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The Academic Progress Rates released Tuesday show a clear drop in eligibility numbers in football, particularly in the Football Bowl Subdivision. However, legislation Division I adopted in April should improve those numbers by requiring football players to earn more credit hours in the fall to retain full eligibility for the following season.

While the overall four-year APR for football indicated a slight increase, the latest one-year  APR data show that football declined from 949 to 947, with the eligibility metric dropping from 939 to 937. Retention dropped from 949 to 948. However, when the Football Bowl Subdivision is isolated, the drop in eligibility was starker – from 943 to 939.

The new rule is set to take effect Aug. 1 for football student-athletes in both the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Football Championship Subdivision, though like any legislative proposal it is subject to a 60-day override period that ends on June 27. The rule requires players to earn nine credit hours in every fall term or be suspended for the first four games the following fall. If the student-athlete earns 27 credit hours before the start of the next fall, he can (once in a career) earn back all four games. For the remaining seasons, he can earn back two games if he earns the 27 credit hours by the end of summer session.

The proposal is a variation of a concept developed by the Football Academic Working Group, which was formed in 2008 to address APR problems in football. Oklahoma Athletics Director Joe Castiglione chaired the group.

“Our recommendations were data-driven,” Castiglione said. “We all have a lot of opinions, but the data provided to the group compelled us to use it in our planning, our process and our strategy.”

The group quickly saw that eligibility was a bigger problem for football student-athletes than retention, a data trend that continued with the 2009-10 APRs released Tuesday. They recommended the nine-hour credit requirement in the fall, with the ability to earn back two of those games if a student-athlete earns 27 credit hours by the end of the next summer. While that specific proposal did not prevail, an amended version sponsored by the Atlantic Coast Conference (allowing a student-athlete to earn back all four games once a career) was adopted and will take effect in August.

NCAA president Mark Emmert noted that the recommendations that were adopted had their genesis in the Football Academic Working Group, on which he served.

“What we’re seeing in terms of APR trends confirms the working group’s efforts were necessary,” Emmert said. “What we hope to see is a reversal of these trends as this legislation takes effect. The ultimate goal for all student-athletes is both academic and athletics success.”

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