Full Report of the Baylor University Student-Athlete Assessment Task Force

June 21, 2004

by Lori Scott Fogleman

The eight-member student-athlete assessment task force, appointed March 4 by Baylor University President Robert B. Sloan Jr., has released its recommendations on the university's standards and policies for the future recruitment, admission and certification of prospective student-athletes.


BAYLOR UNIVERSITY STUDENT-ATHLETE ASSESSMENT TASK FORCE

On March 4, 2004, Baylor University President Robert B. Sloan Jr. appointed an eight-member task force to identify and recommend standards and policies for the recruitment, admission and certification of student-athletes. The task force has been chaired by Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association and former Baylor head football coach. President Sloan charged the task force, "...to ensure[ing] Baylor recruits and retains student-athletes of character who will succeed in the classroom and on the athletic fields and courts."

Joining Teaff on the task force have been Dutch Baughman, executive director of the Division IA Athletic Directors' Association; Mark Dunn, professor of marketing and chair of Baylor's Faculty Athletics Council; Gina Green, assistant professor of information systems; Jaffus Hardrick, assistant vice president for human resource services and assistant vice provost; Bethany McCraw, associate dean for judicial and legal student services; Eric Robinson, associate professor of educational psychology; and Melanie Smith, academic advisor in the Hankamer School of Business. Ex-officio members of the task force include Noley Bice, Baylor's general counsel; Clyde Hart, associate athletic director and head track coach; Monica Love, assistant director of compliance in the athletic department; Ian McCaw, director of athletics; and Michael Rogers, professor of law and faculty athletics representative. The task force hereby submits its initial recommendations.


Work of the Task Force

The task force met numerous times over a two-month period in order to meet its charge. The meetings focused on a variety of topics ranging from discussions about student-athlete issues at the national level and new NCAA legislation, to having several current Baylor student-athletes and coaches provide their perspective on recruitment and retention of student athletes. After these discussions, the task force was divided into three sub-committees that addressed character, academic standards, and procedures relating to official visits. The character sub-committee was charged with finding ways to assist the Baylor University coaching staffs with gathering information critical to making decisions on the moral disposition and integrity of a prospective student-athlete (PSA). The academic sub-committee was charged with creating policies and procedures to ensure Baylor coaches recruit and sign student-athletes who have a high probability of being academically successful, and the official visit sub-committee was charged with determining guidelines for the PSA and University Host when the prospective student-athlete makes his or her official visit to the Baylor campus.

There were numerous sub-committee meetings that resulted in suggestions and draft documents being presented to the entire task force on several occasions. After each of these task force meetings, each sub-committee made revisions based on feedback and presented updated documents at subsequent meetings. One of the final, and possibly most important, task force meetings was held on May 27, 2004 when Grant Teaff led a discussion among the task force, a majority of the Baylor University head coaches, and President Sloan. Information and suggestions made at this meeting were integrated into this report.

In general, the focal point of the character sub-committee centered on having three character references for each PSA. The references, which are in the form of a questionnaire, address many qualities of a PSA, including his or her social activities, peer groups, and decision-making. In addition, a criminal background history and college disciplinary records will be gathered on all transfer students. Primary recommendations of the academic standards subcommittee include an academic quick screen for each PSA early in the recruiting process, maintaining a minimum SAT/ACT test score for freshman admission, and having a committee external to the athletics department make the admission decision on each international and transfer student. The details and procedures for each of these recommendations are presented below. The task force will submit a brief report on suggested rules and procedures relating to official visits following the publication of a final report by the NCAA Task Force on Recruiting, which is expected later this summer.


Character Report

Identification of a prospective student-athlete (PSA) who has the character to succeed at Baylor University represents one of the greatest challenges in the student recruitment process. While the coaching staff plays the primary role in determining the character of each prospective student athlete, the task force proposes that the athletic department collect additional feedback to assist the coaches in making this important determination. The task force recognizes that a vast majority of Baylor coaches have had a good success rate in this area. However, additional information will strengthen the selection process and further minimize the chance of admitting a student that lacks the character to bring success to Baylor both on and off the playing field.

The task force proposes that the athletic department implement an additional step in their prospective student athlete screening process. This step will involve the completion of a Student Athlete Character Reference Form (CRF) (see Appendix A) by the counselor, principal, coaches, and teachers of each student. The main focus of the CRF is social and personal character issues rather than the potential for academic or athletic success. A number of character traits are assessed including dependability, consideration for others, moral qualities, respect for authority as well as others. In addition to completing the standard rating of a number of character qualities, respondents will also be asked to provide an evaluation of how the student's classmates might describe this student. The character screen should be completed prior to offering a scholarship. Based on the type of PSA (i.e., incoming freshman, transfer student, international student), there is a slight variation in the procedures with some additional information gathered on transfer students.


Procedures for Incoming Freshmen

For incoming freshmen, the CRF will be completed by one coach, the counselor (or principal) and two teachers. Baylor University coaches will distribute the reference forms to the high school coach and counselor. Counselors will be asked to identify two teachers willing to complete the form. The completed forms will be returned directly to the Baylor University athletic director in the stamped return envelope provided. Appropriate steps will be taken to enhance the probability of a high response rate. Completed forms will become a part of the prospective student-athlete's file and used to confirm or question the preliminary evaluation made by the coaching staff.


Procedures for Transfer Students

Transfer students pose a different set of procedural issues than incoming freshmen regarding character screening. While the incoming freshman should have several high-school professionals who would be able to authoritatively comment on his or her character, the college transfer student may have very few, if any, college-related personnel who would know the individual well enough to speak to his or her character. Therefore, the task force recommends that transfer students be treated similarly to incoming freshmen with regard to character issues, by having the CRF completed by individuals at his or her high school. Baylor coaches would follow the same procedures by distributing the CRF to a coach, counselor, and teachers at the high school of the transfer student. In the rare situation where a transfer student (or incoming freshmen for that matter) attended multiple high schools, the coaching staff should determine which school would be able to provide the most accurate information. The school of choice would probably be either the one where the PSA attended the longest or the most recent.

In addition to the CRF, the PSA transfer, who should be of legal age, will be asked to provide written consent to allow for both a criminal background check as well as permission to request records of any college disciplinary actions. While these additional requirements may appear to be extreme, the task force believes that coaches and the athletics director need to have as much information as possible when making decisions on offering scholarships. Further, these steps may uncover a previously unknown critical fact.


Procedures for International Students

Prospective student-athletes who are not from the United States, referred to as "International Students," create an interesting set of recruiting circumstances from both a character and academic perspective. First, it is important to note that the large majority of the international student-athletes that Baylor has recruited in the past have exhibited highly positive character traits. Yet, with the larger number of international students being recruited throughout college athletics and at Baylor, and thus, an increased interest in understanding the social aspect of the PSA, the task force suggests acquiring character information on these prospects. Furthermore, it is of interest to note that since international student-athletes are a separate group, they may qualify for either of the two categories presented above; as an incoming freshman or transfer student. With these issues in mind, the task force determined that the most appropriate way to view international students from a character perspective is as an incoming freshman student. Thus, the CRF should be completed by officials at the prospective student-athlete's respective high school (or the equivalent level). Finally, it is recommended that the athletic department collaborate with faculty members in the Foreign Language Department at Baylor in order to translate the CRF into the native language of the international student.

As noted above, for all prospective student-athletes (incoming freshmen, transfers, and international students), the CRF will be completed by one coach, a counselor (or principal) and two teachers. Baylor University coaches will distribute the reference forms to the high school coach and counselor. Counselors will be asked to identify two teachers willing to complete the form. The completed forms will be returned directly to the Baylor University athletic director in the stamped return envelope provided. Appropriate steps will be taken to enhance the probability of a high response rate. Completed forms will become a part of the prospective student athlete's file and used to confirm or question the preliminary evaluation made by the coaching staff.


Pilot Study

Prior to fully implementing this step in the character screening process, the task force recommends that the athletic department seek input from high school counselors and teachers with respect to the information requested, the form in which it is requested and the likelihood that the form will be completed and returned. Once the final reference form has been developed, a pilot study should be conducted with at least one male and female sports team, a sample of international students, and all transfer students in order to provide input on improving the process prior to fully implementing the character screening process.


Academic Report

Consistent with the ideas regarding character, the task force found it essential that policies and procedures should be implemented to assist coaches in recruiting and signing a PSA that has a high probability of being academically successful at Baylor University. One of the challenges posed by this undertaking is to find and utilize the best academic information possible while understanding that the prospective student-athlete may be coming to Baylor directly from high school, as a transfer (which can be from another four-year university, a junior college, or as a graduate of a junior college), or as an international student.

There are three significant national events occurring simultaneously that will have a lasting impact on recruitment of student-athletes. First, the NCAA appears to have removed any basal, or bottom, of the college test scores to become eligible for college as long as the core High School GPA is high enough. Secondly, there has been a significant increase in the percentage of hours a student-athlete has to have completed in his/her major at specific points in school (from 25% to 40% after the second year, etc.). Finally, the NCAA is in the process of creating an "incentives-disincentives" program which has the potential to penalize a university athletics program that underachieves academically.

While acknowledging the changing landscape at the national level, the objective of the academic sub-committee was to provide additional tools for the Baylor coaching staffs so they can have as much academic information as possible when making decisions on possible recruits. Thus, a centerpiece of the committee's recommendations is the provision of an Academic Screening Service which, through a Quick Screen, allows professionals on the Baylor campus to give coaches insight into the academic strengths and weaknesses of each prospective student-athlete. An overview of the Quick Screen, along with information about transcript evaluation and official visits, is found below. This is followed by an in-depth review of the procedures and processes used for freshman, transfer, and international student admission.


Quick Screen

The Directors of Access and Learning and Student-Athlete Services will promptly review transcripts and exit test scores for every prospective student-athlete (PSA) and assess that prospect's likelihood of academic success. This includes the incoming freshmen, junior college graduates, and other transfers. As noted in the title, the assessment is brief, in writing, and made a part of the prospect's file. There are 2 Quick Screen Forms, found in Appendix B, one for high school students and one for any category of transfer and international students. Each form provides an outline of the types of information one is expected to gather on a PSA and the criteria used to make decisions. As one will note, the transfer/international form incorporates all of the information found on the high school form with additional information believed to be of importance, including college courses, college GPA, etc. In addition, the two flow charts also provided at the end of this report (Appendix C and D) offer a visual description of the process and procedures used to make admissions decisions.


Eligibility Evaluation

Transcripts will continue to be evaluated for NCAA and Big 12 eligibility purposes by the Compliance Staff and the Athletic Certification Coordinator.


Official Visits

No minimum score on a standardized test or Core GPA is required for an official visit. Although not required, it is recommended that the Quick Screen of the PSA be obtained before he/she is invited to make a visit. The assessment may reveal that the visit would be a waste of time and resources.


Freshman Admission: Historical Perspective at Baylor University

The minimum SAT score for an NCAA qualifier has been 820 or an ACT Combined score of 68 (assuming a GPA of 2.5 or greater). Baylor's athletic scholarship standards have been linked to NCAA minimums, thus Baylor's minimum SAT score for an eligible scholarship athlete has also been 820 (or an ACT score of 68). (Currently, a GPA in excess of 2.5 does not affect the SAT portion of the index - the minimum score is still 820.) The new NCAA Initial Eligibility Standards feature a pure sliding scale with no minimum required score on the SAT or ACT. A 2.5 GPA still qualifies an 820 SAT score but, for example, a 2.75 Core GPA will now qualify a PSA who scores 720 on the SAT and a 3.0 GPA will qualify a PSA with a 620 SAT score. On the extreme end of this scale, a PSA who has a Core GPA of 3.55 and above can qualify with the lowest possible SAT (400) or ACT (37) score one can receive on the test.

Therefore, despite the NCAA requirement of an additional core course (from 13 to 14), it will, in our opinion, become easier to meet NCAA Initial Eligibility Standards. In what appears to be a paradox, the new continuing eligibility standards (i.e., "Progress Toward Degree" requirements) established by the NCAA are significantly heightened (40% of the declared degree must be completed in two years, 60% in three, etc., as opposed to the old standard of 25% of the declared major completed in two years and 50% in three years). Finally, the NCAA is currently in the process of creating an "incentives-disincentives" program which has the potential to penalize a university athletics program that underachieves academically.

It may be that reducing admission standards while increasing performance requirements will not create eligibility problems at institutions that are not academically selective. However, the median SAT for an entering freshman at Baylor has been between 1170 and 1175 the past several years. In addition, it is highly likely that any individual that is more than 3 standard deviations below his or her peer group academically (i.e., approximately 350 points on the SAT) will struggle for success at that institution. Thus, for Baylor University, a student who has an SAT score below 820 may well have significant academic difficulties. Moreover, it is unrealistic to believe that a student at Baylor with an SAT of 620 can compete with students with an average score of 1170 (a 550 point difference), regardless of his or her high school core GPA.

However, the task force is not recommending that Baylor's minimum SAT/ACT score for athletes be raised despite the new progress towards degree requirements. Instead, it is recommending that admission standards not be lowered.


Thus, it is recommended that the current minimum SAT of 820 (or ACT of 68) and a qualifying Core GPA should be maintained.

Our current system appears to work well. Baylor's student-athlete graduation rate is commendable and the University has not had an excessive number of academic casualties. The task force firmly believes that if Baylor "packs" its teams with NCAA qualifiers with SAT/ACT scores below 820/68 minimum, most of them will not be eligible as upperclassmen and will not graduate. This recommendation to differentiate Baylor's admissions requirements from NCAA initial eligibility standards is consistent with the observation by NCAA president Myles Brand that admission of the PSA is an institutional decision. As he recently pointed out, the NCAA academic reform legislation sets a national standard for eligibility to compete. Admission standards, on the other hand, need to be tied to the institution's unique academic demands.


Freshman Admission Process - Recommended Approach

Based on the circumstances described above, the task force is recommending a process that will provide feedback on the potential for academic success for each PSA at an early stage in the recruiting process. This process, which can be seen on the Incoming Freshman PSA chart in Appendix C, is both proactive and supportive in that it allows Baylor University to quickly identify academic strengths and weaknesses of each PSA as well as provide assistance to coaches as they make decisions about recruits.

As noted on the Incoming Freshman chart, all prospective student-athletes will go through a Quick Screen, which will be completed by the Directors of Access and Learning and Student-Athlete Services. Each athletic program at Baylor will select a designated "recruiting" coach that will be in charge of processing the prospect's transcripts and other information to the quick screen group. The rationale behind having a designated coach for each sport is to simplify the process and reduce possible communication issues between the quick screen group and the coaching staff. The quick screen group will use the Quick Screen Form (see Appendix B for review) to provide a brief academic assessment that will be promptly returned to the coaching staff for its use. As mentioned above, the current minimum SAT score of 820 (or ACT score of 68) should be maintained for admission purposes. However, Baylor's current admission standards, consistent with NCAA and Big XII legislation, allow a limited number (n=4) of partial qualifiers who must have a minimum SAT score of 720 (or an ACT score of 59). Although that NCAA status soon ends, the task force believes that the practice of allowing a few exceptions to regular admission standards is acceptable if appropriate safeguards are implemented. Accordingly, there should continue to be an opportunity to petition for the admission of a very limited number of prospective student-athletes who are NCAA Qualifiers with SAT scores below 820 (or ACT scores below 68). A petition, made only under rare and extenuating circumstances, can be made by the Head Coach to the Athletic Director who, in turn, may consult the Faculty Athletics Representative (F.A.R.). The few students admitted pursuant to this petition process will be carefully monitored by the Director of Student-Athlete Services and an annual report on academic progress will be made to the Faculty Athletic Council.


Transfer Admission Process: Recommended Approach

Transfer students have not traditionally been a part of the student-athlete graduation rate calculation. However, each PSA will now count under the new NCAA Academic Progress Rate (APR) that triggers incentives and disincentives. There will be fewer eligible transfer students because of the 40%-60%-80% progress toward degree requirements, and a higher percentage of marginal students will be NCAA qualifiers and enroll at other four year institutions. See the Transfer Student Chart in Appendix D for an explanation of the Process and Procedures suggested for this group.

As noted on this chart, all prospective transfers will go through a Quick Screen, which is consistent with the Incoming Freshman student requirement. Unlike the Incoming Freshman student, though, all prospective Transfers will also go through a more comprehensive analysis, completed by the Academic Review Committee (ARC). This extra step is recommended in order to increase the probability of success for transfer student-athletes accepted at Baylor. The task force recommends the appointment of the Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management, the Associate Registrar/Director of Academic Records, and the Chair of the Faculty Athletic Council as the three-member ARC. The Athletic Director and Faculty Athletics Representative will be ex officio members of this committee. While the Quick Screen group provides information and suggestions regarding the probability of academic success for both Incoming Freshmen and Transfers, the ARC will make the final decision regarding the admission of each prospective transfer student-athlete.

If a prospective Transfer Student with exceptional circumstances is initially rejected by the ARC, a petition may be filed with the ARC by the Head Coach. The Head Coach may appear before the ARC and present additional information that she or he believes is worthy of consideration by the ARC in making a final determination.


International Student Admission Process: Recommended Approach

Prospective student-athletes who are not from the United States, referred to as "International Students," create an interesting set of recruiting circumstances from both an academic and character perspective. First, it is important to note that the large majority of the international student-athletes that Baylor has recruited in the past have been overwhelmingly successful academically and exhibited positive character traits. Yet, with the increasing number of international students being recruited at Baylor, along with the changing NCAA legislation regarding incentives and disincentives, it is important to be proactive in the approach to screening and monitoring this type of student-athlete. Furthermore, it is of interest to note that since international student-athletes are a separate group, they may qualify for either of the two categories presented above; as a freshman or transfer student. With these issues in mind, the task force determined that the most appropriate way to view international students, from both an academic and character perspective, is as a transfer student. Therefore, all prospective student-athletes who graduated from a high school outside of the U.S. will get a Quick Screen as well as go through the Academic Review Committee (ARC). The rationale behind this decision is that this academic information gathered on international students can be variable due to many reasons including their home country's educational structure, their native language, and their communication skills. Therefore, by having both the Quick Screen and the professionals of the ARC review information, there will continue to be a high level of academic and social/character success for these student-athletes.

Similar to the transfer student, if a prospective International Student with exceptional circumstances is initially rejected by the ARC, a petition may be filed with the ARC by the Head Coach. The Head Coach may appear before the ARC and present additional information that she or he believes is worthy of consideration in making a final determination.


Suggested Standards for Admission Decisions

Admission decisions should be made on a totality of circumstances basis. It is recommended that the following factors be considered:


1. High School transcript(s)


2. College Test Scores (ACT/SAT)


3. High School exit test scores


4. Collegiate transcript(s) (to be applied for transfer students)


5. Quality of other academic institutions attended (to be applied for transfer students)


6. Absences (for high school and college transfers if available)


7. Rigor of courses (to be applied primarily for transfer students)


8. The team's NCAA Academic Progress Rate


9. The overall academic qualifications of the current recruiting class


Conclusions and Future Directions

While somewhat beyond the charge of this task force, discussions have led to several issues that could be addressed in the future at Baylor as the University continues to concentrate on the academic and social development of its student-athletes. The ideas include:


1. Assessment of how student-athletes are incorporated into the Baylor culture throughout their academic and athletic career.


2. The task force should reconvene at some point in the future to review the findings of the pilot study and review the results of the academic and character policies and procedures.


3. The task force should review Baylor University's recruiting policies in accordance with the recent Big XII Conference directive.


4. Completing a longitudinal study on the predictive validity of the Student Athlete Character Reference Form (CRF) would be of benefit in order to improve the quality of social information Baylor gathers on prospective student athletes.

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