INDIANAPOLIS – The NCAA is giving college sports a whole new look.
On Thursday, the Division I Board of Directors approved a package of sweeping reforms that gives conferences the option of adding more money to scholarship offers, schools the opportunity to award scholarships for multiple years, imposes tougher academic standards on recruits and changes the summer basketball recruiting model.
It was one of the busiest board meetings in history, and it was all by design.
Just 2½ months after NCAA President Mark Emmert told school leaders that they could not wait to clean up college sports, university presidents passed four landmark measures.
Conferences will now vote on whether to add $2,000 in spending money to scholarship offers. Previously, scholarships covered the costs of tuition, room and board, books and fees. But Emmert came out earlier this week in favor of increasing the allowable money, which the NCAA calls full cost-of-attendance.
BCS leagues are expected to quickly approve the changes, but it's unclear how many other conferences can afford it. All additional funding in men's sports would have to be matched equally in women's sports because of Title IX rules.
Individual schools also will have the option of awarding scholarships on a multiple-year basis or keeping the current model, which is done year-by-year. Critics contend the move is long overdue.
"The coach can cancel those (annual scholarships) for any reason, and the reason usually is they find a prettier girl to bring to the dance," said Ohio University professor David Ridpath, past president of The Drake Group, an NCAA watchdog. "If you're Frank Beamer or Nick Saban, they make a lot of money and they should be able to coach that kid up. I will tell you this from personal experience, it happens all the time. The way it's set up, the kids have no recourse. You just have to notify them by July 30th every year."
The board also decided to phase in the new Academic Progress Rate cutline over four years. In August, presidents approved increasing the cutline from the current 900 to 930. Schools that fail to meet the benchmark will be ineligible for postseason play.
On Thursday, the board approved a measure to use 900 starting in 2012-13. The cutline will increase to 930 in the fourth year. It also adopted a measure to include the rule in bowl licensing agreements, meaning it would apply to the 120-member Football Bowl Subdivision -- the only sport the NCAA for which does not sanction a postseason tourney.
In addition, the board agreed to increase eligibility requirements for incoming freshmen and junior college transfers. Both groups needed a 2.0 GPA to be eligible. Now, high school grads will need to maintain a 2.3 GPA in the 16 core courses and take 10 of those core classes before their senior year. Junior college players will have to maintain a 2.5 GPA and the NCAA will limit the number of physical education credits that will count toward eligibility.
The board also adopted a new summer basketball recruiting model.
Under the new measure, coaches would get four evaluation days in April and 12 in July. Previously, April was a dead period and coaches had 20 evaluation days in July. Coaches also will be permitted more contact with their own players during the summer and will benefit by the elimination of a text messaging ban.
Jim Haney, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, said coaches support the changes.
"Oh yes, I think the feedback from our coaches has been very positive," he said. "I do see some challenges to evaluate in April, and it does reduce what can be done in July."