Cullen Browder of WRAL:
[University of North Carolina system President Tom] Ross spoke this week with the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, an independent panel that has worked for two decades to reform college sports. He said lightening the course work for first-year student-athletes – and extending their scholarships to give them more time to graduate – could help them better balance the competing demands of academics and athletics and make them more successful in school.
On the other side of the academics/athletics balance, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby suggested the return of first-year ineligibility. It seems odd that a university system president would suggest cutting back on academic obligations while the conference commissioner is the one suggesting fewer athletic commitments.
The most basic way to reduce academic time commitments is to allow first-year athletes to be enrolled part time, perhaps nine credits per semester. But doing so would also require a significant overhaul of other academic eligibility rules, like most of the general credit hour requirements and football’s nine-hour rule. It would also require making up for a host of other benefits an athlete losses because they are not enrolled full-time, like Pell Grants for instance.
Cutting back on first-year academic load flies in the face of the NCAA’s current trend of academic reform, which is to ask more of student-athletes academically earlier in their career. Focusing on the athletic side not only requires fewer other changes to support it, but also has side benefits like forcing the NBA to figure out something other than a higher age limit. But if a university system president is already focused on the academic side, academic changes seem unlikely.