An academic progress report, published by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on May 6, signaled some troubles for a sports program on the University of Montana campus, but not one typically associated with the ethical and scholastic pitfalls that seem to plague college athletics.
College sports’ ruling body penalized the UM men’s cross-country team for failing on an NCAA-designed yardstick known as the Academic Progress Rate (APR), which has been ranking the academic success and graduation rates of student athletes every year since 2003.
According to the report, which looked at APRs in colleges across the country between 2003 and 2007, UM’s four-year average APR was 924 out of 1,000—lower than any other sports program on campus. Roughly translated, this means that more than four out of 10 male UM distance runners failed to graduate.
The cross country team’s APR mark landed below the NCAA threshold of 925, a point at which NCAA code mandates some form of penalty, including the withdrawal of scholarships. NCAA officials, accordingly, docked the men’s cross country program .22 scholarships, bringing its number of free rides down to 4.78.
UM Associate Athletic Director Jean Gee said the sanction system is fairly new, so the Griz runners’ academic problems can hardly be regarded as systemic. “We already have academic programs in place [to assist student athletes]; we’re not going to institute anything special just for this,” she added.
In an e-mail to the Indy, NCAA public relations director Erik Christianson explained the punitive equation depends on the number of student athletes from the program who quit school after being declared academically ineligible.
Nationwide, the NCAA report hit men’s basketball programs the hardest, followed by football and baseball. The Montana State football team lost 1.5 scholarships and two practice hours per week for its APR score of 876—actually an improvement over previous samplings. A full list of APR reports by school is available online, at http://www.ncaa.org/wps/portal.