Thursday, June 19, 2008

PROFESSOR HEWITT SPEAKS OUT

ESPN -- 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.

"If a kid wants to major in engineering, I'm not going to tell him not to major in engineering -- but I'm going to counsel him before he takes that first class," said Hewitt, although he later added that he's yet to have such a conversation with any of his players.

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