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Suggestions good for NCAA

Athletics hold a special place in the collegiate world. Heated competitions in football, basketball and other sports are often the causes behind exciting school rivalries.

Understandably, it’s a fun way for alumni, students, fans and athletes to display their school pride.

A school’s pride, however, should not be determined solely on the results of athletic competition, as universities are first and foremost academic institutions. Pride should be determined by a university’s academic success as well.

After completing an 18-month study on finances in college sports, a report released last week by the Knights Commission – a group made up of university presidents and other leading minds aimed at emphasizing academic values in a commercialized athletic environment – recommended much-needed changes to NCAA operations that would greatly enhance the role of academics in sports.

The study found that from 2005 to 2008, spending on athletics at Division I-A schools rose 38 percent to $84,446 per athlete, while academic spending per student rose only 21 percent to $13,349.

“The NCAA and all of our institutions frequently speak about the importance of academics as an integral part of intercollegiate athletic programs,” William E. Kirwan, co-chair of the commission and chancellor of the University System of Maryland, said to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“When you really look at what’s being proposed here, we’re just saying, ‘Let’s live by that principle.’ If we’re going to generate more revenue, let’s make certain that a significant fraction of that revenue is dedicated to rewarding high academic performance,” he said.

The committee recommended the creation of an “Academic-Athletics Balance Fund,” which would change how the Bowl Championship Series and NCAA distribute millions in basketball and football revenue each year.

A school would be eligible for the fund if it has a predicted graduation rate of at least 50 percent among athletes.

The report also called for universities to be more transparent about their spending on athletics.

Finally, proposed changes include limiting the football postseason so it doesn’t interfere with spring semester and preventing the use of athletes’ identities to promote commercial entities and products.

This year, USF’s NCAA Academic Progress Rating (APR) – which measures a school’s academic rating among athletes – in football is a 956 out of a possible 1,000, and men’s basketball scored a 977.

The NCAA already penalizes schools that score below a 900.

Last year, USF football had the lowest APR among all BCS conference schools at 917, while the basketball team was third-to-last at 878 – a title that has been successfully shaken.

While USF has been able to improve academics among athletes, the Knight Commission propositions, if adopted by the NCAA, could help other schools reach the same goal.