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NCAA Pushes Back Academic Reform for Limited-Resource Institutions

The NCAA Division I board of directors decided Thursday to give limited-resource institutions and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) more time to implement new academic reforms, in recognition that "many such institutions have a clearly stated mission to provide access to educational opportunities to a broader group of students."

For prospective student-athletes fearful that their poor grades will now prevent them from finding a spot on a college team, these changes may open new doors over the next few years.

The revised academic standards, adopted by the board last October, require teams to meet a certain Academic Progress Rate (APR) threshold in order to remain eligible for the postseason.

Starting next school year and running through 2013-14, most schools' teams must either average a 900 APR over a four-year period or earn a 930 average over the most recent two years to participate in postseason play. The 930 APR equates to roughly a 50 percent graduation rate, according to NCAA estimates.

In 2014-15, most schools' teams can remain eligible for the postseason by earning a 930 four-year APR or averaging a 940 APR over the most recent two years. By 2015-16, those teams must earn a 930 four-year APR to stay eligible.

Now, based on the changes approved by the board of directors yesterday, the timeline for limited-resource institutions to meet the 930 four-year APR standard has been pushed back.

Like all other Division I schools, teams from limited-resource institutions will be required to either maintain a four-year APR of 900 or an APR of 930 over the two most recent years in 2012-13 and 2013-14. The divergence begins in the 2014-15 school year, where limited-resource institutions will only be required to maintain a four-year APR of 900 or an APR of 940 over the most recent two years.

In the 2015-16 school year, the two-year APR option disappears, and all teams from limited-resource institutions must meet a four-year APR of 920 to remain eligible for the postseason. Then, in 2016-17, all teams must hold a 930 four-year APR for postseason eligibility—a year after the four-year 930 APR requirement kicks in for most other schools.

"We have an obligation to work with HBCUs and limited-resource institutions to make sure their student-athletes have every opportunity to be successful academically," said NCAA Pesident Mark Emmert in a statement. "It's important to look at a variety of options and be as deliberative as we can to ensure our actions facilitate success, not limit it."

To be considered for the alternative timeline, a school must fall within the lowest 15 percent of Division I schools in terms of resources. No teams at Football Bowl Subdivision schools will qualify for the extended timeline, according to a statement from the NCAA.

That means the men's basketball team at the University of Connecticut, which has already been ruled ineligible for the 2013 postseason for failing to meet the new APR standards, isn't likely to find reprieve with this rule change. (UConn is considered a Football Bowl Subdivision school, as it plays in the Big East Conference.)

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