INDIANAPOLIS - The NCAA is getting tough on academics, and teams from predominantly black colleges and schools in the Hurricane Katrina region are getting hit hardest.
The NCAA's latest Academic Progress Report, released Wednesday, shows historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) account for about 13 percent of all schools facing potential scholarship losses or receiving warning letters because of poor classroom performance.
Seven Louisiana schools accounted for thirteen of 49 warning letters, which could lead to more punitive actions as early as next year. The schools are Centenary, Grambling, Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisiana-Monroe, McNeese State, Nicholls State and Southern.
It wasn't immediately clear whether the data collected over the last three years might have been skewed by student defections after the hurricane, which could have affected a team's score.
This is the first time the NCAA has sent out warning letters based on academic performance.
The NCAA's Academic Progress Report (APR) calculation measures eligibility and retention of student athletes. Teams scoring less than 900 under the formula cannot replace scholarships if an academically ineligible player then leaves school. The maximum loss is 10 percent of the team's scholarships.
Teams scoring less than 925 in this latest report received warning letters.
NCAA vice president Kevin Lennon said many teams from predominantly black colleges and the Hurricane Katrina area were granted waivers, which allows the school to avoid punishment for now. Lennon said more than 50 teams at HBCUs were given waivers.
"But I think there's an expectation, whether it's an HBCU or not, to put together a plan for improving rates," Lennon said. "If those rates improved, they're not on the list."
For teams receiving warning letters, it means they must improve now.
If they appear on the list next year, they could be subjected to a reduction in playing time. If they're on the list each of the next two years, they could be disqualified from NCAA tournaments.
Lennon and other NCAA officials consistently have said they don't want it to reach that point.
"Our hope is that they will make improvement and not be subject to those penalties," Lennon said. "We're trying to work with each school individually."
The data also revealed a clear financial delineation.
Schools that can pour money into academic resources, such as BCS schools, fared well. Universities with less money weren't as fortunate.
Lennon said the NCAA understands the predicament and wants to help. That's why the board of directors last week approved an annual fund to disperse about $1.6 million in grants to underfunded schools.
"Some BCS programs have additional resources to put into the academic support system," he said.
No BCS team received a warning letter.
Contrast that with:
- Texas Southern, an HBCU located in Houston, received warning letters in five sports, the most of any school in the nation. Teams in men's basketball, men's tennis, women's golf, softball and women's soccer all received warnings.
- Nicholls State received warning letters in four sports: Baseball, men's cross country and women's indoor and outdoor track.
- Chattanooga and San Jose State were the only schools sanctioned with both contemporaneous penalties and warning letters in two sports. Both schools were cited in football. Chattanooga also was penalized in wrestling, while San Jose State was cited in men's soccer.
- Florida International's football team, which was involved in a prominent brawl against nearby rival Miami, could lose as many as nine scholarships next year.
- Georgia Southern, which won back-to-back Division I-AA football titles in 1999 and 2000, also faces scholarship losses in football.
Lennon expects a different outcome next year when the NCAA drops its adjustment for small teams, such as golf.
"I can almost assure you that will change," he said. "We understand that a lot of them (BCS teams) benefited from the small-squad adjustment. Next year, when we don't have that, I don't think you'll see that disparity you just noted."
Other statistics showed that women's teams continued to perform better academically than men's teams. Women's teams averaged a score of 970, men's teams 950. Thirteen women's teams were cited, compared with 99 men's squads.
Although no sport averaged less than 925 over the three-year period, football, baseball and men's basketball consistently compiled the lowest scores and most citations.