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Bruins in shape for academic rule changes

While many Belmont fans recognize the Bruins’ performance on the field, many people don’t know how well Belmont athletes perform in the classroom.

For Spring 2011, Belmont student-athletes boasted a 3.318 grade point average, the highest since Belmont joined the ranks of Division I athletics in 1997. Men’s basketball, women’s golf, and men’s and women’s soccer were all recognized on the NCAA Academic Progress Rate Public Recognition list for standing in the academic top 10 percent of their respective sports.

While these numbers are major elements of Belmont’s athletic program, they have potential to have a large effect as Belmont transitions from the Atlantic Sun Conference to the Ohio Valley Conference.

This summer, the NCAA raised its standards for APR from 900 to 930. The change is proving to be problematic for several teams across the country. The new standards could drastically alter the landscape in college sports, as teams that consistently fall short will be ineligible for the postseason. The NCAA calculates the rate as a rolling four-year figure, taking into account all of the points that student-athletes could potentially earn for remaining in school and staying academically eligible for that term.

Penalties for not reaching APR criteria begin with a public warning letter the first year, scholarship restrictions and shortened practice time the second year, loss of postseason completion the third year, and restricted NCAA membership status the fourth year.

Belmont athletics is cautious to predict what could happen because of them, said Greg Sage, director of media relations.

“Belmont University is proud of its record of achievement and high standing in the NCAA’s Academic Performance Program, both in Academic Progress Rate and Graduation Success Rate,” Sage said in a statement. “Recent rule changes adopted by the NCAA’s Division I Board of Directors regarding eligibility for postseason competition have been well publicized, but the impact of those changes – in men’s basketball or otherwise – remains to be seen.”

With this change, many major and mid-major programs will have to alter their academic status quo, especially in men’s basketball. Defending national champion Connecticut will most likely be ineligible to compete in the 2013 NCAA men’s basketball tournament due to a sub-par APR. Had the change been implemented earlier in the year, big name schools Ohio State, Kansas State, Purdue and Syracuse would have been ineligible for the tournament as well.

While this change will not be in full effect until 2016, it presents a scenario where a Belmont team could still earn an NCAA tournament bid even if it didn’t win the conference title. Five out of eleven current OVC member institutions have an APR under 930 for men’s basketball. Belmont, on the other hand, boasts a 995 APR.

In nearly every other sport Belmont offers, each team’s latest APR score would be in the top half of the OVC.

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