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Academic reform initiative approved

The NCAA approved the first phase of a landmark academic reform package Monday under which about 30 percent of Division I football teams would have lost scholarships had it been implemented immediately.

On the last day of the NCAA convention, the Division I Board of Directors approved the plan that calls for scholarship reductions for teams that perform poorly in the classroom.

The Academic Performance Program applies to every men's and women's sport at the 325 Division I schools.

Schools will receive reports in the next few weeks that let them know which of their teams fall below standards set by the Division I Committee on Academic Performance. That will serve as an initial warning.

University of Hartford president and committee chairman Walter Harrison said the biggest problems were in football (about 30 percent of teams), baseball (25 percent) and men's basketball (20 percent).

"Our hope, of course, is not the penalty," Harrison said. "We hope it encourages different kinds of behavior so that the numbers will be lower."

The so-called "contemporaneous penalties" are considered rehabilitative in nature and expected to serve as warnings for teams with poor academic performance. Such penalties could begin after the 2005 fall semester.

Another phase of the program will be historical penalties, which will be more severe and directed at schools with continued problems. Harrison's committee is still working on the penalties, and they will have to be approved by NCAA directors later.

BASEBALL CHANGES: College baseball teams would have to conform to specific dates for starting practice and games under a proposal by the Division I Baseball Issues Committee. A uniform calendar would address some competitive equality questions. Some teams in warm-weather areas begin their seasons the first week of February, while others can't even practice outside then because of cold weather. The committee is proposing Feb. 1 as the first practice date, with games to start March 1. To accommodate those guidelines without changing the maximum 56 games allowed, the NCAA tournament would begin a week later.