggled with maintaining an
appropriate balance in time between training for my sport and keeping up with my
academic responsibilities—and that was in a Division III program, no scholarship,
or “pressure to win.” I am constantly inspired by the personal, social, and intellectual
strength, and determination of the students who participate in intercollegiate sports.
I have organized my remarks as follows: a brief statement of my personal
background and professional/academic experiences that provide context for my
reaction to the paper and thoughts about academic progress/performance policies,
some general reactions to and comments about Dr. Harrison’s keynote (2012),
suggestions for consideration as members of the Committee on Academic Perfor-
mance (CAP) and others in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
consider new directions for academic reform, and a statement about the need for
more institution-specic oversight of academic performance and why the institu-
tional oversight is important.
O’Bryant is with the Kinesiology Department, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis
Obispo, CA.

84 O’Bryant
Personal and Professional Experiences
in Athletics and Academics
I attended Smith College for my undergraduate degree. The rst few years of my
student-athlete experience were under the auspices of the AIAW (Association
for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women). I remember some of the “changes” that
occurred for us during my senior year—the rst year that my undergraduate college
became a NCAA member institution—when we were required to sign multiple
documents about our “role” as student-athletes and the academic requirements that
would be imposed on us if we wished to continue participating in sport. Although I
would have had no trouble meeting the current NCAA core-course requirements in
high school, because I attended Girls Latin School in Boston (one of three public
schools with an entrance exam requirement, the SAT), as I recall, my score on the
SAT would have made it difcult for me to be qualied to participate on a NCAA
Division I athletic team, if those rules had been in place in 1978. I tell you these
few “historical” facts about myself because they denitely impact my reaction to
the academic reform movement in the NCAA in general and the content of Dr.
Harrison’s paper (2012) in particular.
General Reactions to Harrison
I commend Dr. Harrison and members of the NCAA Committee on Academic
Performance for their thoughtful and critical review of academic performance and
reform of policies related to academic performance in NCAA Division I institu-
tions. Guided by the principles of ensuring that student-athletes have real academic
opportunities and ensuring that colleges are living up to their academic obliga-
tions to student-athletes, CAP’s decisions are made with the goal of improving
academic success as opposed to punishing students and schools. Basing decisions
on the best data available, committing to acquiring data that would support better
policies, and continuing to monitor data to track the intended and unintended
consequences of CAP’s decisions are crucial to on-going academic reform. I also
applaud the attempts that Dr. Harrison and members of CAP have made to make
theirs a holistic investigation of all NCAA sports—not just football, or women’s
or men’s basketball.
Dr. Harrison and others have described the evolution and future directions
for academic reform within the NCAA, but I just wanted to take a moment to
remind us all that the NCAA was not the rst governing body of intercollegiate
sport that came into existence to provide oversight and guidance for the conduct
of intercollegiate sport programs. In an overview of the historical timeline of the
governance of intercollegiate sport, Acosta and Carpenter (2005) pointed out that
Senda Berenson and her contemporaries formed the Women’s Basketball Com-
mittee (WBC) in 1899. These women physical educators and administrators were
concerned with the quality of the athletic experience for women participating in
intercollegiate basketball. Basketball grew in popularity very quickly on college
campuses, and there were quite a few debates about the competitive nature of the
game and role of competition for women in higher education. Unfortunately, there
is not time to explore the complexities of the impact of race, gender, and other
sociocultural, historical and political factors that inuence student success in this

Academic Reform 85
forum, but I wanted to mention the WBC so that we are all aware of the existence
of reform initiatives in intercollegiate sport beyond football and men’s basketball.
Impact of Policies on Student Success
As I read Dr. Harrison’s (2012) paper, I kept hearing the following questions come
into my mind: what is the impact of these policies; are these academic reform policies
really improving student success or are they increasing the gap between athletics and
academic programs on our campuses; and how are discussions on student success
(i.e., graduation rates) limiting as compared with discussions on student learning?
Presenters at this colloquium have spoken very eloquently about the history (Oriard,
2012) of academic reform, the results of academic reform (Paskus, 2012; Petr and
McArdle, 2012), and the future of academic reform (Harrison, 2012). Those who
have reacted to these presentations have made comments that reinforce the on-going
paradoxical nature of intercollegiate sport. Lawrence, Ott, and Hendricks (2009)
stated that sport on our college and university campuses have the potential to provide
many positive learning experiences off and on the eld of play, yet many people
involved in intercollegiate sport—the students, coaches, administrators and specta-
tors—often condemn intercollegiate sport for being “excessively commercial, and
permitting unethical and even scandalous behavior” (p. 73). The NCAA Academic
Performance Program and members of CAP are taking a systematic and empirically
based approach to help improve the academic integrity of intercollegiate sport in
NCAA Division I programs. But I would suggest that they are just scratching the
surface of the need for and impact of athletic academic reform.
As we have heard from speakers at this colloquium (e.g., Fields, 2012) and
according to information on the NCAA web page (Academic information about
colleges, 2011), NCAA student-athletes have graduated at an increasing rate over the
last decade, a period in which they also have consistently graduated at a higher rate
than the overall student body. So, are there other factors contributing to this success?
Lawry (2005) suggested that we should be cautious when reviewing graduation
rates as a good indicator of the “academic health of college athletic teams” (p. 21)
As I browsed the NCAA web page and reviewed the data on academic per-
formance, I asked myself the following question: How does the overall graduation
success rate (GSR) compare with the 6-year graduation rate at an actual institu-
tion? So, I checked for my institution for the students entering fall 2004. Accord-
ing to data from Cal Poly’s Ofce of Institutional Planning and Analysis (2011),
74.6% of rst-time freshmen entering Cal Poly in fall 2004 graduated within 6
years. From information on the NCAA web page, I found that the overall GSR,
as calculated by the NCAA from data that Cal Poly provided to the NCAA, was
72%. However, according to information on the NCAA web page, this percentage
is only based on student-athletes who received athletics aid from the college or
university for any period of time during their entering year of the GSR calculation
(Education & research, n.d.). I wonder what the GSR would be for all students
eligible to participate in intercollegiate athletics at Cal Poly or any other NCAA
member institution that is subject to these academic performance policies. Would
it be higher or lower? Should we exclude the possible impact or inuence of other
specic campus policies that inuence student success (e.g., policies on expected
academic progress or academic probation/disqualication policies)?

86 O’Bryant
I also wonder about the quality of the students’ experience. There is no doubt a
great opportunity to link student success with student learning through the process of
program review and assessment. Academic programs undergo program review at least
once every 5 years and engage in a period of self-study during which faculty mem-
bers are supposed to reect on the extent to which students meet the stated program
learning objectives. It is through this process of self-study and subsequent peer review
that the faculty members are able to explore the quality of the educational programs
along with the quantity (e.g., student success as determined by graduation rate) of
students we serve in our degree programs. I wonder if such reection and study of
quality of learning experiences for students who participate in athletic programs would
be a great way to build more meaningful results from academic reform initiatives.
Suggestions for Consideration
The comments I am about to make are based on two concerns that came to mind
as I read Dr. Harrison’s (2012) paper: (a) a need for systematic study of impact of
Academic Performance Rate (APR) and GSR in non-BCS (Bowl Championship
Series) programs, and (b) the importance of more institution-specic oversight of
academic performance of students who participate in intercollegiate sport.
Need for Systematic Study of Impact of APR and GSR
in non-BCS programs
Each person who has presented at this colloquium has alluded to the diversity of
and within college and university sport programs. They have all indicated a variety
of reasons why a “one-size-ts-all” approach to academic reform is problematic.
What I want to spend time talking about is my concern about the potential that these
academic reform policies have to widen the gap between college athletics/athletes
and the educational values or mission at the colleges and universities—which may
be one of the “unintended consequences” that warrants further study.
As I previously noted, many who have addressed this body have discussed
concerns about the impact of these reforms on students of color and on institutions
with limited scal and human resources (e.g., Historically Black Colleges and
Universities [HBCU] and primarily Hispanic-serving institutions; see, for example,
Cunningham, 2012). I want to ask that we focus more on building bridges and
facilitating better communication and connections between athletics and academics.
I am thinking right now about academic/athletic advisors who, according to
Meyer (2005), are “inextricably involved in this controversy [surrounding aca-
demic reform] . . . and have….perhaps, one of the most challenging jobs in higher
education” (p. 15). I concur with Meyer’s contention that those who are at the
forefront of the reform policies do have the intention of transforming the “culture”
of intercollegiate athletics in a manner that ensures “student-athletes are indeed
students”; yet, they are not those who “work daily with students” (p. 18). The aca-
demic advisors in athletic departments and in academic departments are the ones
who are trying to help bridge the gap between NCAA academic reform policies
and students in these programs. I have many concerns about the misinformation
that students receive from those athletic academic advisors who are unable to or
fail to take the time to learn a specic curriculum. In addition, what, if anything,

Academic Reform 87
does the NCAA leadership know about how coaches and administrators feel about
these academic reform policies?
In a preliminary study of APR, Christy, Seifried and Pastore (2008) examined
the opinions of athletic directors, faculty athletic representatives, senior women
administrators, and head coaches. While this was a preliminary investigation of
the impact of APR in intercollegiate athletics, these authors found that 64% of
the respondents felt that APR would have a positive impact on college athletics,
namely improving graduation rates of student-athletes and making head coaches
more accountable for the type of student-athletes being recruited. Yet, there were
still nearly 1 in 3 (32%) of respondents who were very critical of APR as a whole.
From Christy et al.s (2008) discussion, it appeared to me that the main critics of
APR were the head coaches of nonrevenue sports. For example, while APR has the
potential to ensure or push head coaches to recruit students who are better “prepared”
to be successful and complete their college degree, the added pressure on coaches
to ensure academic success could result in a “watered down” curriculum (p. 8) or
the push for students to take “easier courses” or choose “easier” majors to ensure
APR success (p. 8). The respondents in this study raised some critical questions
about APR and GSR, and the authors made very important recommendations for
future research: examine the attitudes of Division I non-BCS administrators and
head coaches to gain a better understanding of how these reforms are negatively
impacting students, coaches and administrators at HBCUs and midmajor universi-
ties; examine the extent to which APR may widen the gap between the academic
success and support between the high end and low end of Division I; and engage
in more in-depth, quantitative analysis into the perceptions of the APR.
Presenters have already expressed concern about the clustering of athletes into
majors that may make it “easier” for them to meet the standards of academic perfor-
mance polices rather than choose major elds of study that are more closely aligned
with their intellectual and professional interests. Choice of major is a very complex
process, and many students change their major, at least once. For example, at our
institution, we nd that nearly 30% of the students consider a change of major, with
close to 25% actually changing their major. Fountain and Finley (2011) shared results
of their longitudinal analysis of academic clustering in a NCAA Division I football
program. They stated that their data supported the occurrence of clustering with the
majority of students (53.2%) selecting or migrating to a major in Apparel, Hous-
ing and Resource Management—a phenomenon that was particularly noteworthy
for the minority players in their sample. The second most commonly listed major
was Sociology, with 13.8% in that major. Again, we cannot say for certain based
on current data if the APR or GSR are the cause for academic clustering, but the
trend toward clustering in the wake of academic reform is something that has been
visible in a variety of reports related to academic reform in the past two decades.
More Institutional Oversight of Academic Performance
While I understand that many of the academic reform movements have occurred
because of the concern for student success and corruption in high-prole sports
in highly visible college sport programs, I would like to suggest that increased
efforts from the NCAA to govern or legislate academic progress has led to greater
disconnects between athletic departments and the rest of the campus community,
ultimately hurting many students. I have been a member of my university’s athletic

Citations
More filters

Dissertation
01 Jan 2014

8 citations


Cites background from "Academic performance programs: new ..."

  • ...APR is viewed as a measure of the academic success of student-athletes and of the academic culture of an institutions; therefore, not meeting minimum APR scores can be a serious blow to the image of a higher education institution (Batley, 2011; Christy, Seifried & Pastore, 2008; O’Bryant, 2012; Oriard, 2012)....

    [...]

  • ...…as a measure of the academic success of student-athletes and of the academic culture of an institutions; therefore, not meeting minimum APR scores can be a serious blow to the image of a higher education institution (Batley, 2011; Christy, Seifried & Pastore, 2008; O’Bryant, 2012; Oriard, 2012)....

    [...]

  • ...There are also questions about whether an increase in minimum APR standards will mean more increases in spending, academic fraud, and student-athletes clustering in majors (Getz & Seigfried, 2012; O’Bryant, 2012)....

    [...]

  • ...There are also questions about whether an increase in minimum APR standards will mean more increases in spending, academic fraud, and student-athletes clustering in majors (Getz & Seigfried, 2012; O’Bryant, 2012)....

    [...]


Journal ArticleDOI

References
More filters

Journal Article
Abstract: As NCAA Division I coaches feel greater pressure to produce winning teams while ensuring that athletes remain eligible and progress toward degrees to avoid sanctions under the NCAA’s academic reform initiatives, concerns regarding the clustering of athletes into limited numbers of academic majors has increased. Academic clustering occurs when 25% or more of the members of one team share a single academic major (Case, Greer, & Brown, 1987). Recent studies have extended the analysis of clustering to include the disparate impact on white and minority football players in a single athletic conference (Fountain & Finley, 2009), as well as consideration of female basketball players throughout Division I (Paule, 2010). To date, these studies have provided a snapshot of teams for a given season. This study extends the understanding of clustering by examining one football program over a period of ten years, which allowed for greater understanding of the movement of players into and out of majors, especially the movement into a clustered major midway through their academic experience. Media guides from one BCS football program were used to track the listed majors of 349 players, from 2000 through 2009. Results indicated that players migrated into a single clustered major over time and that a significant number of touted recruits and National Football League draftees selected the clustered major. Further, players who had listed general education (University Studies) in their first media guide appearances frequently selected the clustered major.

63 citations


Journal ArticleDOI

48 citations


"Academic performance programs: new ..." refers background in this paper

  • ...As we have heard from speakers at this colloquium (e.g., Fields, 2012) and according to information on the NCAA web page (Academic information about colleges, 2011), NCAA student-athletes have graduated at an increasing rate over the last decade, a period in which they also have consistently…...

    [...]


Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: The purpose of this article is to offer a sociohistorical overview of academic reform in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). To do so, the author draws heavily from football history and its association with academic reform in the broader intercollegiate athletics context. Intercollegiate athletics has undergone significant changes in professionalism and academic integrity over time—something that suggests the current dysfunctional structure can be systemically changed, too.

37 citations


"Academic performance programs: new ..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Presenters at this colloquium have spoken very eloquently about the history (Oriard, 2012) of academic reform, the results of academic reform (Paskus, 2012; Petr and McArdle, 2012), and the future of academic reform (Harrison, 2012)....

    [...]


Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: The purpose of this article is to provide an historical overview of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) academic reform, with a particular focus on the empirical basis for the decisions made. The authors outline four eras of academic reform, examine the types of information the NCAA has collected and used to make decisions about academic policy, and explore the limits of such academic data.

28 citations


"Academic performance programs: new ..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Presenters at this colloquium have spoken very eloquently about the history (Oriard, 2012) of academic reform, the results of academic reform (Paskus, 2012; Petr and McArdle, 2012), and the future of academic reform (Harrison, 2012)....

    [...]


Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: Recent reform initiatives have offered ideas for improving academic and financial oversight, but the ideas do not always conform to faculty perceptions and opinions

28 citations


"Academic performance programs: new ..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Lawrence, Ott, and Hendricks (2009) stated that sport on our college and university campuses have the potential to provide many positive learning experiences off and on the field of play, yet many people involved in intercollegiate sport—the students, coaches, administrators and spectators—often…...

    [...]