Last Thursday the NCAA’s Board of Directors approved at its quarterly meeting in Indianapolis new guidelines in an effort to clean up its scandal-plagued image.

According to an article by the Associated Press, the board approved a package of sweeping reforms that gives conferences the option of adding more money to scholarship offers and schools the opportunity to award scholarships for multiple years, imposes tougher academic standards on recruits and changes the summer basketball recruiting model.

“It was one of the most aggressive and fullest agenda the board has ever faced,” NCAA president Mark Emmert was quoted by the AP. “They moved with dispatch on it, and I think they’re taking positive steps for schools and student-athletes.”

For decades, outsiders have debated whether college scholarships should include more than just the cost of tuition, room and board, books and fees, the AP article stated. Now they can.
The NCAA board approved a measure allowing conferences to vote on providing up to $2,000 in spending money, or what the NCAA calls the “full cost of attendance”.

Emmert insists it’s not “pay-for-play,” merely the reintroduction of a stipend that existed for college athletes until 1972. He also compared it to the stipends received by students who receive “non-athletic scholarships”.

I remember when I was on a baseball scholarship at McNeese State in the early 1960’s there was a thing called “laundry money” which was a small stipend that went with the package.

Many believe the measure is long overdue. “I think it needs to happen or else I think what’s left of the system itself is going to implode,” said Ohio University professor David Ridpath, past president of The Drake Group, an NCAA watchdog. “We’ve always lost the moral high ground by saying the educational model is what makes this thing go.”

The AP article said schools must infer the cost of additional funding and it will have to be doled out equally to men’s and women’s athletes because of Title IX rules.

While BCS schools have the money and are expected to swiftly approve additional funding, it may prove too costly for non-BCS schools.

The NCAA board also approved a measure giving individual schools the authority to avoid scholarships on a multiple-year basis. Under the current model, those scholarships are renewed annually and can be revoked for any reason.

If adopted, schools could guarantee scholarships for the player’s entire career and would be unable to revoke it based solely on athletic performance. Scholarships still could be pulled for reasons such as poor grades, academic misconduct or other forms of improper behavior.

In August the NCAA board approved raising the four-year Academic Progress Rate (APR) cut line from 900 to 930 and linking it to eligibility for post-season play. On Thursday, it passed a four-year plan to phase in the new requirements.

The AP article pointed out that UConn’s men’s basketball team could be the first to feel the impact. After posting an 826 last year, a UConn official said this year’s mark will be about 975. It would give Connecticut a two-year score of 900.5 and a four-year score of 888.5—too low to make the NCAA basketball tournament.

Beginning in 2012-13, teams must hit 900 on the APR over four years or have an average of 930 over the two most recent years to be eligible for postseason play. In 2014-15, teams must have a four-year score of 930 or a 940 average in the two most recent years.

In 2015-16, everybody has to hit 930, no exceptions. There will be waivers and appeals, though they will be kept to a minimum. The board also agreed to include the APR cut line in bowl licensing agreements, making it enforceable in football, too.

Schools that miss the APR cut line could face reductions in practice time, game reductions, coaching suspensions and restricted NCAA membership.

Beginning in August 2012, high school seniors will need a 2.3 Grade Point average (GPA) in 16 core courses, instead of the current 2.0 GPA and must complete 10 of those classes before their senior year.

Junior college transfers would need a 2.5 GPA and can count only two physical education credits toward eligibility. Students that meet the current standards but not the new ones will be given an “academic redshirt” year in which they will be on scholarship and can practice with the team but cannot travel or participate in games.

The NCAA board also instituted a new summer basketball recruiting model. Instead of having 20 evaluation days in July and none in April, coaches will have four evaluation days in April and 12 in July.

In addition, coaches will be allowed more contact with their players during the summer, with details to be worked out. The change also means coaches can make unlimited calls or send unlimited text messages to prep recruits after June 15 at the end of their sophomore year.
The NCAA board also received an update from another working group that is working on the penalty structure for infractions. The group intends to propose four categories of infractions, instead of the current two, and to establish guidelines for sanctions based on each set of violations.

The group is expected to make recommendations in January, with a final vote possibly coming next October.

KWICKIES…Sunset Grove golfer Ernie Dyer got a hole-in-one recently on the 143-yard Par 3 No. 12 hole. This was Ernie’s second ace in less than a year. He used a seven-iron and was playing with assistant pro Kerry Lamb.

The Dallas Cowboys showed their true colors Sunday night when they were beaten in every phase of the game by the Philadelphia Eagles, who have never lost the game right after a bye week. It was obvious the Eagles worked the entire two weeks on the Cowboys’ weaknesses, which proved to be numerous. Their biggest weakness could very well be their new loud-mouthed defensive coordinator Rob Ryan who preaches a much better game than he teaches.

It’s hard to believe that on two occasions in Game Six the Texas Rangers were one strike away from being the world champions and the St. Louis Cardinals came through with clutch hits both times to tie the game and then win it in the 11th inning. This turned out to be one of the best World Series ever.

Saturday night’s big game between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama doesn’t occur very often this late in the season and should have a massive audience. The first five teams in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 College Football Poll are unchanged with No. 3 Oklahoma State, No. 4 Stanford and No. 5 Boise State. Oregon moved up one notch to No. 6, Oklahoma leaped four slots to No. 7, Arkansas remained No. 8 while No. 9 Nebraska and No. 10 South Carolina each jumped four places this week. Undefeated University of Houston moved four spots to No. 14 and is the only school from the Lone Star State in this week’s poll, while Texas, TCU and Texas A&M all received votes.

The Houston Texans solidified their hold on first place in the AFC South Division with a 24-14 victory over Jacksonville Sunday at Reliant Stadium in Houston. The Texans (5-3) host the Cleveland Browns (3-4) and travel to Tampa Bay (4-3) before having their bye week.

JUST BETWEEN US…It looks like Orange County will be well-represented in the state high school football playoffs that begin after the regular season ends this weekend. The West Orange-Stark Mustangs, Vidor Pirates, Orange Community Christian and either the Bridge City Cardinals or Orangefield Bobcats will earn a berth in the post-season playoffs.