Created:Friday, October 28, 2011 5:30 a.m.CDT
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NCAA approves major scholarship changes

By RYAN WOOD - rwood@shawmedia.com
Northern Illinois athletic director Jeff Compher speaks at NIU’s basketball media day on Tuesday. Compher said, “That’s just got to be something we analyze and take a good look at” with regards to the NCAA board of directions approving major scholarship changes on Thursday. (Kyle Bursaw – kbursaw@shawmedia.com)

The Mid-American Conference athletic scholarship policy has long mimicked the national standard, and commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said Thursday he expects that to continue despite extensive NCAA reformations.

The NCAA Division I Board of Directors approved Thursday an additional $2,000 in spending money conferences can allow per scholarship, which it calls the cost of full attendance. Formerly a one-year, renewable deal, athletic scholarships now can be awarded for multiple years. The money would be distributed evenly to male and female athletes because of Title IX, and the policy would go into affect during the next school year.

“We currently, before today, we had a grant-aid system that we did not set up any different standards from the national standards, and I think that would be consistent moving forward,” Steinbrecher told the Daily Chronicle.

Conferences will decide individually whether to administer changes. Steinbrecher said the MAC will gather input from university presidents and athletic directors before making a decision.

While Steinbrecher anticipates implementing the reforms, it will be difficult for schools outside BCS conferences. Northern Illinois athletic director Jeff Compher told the Daily Chronicle on Thursday the changes likely would cost NIU “several hundred thousand dollars.” He also said a conference call with university presidents, athletic directors and MAC officials is scheduled for some time in the next couple weeks.

“I think it’s going to be a stretch for everyone in the MAC to afford these additional scholarships,” said Compher, adding he fully supports prolonging scholarship length. “That’s just got to be something we analyze and take a good look at.”

Compher called the additional $2,000 per scholarship a “major change.” Others Thursday included more rigid academic standards and tweaks to the summer basketball recruiting schedule.

The NCAA increased the Academic Progress Report cutline from 900 to 930, making teams ineligible for postseason play if they score under that mark. Compher said he also supports the higher academic standards, adding that all NIU teams scored above 930 last year.

With the recruiting changes, basketball coaches will be allowed four evaluation days – days coaches can visit recruits off-campus – in April and 12 in July. April was previously a dead month, while coaches had 20 July contact days. A text messaging ban was also discarded, and coaches will have more summer contact with their own players.

Compher said it was the most changes he’d seen in one day.

“There are so many changes that were made today, so many things that have been enacted,” Compher said. “We’ve got to take a look at how we’re going to affect.”

More adjustments likely are on the way.

Steinbrecher said investigations are being made on modifications with NCAA bylaws 11 through 17, which touch on amateurism, recruiting, eligibility, financial aid, awards and benefits, and limitations placed on practice hours. Compher expects rule modifications, specifically how authority is divided between conferences and the NCAA.

“I think you’re starting to see a shift toward conference responsibility,” Compher said.

By April, the possibility exists to see a radically different NCAA.

“You’re going to see, from November really to next spring, a series of different things coming down the pipe,” Steinbrecher said. “You’re going to see some stuff on the NCAA rule book. They hope to reduce the number of rules in there. That will be interesting, to say the least.”

Given a full slate of games against Big Ten teams, which team finishes with the best record?
NIU
Purdue
Northwestern