Hewitt brings own ideas to the table at panel's meeting

WASHINGTON --- Georgia Tech basketball coach Paul Hewitt turned a tedious discussion of numbers into something lively.


Amid questions and answers about grade point averages, graduation rates, surveys and APRs on Tuesday morning during a routine Knight Commission meeting, Hewitt turned on his microphone and chided the reform-minded panel for making "incomplete conclusions" and taking "a fly-over view of the supposed carnage that is college basketball."

"While I like to see everyone who reaches college earn a degree," Hewitt said, "we need to find more effective ways to achieve our goals."

Hewitt spoke during a discussion meant to highlight the progress of the NCAA's new rating system that penalizes teams for failing to meet academic standards. The latest APR -- or Academic Progress Report -- led to 218 teams from 123 schools receiving some sort of penalty when it was released last month. APR scores have been on the rise since the standard was introduced four years ago, heartening news for the independent Knight Commission, which has been pushing for academic reform in athletics for nearly 20 years.

Hewitt doesn't mind the APR per se, but he sees it as only part of the solution.

"I do have a problem with putting numbers out there, saying 'Meet these numbers or else,' " Hewitt said. "You're turning education into a race."

A race, he contended, that might be tempting coaches to deter athletes from taking more difficult courses that could lead to lower grades and loss of eligibility. He said that very topic was discussed among Atlantic Coast Conference coaches after the APR was first implemented.

Hewitt, a member of the NCAA Men's Basketball Academic Enhancement Working Group, offered a range of ideas:

- He said he'd like to see basketball become a one-semester sport and that coaches overall would like to see a shorter schedule, but he admitted it's "not going to happen" because of the lucrative television money that comes from playing more games, even in early November.

- He took shots at the NBA players' union, saying the virtual free reign that agents have on campus has turned the sport into the "wild, wild west." Hewitt would like to see coaches be granted more access to players during the summer months to counter the influence of the agents.

- The coach also not a fan of the "one-and-done" rule that forces NBA aspirants to attend at least one of year of college before becoming draft eligible. Hewitt likes the baseball model: High school students can declare for the draft, but they have to stay in school for three years if they go the college route.

For the most part, however, the commission members saved their questions for the numbers people. Of notable interest was a survey produced by Illinois State University assistant professor Chad McEvoy, who looked at the effect of NCAA sanctions on winning percentages in college football.

McEvoy looked at teams' records five years before and five years after receiving a sanction. His conclusion: There was no overall significant difference in won-loss records -- even after major sanctions.


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