Drake Group Urges Significant Changes to Reduce Athlete Time Demands:

There is probably no more significant roadblock for college athletes seeking meaningful educations than the unreasonable amounts of time they must engage in practice and other athletics-related activities. In every NCAA and conference survey and through numerous research studies, athletes have made their concerns and needs concerning time spent on their sports known. Excessive athletics time demands are interfering with sleep, prohibiting recovery from injury and strenuous exercise sessions, increasing the dangers of concussion, inducing stress that affects mental health, and greatly interfering with academic responsibilities and choice of major. Dr. B. Dave Ridpath of Ohio University and President of The Drake Group stated, “The Big Five Autonomy Conferences’ recent “Flex 21″ proposed rules changes (questionably applauded by the Knight Commission) are woefully inadequate and continue to mask the larger problem. This approach by the Big Five reflects the inability of institutions with commercialized football and basketball programs to recognize the conflict of interest that exists between protecting revenue production and multi-million dollar coaches’ salaries while attempting to balance the most important issue–which is the health and academic well-being of college athletes.” The Drake Group, after careful study, issued eight achievable and measurable recommendations to adequately confront the time demands issue as opposed to simply masking the issue. Ridpath continued, “Equally important is the issue of coaches’ control of athletes, who, as college students, should be learning critical life skills such as individual accountability and independence. Such coach control in football, basketball, and many other Division I sports also crosses the line of demarcation between the college athlete as a student and as a professional athlete employee. A reversal of time demands in favor of academic priorities and control by college athletes over their own rest, safety, study time, and social time is necessary or it will become even more disingenuous to call these athletes students.”

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Drake Group Questions NCAA Academic Metrics

On October 7, 2015, The Drake Group released a position statement that is highly critical of the NCAA’s Division I Academic Metrics. “Academic integrity in intercollegiate athletics requires a system of checks and balances, transparent academic metrics and safeguards that ensure that learning occurs, not just that athletic eligibility is maintained.” Drake Group President Gerald Gurney, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Oklahoma said “When the NCAA fails to rely on comparator metrics to the non-athlete student body, no “speed limit” is available to keep athletic programs honest. Unless academic standards for athletes are anchored to institutional academic standards and expectations for all students, athlete academic standards will float with the tide of institutional greed.” The Drake Group conducted a comprehensive assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of current academic progress standards for participation in college athletics to determine whether these standards effectively measure success in college, and found a significant need for reform. Key among the findings was that NCAA academic measures are often public relations “smokescreens,” hiding widespread exploitation of academically underprepared athletes and academic fraud by institutions chasing financial success in Division I athletics. The Drake Group identified no easy or single solution to this failure of academic standards. The NCAA must impose multiple reforms simultaneously to hold institutions and coaches accountable for the academic success of recruited athletes. Specifically, The Drake Group recommends that the NCAA should discontinue its use of the Graduation Success Rate, Academic Progress Rate, and Coaches Academic Success rate calculations because they are fundamentally flawed metrics that (1) do not permit comparison with non-athlete students, (2) do not recognize institutional differences in mission, classroom competitiveness, and student quality or the effect of these factors on underprepared college athletes and (3) invite academic fraud when mismatched recruits are denied appropriate remediation through academic support services. Alternatively, the Drake Group proposes eight academic reforms that would hold NCAA member schools and coaches accountable for recruiting athletes capable of graduating and for remedying academic deficiencies that might otherwise make graduation unlikely.

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Drake Group Questions Freshman Ineligibility Proposals

In April of 2015 the Big Ten Conference circulated a white paper, Education First, Athletics Second: The Time for a National Discussion is Upon Us, that proposed freshmen ineligibility for Division I football and men’s basketball players. The white paper argued that freshman ineligibility would benefit athletes academically, but that it should only apply to men’s basketball and football players because (1) their graduation rates lag behind those of athletes in other sports and (2) football and men’s basketball are the sports in which most NCAA academic infractions occur. The Drake Group notes that according to current research, “red shirting” (e.g., prohibiting an athlete from playing in the freshman year) by selected sport teams does not result in improved academic performance. In fact, research indicates that athletes who did not compete were more likely than those who competed to end the year in poor academic standing even when admitted under normal admission requirements.

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Guidelines for Academic Integrity in Athletics

Recent academic scandals related to the intercollegiate athletics programs at a number of the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher education reveal the absence of policy and practice that would ensure the primacy of academic study and the maintenance of academic integrity by institutions of higher education. The Drake Group believes that each of the following provisions should be embraced by any accredited institution of higher education and should be institutionalized by national athletic governance association rules and regulations.

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Drake Group Addresses Athlete Academic Protection Responsibilities:

There is a current debate concerning the responsibility of the NCAA to afford college athletes protections against academic fraud and misconduct, as has occurred recently at the University of North Carolina, Auburn University, Syracuse University and other institutions of higher education. The NCAA reported in early 2015 that it had 20 academic misconduct cases currently under investigation, compared to just one in the previous year. Yet, the NCAA and several prominent institutional leaders, faced with the first college athlete lawsuit alleging NCAA and institutional academic fraud, contend the NCAA should not be held accountable in these academic misconduct matters.

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