University Athletics Advisory Committee
1998-99 Activity Report
26 May 1999
The University Athletics Advisory Committee (AAC) consists of the Athletics Department director and selected staff, students, student-athletes, faculty, and USC administrators involved in student affairs (e.g., the Registrar and Director of Student Affairs). This diverse group focuses on issues affecting the intercollegiate athletic programs, especially academic performance and eligibility requirements.
The AAC met monthly during the academic year from September through April. The AAC will resume its regular meetings in September. The following categories represent the most important issues the AAC discussed this past year.
NCAA Eligibility Requirements
The NCAA has proposed revising its eligibility standards in several ways. Many of these revision follow from the Cureton vs. NCAA case (March 8, 1999), in which the plaintiff successfully challenged the use of standardized tests for determining eligibility. If the ruling stands, it could mean that the emphasis on standardized test scores will be reduced considerably. The AAC is keeping a close watch on the repercussions of this case, since it could mean a significant change in how eligibility is determined.
- After extensive review and discussion of different models for NCAA eligibility, in September 1998 the AAC supported the elimination of "partial qualifiers," thereby providing more uniform eligibility standards without lowering academic standards. The AAC was concerned that proposal for a sliding scale of eligibility (where lower test scores could be accepted with proportionately higher grades and vice versa) could unduly de-emphasize either test scores or grades, thus lowering eligibility standards.
- In February 1999, the AAC registered concern about the NCAA proposal to increase minimum grade requirements for fifth-year students to maintain eligibility. The proposed change would require fifth-year students to maintain higher grades than non-athletes and, if not adopted by all NCAA schools (e.g., if implemented only in the SEC) would place USC at a recruiting disadvantage.
Student-Athlete Academic Performance
The overall academic picture for student-athletes is quite encouraging. The 1999 annual Scholar Athlete Banquet hosted by the Athletics Department and the AAC (April 6, 1999) honored students who earned at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA in one or more semesters during 1998. This year, a record number of athletes (277) reached the 3.0 mark. Each student also identified the instructor most responsible for their academic success, and those instructors were honored at the banquet as Faculty All-Stars.
As for the most recent academic information (Spring 1999):
- 182 of 414 scholarship athletes (44%) earned 3.0 or higher
- 86 student-athletes made the Deans List (compared to 54 in Spring 1998)
- 9 teams maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher
- 11 teams improved their GPAs from Spring 1998 to Spring 1999
- 85 athletes made the SEC academic honor roll (maintaining a 3.0 cumulative GPA for the year and lettering in a sport)
- 2 athletes won Boyd McWater scholarships ($5,000) from the SEC
- 12 students earned a 4.0
One source of continuing concern is the academic performance of the mens basketball team. While grades are not uniformly low for all players, there are some poor academic performers. The AAC has suggested that incentives be offered to the coaching staff to improve grades (just as high graduation rates are recognized and rewarded). The committee also urged earlier intervention by tutors and faculty when grade problems are anticipated. For example, more frequent progress reports from instructors and more rapid turnaround of this information might prevent problems from developing. Since the grade point averages of sports with fewer participants are disproportionately affected by one or two anomalous performers, the AAC and the Registrars office have expanded and modified how grades are reported and released to the public. The grade statistics now include grade point averages and graduation rates for every sport, the numbers of participants in each sport whose grades are counted, as well as overall cumulative grade point averages and graduation rates for all sports. When viewing this comprehensive picture, overall academic performance of our student-athletes is impressive. As for graduation rates, we find:
- USC student-athletes have a higher graduation rate than USC students in general (65% vs. 61% based on January 11, 1999 Registrars statistics);
- The 1998 graduation rate of USC athletes is second in the SEC (behind only Vanderbiltaccording to SEC report circulated in November 18, 1998 meeting).
Finally, in the AACs annual meeting with President Palms (February 10, 1999), the committee discussed how academic achievements of athletes could be publicized better throughout the campus and community. Regarding eligibility standards, President Palms agreed with the AAC that eligibility requirements should be kept high to keep pace with USCs increased standards for admissions.
Respectfully Submitted by
Roy Schwartzman, Ph.D.
Chair, Athletics Advisory Committee