NCAA president Myles Brand understands it's expensive running a Division I athletic program, and it can be just as expensive to give student-athletes academic help.
Shortchanging classwork for wins and losses just won't cut it any more.
On Wednesday, the NCAA banned two teams _ Centenary men's basketball and Tennessee-Chattanooga football _ from the postseason because of poor academic scores and could add a third, depending on an appeal from Jacksonville State football. That decision could come within six weeks.
It's the first time the NCAA has handed down such severe penalties for subpar classwork.
"The truth of the matter is that if you're going to compete at high-level in college athletics, then you have to provide what they need in terms of equipment and recruiting and that's not inexpensive," Brand said during a conference call with reporters. "You also have to provide what the student-athletes need to graduate."
Many of the 177 teams facing penalties for poor Academic Progress Rate scores have one thing in common: Less money than the big boys.
The scores are calculated based on data from the fall semester in 2004 through the spring semester in 2008. Each athlete receives one point per semester for being academically eligible and another point each semester for remaining at that school or graduating.
A formula is used to correlate a final team score, with 1,000 points being perfect. Teams that fall below 925 annually can be subjected to immediate penalties. Those consistently falling below 900 face harsher sanctions.
Next year, schools with four straight years of poor scores could face the NCAA's most severe penalty, restricted Division I membership for the entire athletic department. That includes Centenary and Chattanooga.
But of the 85 teams penalized in football and men's basketball, only 11 came from the six traditional power conferences (Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Southeastern Conference, Pacific-10), and none received the two most severe penalties _ a reduction in practice time or a postseason ban.
Brand and others are aware that cash can be part of the problem.
"It is a matter of concern to me because I'm the president of a medium-resource, at best, institution in Division I," said Walter Harrison, chairman of the committee on academic performance and president of the University of Hartford. "The institutions with the greatest resources have the staff and resources to understand the APR and got on these problems a little sooner."
That doesn't help a school like Centenary, whose coach Greg Gary had five players leave the program after he was hired last year.
Nor does it help Tennessee-Chattanooga, which plays in the second tier of Division I football and whose program has been steadily improving academically but is still suffering from poor APR scores initially.
"We can't do anything about the first three bad scores," Chattanooga associate athletic director Laura Herron said. "We improve year-to-year and we'll get out of this cycle."
But Centenary took the biggest hit Wednesday.
At about the same time the NCAA was making its announcement, Summit League commissioner Tom Douple said the Gents would be banned from playing in the season-ending conference tournament, too.
"They're disappointed, but we've got real good kids," Gary said. "Academically it's a really good institution. It helps when they can continue to be educated at a real good school, but they're disappointed because they're competitive. I'd be disappointed, too, if I was them."
The numbers don't lie.
Ten schools made the underachieving list in football and men's basketball, getting punishments that range from scholarship losses to reductions in practice times. Only two _ Alabama-Birmingham and New Mexico State _ play in college football's top level. UAB was the only school in the major football to receive a reduction in practice times in both sports.
The SEC had the most teams (six) penalized among the big conferences, including Auburn's powerhouse men's swim team. Mississippi and Minnesota were the only BCS schools sanctioned in football.
Meanwhile, McNeese State led all schools with eight teams on the list, while Nicholls State was next with six.
Brand knows its tough, but he's more interested in seeing results.
"I think it will always be a problem because those who come in and are at risk, it is an expensive ordeal," he said. "Those schools who can't afford it are more likely to run into trouble, and I expect that will continue. It takes an investment to make sure the students are able to succeed academically."
AP Sports Writers Teresa M. Walker in Nashville, Tenn., and Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.
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