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Stiffer academic penalties proposed

An estimated 10 percent of Division I teams could lose scholarships starting in the fall of 2005 if a broad academic reform proposal is approved by the NCAA in April.

The penalty would be enforced if an athlete leaves school while in poor academic standing. The team could award the scholarship to a walk-on but would be prevented from recruiting a player for one year.

"The penalty is that it does not allow you to have a competitive opportunity to recruit a student-athlete," said Todd Turner, whose committee recommended the penalties and rewards based on academic performance.

Turner said Wednesday that the NCAA would collect data this year and next before enforcing any new rules affecting the organization's 6,138 teams.

The NCAA Board of Directors must approve the proposal at an April 29 meeting before it could take effect.

Teams could avoid a penalty if their academic progress rate, a formula used to determine progress toward graduation, is high enough.

BULLS RECRUITING: South Florida received a rare midweek official visit from two Lake City Columbia standouts, Rashaun Jones and George Timmons.

Jones (6 feet 2, 185) and Timmons (6-2, 180) play defensive back. USF already has a commitment from Columbia running back Andre Copeland, and another Columbia running back, Quinton Callum, just completed his eligibility.

"We've got three kids down there," Columbia coach Danny Green said, citing Callum and USF defensive linemen Eric Thomas and Allen Cray. "And they're all pretty close with Andre, Rashaun and George, all pretty good friends."

Timmons visited Florida last weekend, and Jones and Timmons will visit Miami this weekend.

Also, Melbourne running back Mike Hamilton, who visited USF last weekend, has committed to Oklahoma State.

The USF softball team was picked first in Conference USA by the league coaches, and pitcher Leigh Ann Ellis was chosen preseason pitcher of the year. Ellis, who was 34-11 with a 1.29 ERA and 320 strikeouts in 315 innings last season, was joined on the preseason all-league first team by outfielders Holly Groves and Shelly Riker and infielders Carmela Liwag and Kattrina Dowd.

The baseball team was picked fourth in C-USA, behind Tulane, Southern Miss and Houston. Catcher Devin Ivany, third baseman Jeff Baisley and shortstop Myron Leslie were chosen to the all-league team.

ARKANSAS: Quarterback and basketball player Matt Jones spent about an hour on an ineligible list for not filling out paperwork required by the NCAA for him to help promote a ministry's Web site. A ministry in Fort Smith, Ark., used Jones' image to advertise events. Jones didn't receive anything in return for use of his name and photograph, officials said, but NCAA rules require he get permission from the university before appearing in a promotion.

FSU: Jacksonville Raines offensive guard Cornelius Lewis (6-4, 305) and Pace High fullback Joe Surratt (6-1, 255) have orally committed to FSU, according to FSU has 13 commitments, including receiver DeCody Fagg, who is already enrolled in classes.

UNC: Former Nebraska defensive backs coach Marvin Sanders will be hired as co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach.

S. CAROLINA: Twin linebackers Jordin and Dusty Lindsey have announced plans to play for the Gamecocks after a visit to Davidson (Ala.) High School by coach Lou Holtz.

UTAH: Gary Andersen is resigning as Southern Utah's football coach to lead the Utes' defensive tackles.

_ Times staff writers Brian Landman and Pete Young contributed to this report.