Q&A: Ian McCaw

May 24, 2006
BaylorNews: Give me a brief summary of the NCAA certification process.

Ian McCaw:
NCAA certification, which is required every 10 years, is very much like a smaller version of SACS or a college accreditation process. In the certification process, the NCAA comes in and assesses three main areas: academic integrity, governance and compliance, as well as student athlete welfare. That includes faculty and minority issues as well.

BN: What would happen if problems were brought up in the NCAA report? Would a university be required to correct those problems, and would there be penalties if they didn't?

There are three possible outcomes. One is that you are certified without conditions, and that's what we're hoping for and expecting in our case. The second possible outcome is to be certified with conditions. In that case, they'll give you a time frame to address whatever deficiencies they find in your program, and then they'll expect a follow up report. If they're satisfied with that report they'll accept it. If they're not satisfied they won't. The third possible outcome is one we do not want, which is to have certification denied. Any institution that's not certified would be subject to penalties including not being eligible for postseason competition. That would be very serious if something like that happened.

BN: What has Baylor done so far to achieve NCAA certification?

We initiated the process by spending about nine months doing our own self-study of the Baylor athletic program, and then completed a 192-page report that we submitted to the NCAA. Their staff reviewed that report, and then an NCAA certification committee reviewed it as well.

BN: What was the first official response you received from the NCAA concerning the report you submitted?

We got back a piece of very good news. The NCAA certification committee came back and said we were one of only two schools in the United States since this process has begun that have had absolutely no unresolved issues raised within the self-study. That was quite encouraging, that they thought so highly of our self-study.

BN: By "no unresolved issues," do you mean there were no problems the NCAA needed to look into further?

In our self-study we certainly identified areas we need to strengthen in our program, but yes, the NCAA certification committee felt as far as our plan moving forward went they didn't have any reservations or concerns raised about the plan we'd put in place. Again, we're just one of two schools in that category so I think that was certainly very gratifying.

BN: Was the feedback from the committee the final step?

No. In mid-February, a peer review team consisting of Dr. Bill Muse, the former president of Auburn University, and Maureen Harty, assistant athletic director for compliance at Northwestern, visited Baylor to do their own independent study. They interviewed the president and a number of Regents, faculty, administrators, coaches and student athletes. They were very complimentary of what they found and submitted a copy of their report to us, and once again there were no unresolved issues raised. So we've really come out of this with flying colors.

BN: Does that mean that we are officially certified by the NCAA now?

Not quite. We're expecting the formal certification decision in May, and I think we're very confident based on how things have gone that we're going to be fully certified and won't have any issues. I want to commend Noley Bice, who chaired the committee, Mike Rogers, our faculty representative who did a great job, Mark Dunn, who's the vice chair, and our staff, who did a terrific job in putting this together. I think we've earned a great deal of credibility with the NCAA because of how well this process has gone. That's certainly important political capital for Baylor to obtain.

BN: What kinds of things are the NCAA looking for when they make these certifications?

What they're looking for is that we're attempting to solve issues that need to be attended to. They look at everything from the academic area, including graduation rates and grade point average, to what type of programming efforts we make toward student athletes. They'll interview student athletes to find out what kind of services are available and do a comprehensive look. They also look at our facilities. One area they pointed out as a concern was that we don't have a great student athlete success center. We just got a $3 million donation for that, but that was something that identifies a concern. We had a plan to raise the funds and get a new facility on line. They want us either to have things in place or have a plan to put things in place, and I think what they found is we have things in good order.

BN: Will Baylor's recent history of basketball infractions be taken into account by the NCCA in compiling their report, or will they look at things independent of what's happened in the past?

Past history shouldn't be an important factor. I think there was heightened attention on the compliance area because of men's basketball infractions, and I think we were probably given a higher level of scrutiny as a result of that, but it makes this all the more gratifying that we've come out with flying colors given a higher level of scrutiny than some other institutions would have received.

BN: Assuming that Baylor will achieve certification with flying colors, what will that mean for the university?

I think there's two things we'll get out of this. First of all, I think it was a valuable process for us to examine the athletic program in detail, and there were some positive recommendations that we've moved forward on. So I think it's genuinely been a good self-study process, and it's helping us to operationally do things better than we have. Second, I think this will help us in terms of credibility with the Big 12 and the NCAA by that fact that we should not just clear the threshold, but have a stellar self study that will make people think very well of our program as a result. We've even extended the offer to other Big 12 schools that we'll show them ways to follow the process we used, because I think we've established a great model for how to successfully receive this certification.

BN: Let me change the subject a bit here. I read in one of Dr. Lilley's e-mail reports that Baylor had 16 of its intercollegiate athletic programs score above the national threshold of 925 in something called the NCAA Academic Progress Rate. Can you explain what that is?

Sure. The Academic Progress Rate is a relatively new measure of academic success. It measures not only if a student athlete is eligible to participate in athletics, but if they remain enrolled in school and eventually graduate. In short, it measures how well you are retaining your student athletes and how successful they are at academic work. There is also a
graduation bonus component that they've recently added. Scores are applied to each sport. The minimum score you need to achieve is 925, and a perfect score is 1,000. If you fall below 925 you're subject to various penalties, including potential losses of up to 10 percent of your scholarships in that sport. What the APR does is encourage coaches and athletic programs to retain their student athletes and be sure they are sound academically, remain eligible and ultimately graduate.

BN: I take it you're pleased with our latest numbers?

Yes. The bottom line is we've done extremely well. Overall, our numbers were excellent. The only score we're below the 925 threshold on is men's basketball, and that's mainly a result of the historical information from when the program had the scandal. Other than that we've done extremely well, and our student athletes continue to excel academically.

BN: Are the APR scores in men's basketball on the way up?

Most definitely. The NCAA started collecting this data three years ago, and so we had a significant problem with our score that first year. But since then we've done extremely well in men's basketball, and with Coach Drew over the last two years we've been in great shape. I think we're at 1,000 this past semester in men's basketball, but unfortunately what they use a four-year average for the score. That's why we're still being affected negatively by what happened three years ago.

BN: Overall, do we stack up pretty well against other Big 12 schools in these APR scores?

We do. We're right at the top of the Big 12, and we also score very well nationally. So it's something to be proud of.
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