When the NCAA approved sweeping reforms last year aimed at improving the academic performance of Division I baseball players, critics claimed the changes were unnecessary because the sport was already making academic progress. On Tuesday, that point was driven home when the NCAA released Graduation Success Rates for the class that entered school in 2001.
Baseball’s GSR has climbed to 72.4 percent, up from 67.3 percent for the class that entered school in 2000. It’s a drastic improvement from five years earlier, when baseball’s GSR sagged to 63.9 percent. And baseball’s recent reforms are not reflected in the latest data.
"Anytime our graduation rates go up, that’s encouraging," said Dave Keilitz, executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association. "That helps what we’re attempting to do, which is to maintain what we have with number of games and number of players, and so forth. That was encouraging. I think the (Academic Progress Rate) numbers will be encouraging from here on out also. I believe they will continue to rise, and the higher they rise, the more that helps our sport maintain what we want."
The GSR measures the percentage of student-athletes who earn a degree within six years. Baseball’s 5.1 percentage-point improvement was the most of any men’s sport, though the NCAA-wide GSR for all sports also increased, from 78 percent to 79 percent.
While baseball’s positive academic trend is encouraging, it doesn’t figure to have any impact on the recently implemented reform legislation, which includes a roster cap and a minimum aid package of 25 percent for all scholarship players, among other things. The Board of Directors has made it clear it does not intend to make any changes to the package for at least three or four years, to allow more data to be collected. Keilitz said the same philosophy should help baseball maintain its 56-game schedule, despite the Pacific-10 and West Coast Conference’s sponsorship of Proposal 2008-48, which would decrease the number of games to 52.
"I have written (NCAA president) Myles Brand, and we have the support of Myles Brand to maintain 56 games," Keilitz said. "However, if there are enough conferences that wish to get this changed, it could be a battle, but I have made several phone calls and written several letters, and the Board has indicated they do not want to make any changes in the APR package for at least a period of time, maybe three or four years until they have collected more data. It is my hope that the number of games we’re presently playing is part of their thinking with that total package."
The NCAA is also discussing ways to reduce travel expenses for its championships, but don’t expect baseball teams from the same conferences to start playing in regionals together.
"I think it will affect other sports much more so than baseball," Keilitz said.
In other NCAA news, the administrative committee of the Division I championships/sports management cabinet has upheld its public-admonishment sanctions of Arizona State coach Pat Murphy and former players Ike Davis and Brett Wallace for an on-field fight staged between Davis and Wallace prior to ASU’s third super-regional game against Fresno State. The Sun Devils had appealed the penalties.
"The decision to uphold the penalty was the result of the serious nature of the actions on the field during pregame activities,” cabinet chair Jeff Schemmel said in a release. "There is no question that the actions of the three individuals constitute misconduct as defined in the NCAA bylaws. In addition, the public nature of the incident justifies the assessment of a public reprimand."
Murphy issued a statement in response: "We must always take responsibility for our actions. We have been a top-10 program for three of the past four years, and when you have that kind of success, there is going to be a microscope on you. We’re used to that. It was a poor decision to allow this to happen."
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