INDIANAPOLIS — The scandal-plagued NCAA is moving to clean up its image.
On Thursday, the Division I Board of Directors approved sweeping reforms that give conferences the option of adding more money to scholarship offers, schools the opportunity to award multiple-year scholarships, impose tougher academic standards on recruits and change the summer basketball recruiting model.
The 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. NCAA President Mark Emmert insists it is 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 other students who receive non-athletic scholarships.
Schools must dole out funding 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 board also approved a measure that will give individual schools the authority to award scholarships on a multiple-year basis.
Under the current model, those scholarships are renewed annually. 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 could still be pulled for reasons such as poor grades or academic misconduct.
In the wake of frequent scandals, the NCAA's board went back to basics and placed a renewed emphasis on academics.
In August, the board approved raising the four-year Academic Progress Rate cutline from 900 to 930 and linking that cutline to eligibility for post-season play. On Thursday, it passed a four-year plan to phase in the new requirements.
During the first two years, 2012-13 and 2013-14, teams scoring below 900 on the four-year average would be ineligible for post-season play unless they averaged 930 on the two most recent years of data. In 2014-15, teams that do not hit the 930 mark would be ineligible unless they averaged 940 in the two most recent years. After that, everyone must hit 930, no exceptions.
Schools that do not make the grade could also face additional penalties such as reductions in practice time and game limits, coaches suspensions and scholarship reductions.
As part of the plan, the board agreed to raise eligibility standards for incoming freshmen and junior college transfers.
The other big issue was summer basketball recruiting. The board has agreed to drop the text messaging ban and allow unlimited contacts to prep players after June 15 of their sophomore year. But instead of having 20 evaluation days in July, coaches will have four in April, previously a dead period, and 12 in July. And they'll have more on-campus contact with recruits and current players during the summer.