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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 2, 2006

Smart thing to do now is act swiftly, decisively

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

 •  NCAA penalizes Warrior football team

Twice in the same week the University of Hawai'i athletic department has come up with rankings on a national scale.

One, the baseball team's crashing of the Collegiate Baseball poll for the first time in seven years, was worthy of some applause.

The second, UH being penalized 6.17 scholarships spread over its baseball and football programs for falling short of NCAA Academic Progress Rate standards should be a matter of concern and call to action.

The Warriors were docked the third highest number of football scholarships five of any school in NCAA Division I-A. And the baseball Rainbows were hit with the most severe penalty 10 percent of the maximum number of scholarship equivalencies in the sport allowed.

That kind of distinction is best avoided. Even more so when you notice the majority of football programs on that list weren't successful in the classroom or the field. And, there's probably a reason. Top programs recruit players who not only make academic progress but stick around and make a contribution. They make the student/athlete equation work.

So, if you're bumping shoulder pads with Temple (0-11), Buffalo (1-10) and Middle Tennessee State (4-7), New Mexico State (0-12), among others, on some kind of a list involving football, you probably need to seek a change of neighborhoods. Soon.

While the calculation of an APR which measures eligibility and retention by grading period can be almost as involved as, say a quarterback's efficiency rating, its bottom line is clear: in two of its most visible sports UH hasn't been measuring up with what the NCAA has warned it would be keeping track of. Not over the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons that were surveyed, anyway.

The trend is toward university presidents applying more pressure in this area, not less. Especially if it doesn't hamper the revenue-producing powers that be. So, it behooves UH to bring these two programs into line with its 15 other programs that have exceeded the NCAA's APR benchmark. Sooner rather than later.

In UH's case, the problem areas appear to result more from a heavy number of transitory athletes that have run through the programs than major academic problems. But that shouldn't lessen the responsibility for straightening things out, pronto.

While some NFL applications work in college, wholesale player movement does not, especially in what is supposed to be an academic environment. While major league baseball teams can turn over a roster often, it doesn't befit UH to be doing so over several years.

It doesn't appear the loss of five scholarships will severely hamper UH football in the short term. Nor will the taking away of 1.17 scholarships cripple baseball right away. But that shouldn't be the major concern here. More important is that UH uses this NCAA report and the penalties that come with it as incentive to address its deficiencies and avoid any future embarrassments.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.