Iowa officials taking 'wait-and-see' approach on scholarship funding

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IOWA CITY — Recent NCAA rules changes regarding scholarships have Iowa athletics officials taking a “wait-and-see” approach before implementation begins next year, Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said Thursday.

Last week, the NCAA’s board of directors approved legislation that allows individual schools to increase scholarships to the full cost of attendance up to $2,000 a year beginning in August 2013. Those funds would cover a student’s transportation and other personal expenses not currently provided by athletic scholarships. The additional funding is not an NCAA mandate, however.

“In the last month I would say that the concept has been evolving,” Barta said. “So it’s still going to wait and see what the final legislation says in terms of who’s going to qualify, exactly how you qualify. But what we do know is that it’s going to be the cost of attendance or $2,000 — whichever is less. We’re still trying to figure out how many student-athletes it’s going to affect.”

The new rule allows schools to provide that aid for students in head-count sports like football and basketball and those with full scholarships in equivalency sports. Pell grants are exempted from the figures.

“My biggest thought process over the years has been increasing the availability for funding for students in need,” Barta said. “Where I’m not sure how this new implementation is going to work is it going to be mostly for students in need or is it going to apply to other students as well? So I’m not against it at all; I’m in favor of trying to create more support for students in need. I’m just going to have to see where this all shakes out.”

There also are the financial challenges for Iowa and other athletics departments. Iowa listed its athletic budget at $75 million for the current 2012 fiscal year, ranking eighth among Big Ten schools. Barta said the expected costs range from $300,000 to $500,000. Iowa spent more than $9.1 million on athletic scholarships this fiscal year.

“That will be interesting of how we get the information, in terms of how everyone qualifies and making sure we’re careful of implementing it in year one,” Barta said. “That part of it is very doable. Our staff will sit down — once we know the rules — we’ll sit down and figure it out and we’ll carry it out. To me, that’s certainly the systematic decision making. The challenge of how to pay for it is our next step.”

The NCAA also changed how it will calculate its future Annual Progress Report (APR) and will impose stricter penalties for schools who fall below the 930 four-year benchmark. The NCAA compiles APR by tracking real-time eligibility, retention and graduation rates for scholarship student-athletes on a four-year average. Schools formerly were required to score at least a 925 or become subject to penalties, including lost scholarships.

Each of Iowa’s 24 sports exceeded the 930 benchmark in the most recent APR figures.

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