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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 20, 2006

UH to beef up academic policy

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

In the aftermath of NCAA-imposed penalties for failure to meet minimum academic benchmarks in two of its marquee sports, the University of Hawai'i-Manoa is preparing new academic policies for the recruiting, eligibility and monitoring of its athletes, officials said yesterday.

The changes, which UH said are still being formulated, should be in place in time for coaches to integrate into recruiting for 2007, said Neal Smatresk, Manoa vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Smatresk said, "the biggest piece of this is a recognition that we on this campus need to do more to promote the academic success of our own student athletes. That's the heart of this."

Peter Nicholson, an English professor and UH faculty athletic representative, told the Manoa Faculty Senate yesterday prime components will include: "taking more effective control of the admission of student athletes; offering a couple of new carrots and sticks to encourage student-athlete academic performance; and reducing time conflicts between academics and athletics."

Although there had been previous discussions between the administration and the athletic department, a spokesman said, "I think the Academic Progress Rate (announcement) was probably the catalyst for getting the discussions moving,"

Last month the NCAA announced UH would be stripped of five football scholarships and 1.7 baseball scholarships, two of the most severe penalties meted out for failure to achieve the 925-point APR cutoff. Football had an 898 APR for the 2003-'04 and 2004-'05 academic years and baseball an 890.

Sixteen other UH sports either met the requirement or were not subject to penalty currently due to squad-size adjustments.

The APR awards points for each semester a player remains at an institution in good academic standing during a two-year period. Each semester a player remains at the school and is academically eligible or graduates earns the institution two points. A player who is academically eligible, but leaves or transfers, produces one point. An ineligible player who departs earns no points.

Nicholson said the APR scores, "shouldn't be taken as a condemnation either of our athletic program or of our student athletes as a whole. The vast majority of our student athletes are doing perfectly fine academically and some of them are doing exceptionally well."

However, Nicholson said, "the performance scores are brought (down) by that small (group) of students who frankly don't meet our own minimum academic standards."

Smatresk said, "our concerns are that we bring in students who can be successful and that we have a support structure for them that's encouraged and tracks their academic success."

Asked whether UH could remain competitive in some sports if more rigid admission standards were imposed, Smatresk said whatever is adopted, "it will be something that makes sense for us and our athletics program."

"I'm a big fan and I would certainly hope that whatever we do actually improves our academic program."

Already, some steps have been taken. This spring, football coach June Jones cut two players for academic deficiencies, withheld another 10 from participating in practices and installed a minimum 2.5 grade point average for walk-ons to be considered for scholarships.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com.