By: Matthew Denhart and Robert Villwock
It was with sadness that we learned of Myles Brand’s recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. This is a horrible disease and Brand himself says the long-term prognosis is not good. Since he became President of the NCAA in 2003, Brand has been a positive force pushing for much needed reform of intercollegiate athletics. He has been especially concerned with the academic status of student-athletes and ensuring that the fundamental educational mission of the academy is not undermined by athletics and poor academic performance.
One of his first orders of reform was to create an equation to better assess the graduation rates of student-athletes. The belief was that athletes tend to transfer between schools at a higher rate than the general student body. Whether this is empirically true is somewhat uncertain, however, the creation of the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) is an attempt to better account for transfers. With the GSR, a school’s graduation rate is not affected by an athlete who transfers from the school as long as they are in good academic standing (i.e. eligible for competition in the next academic term). While this approach creates some problems—-it does not follow students all the way to graduation or consider those leaving school early to pursue a professional athletic career—-it is a bold step. Indeed, better graduation statistics that account for inter-institutional transfers are needed for universities in general. The NCAA, under Brand’s leadership, has at least opened the discussion for ways to address this problem.
Brand has also pushed for higher academic standards among athletes through something known as the Academic Progress Rate (APR). This requires that athletes maintain a certain level of progress toward the completion of their degrees, and punishes schools who exhibit poor academic performance. Such sanctions include losses of scholarships, practice time, postseason participation and even restricted membership in the NCAA. The implementation of this program appears to have helped improve graduation rates among athletes in recent years. Yet, a number of possible unintended consequences, such as evidence of athletes “clustering” in the same majors, are beginning to surface. Continuing reform is warranted.
Before taking over as President of the NCAA in 2003, Brand was the President of Indiana University. While at IU, he became famous after he fired then head basketball coach Bobby Knight for violating a zero tolerance policy placed on him by Brand.
CCAP is in the late stages of preparing a lengthy study on intercollegiate athletics. Issues with the academic performances of athletes, such as those raised above, are addressed in greater detail. Furthermore, the study will offer a close examination of the revenues and expenses of FBS (formerly referred to as Division 1-A) athletic departments. It is our hope that this work will be of benefit to those pushing for reform of college athletics. Myles Brand has been a positive force for such reform and it is a shame that his health is failing. We wish him a healthy recovery.