Many of those recruits are allowed to sign national letters of intent even though schools and coaching staffs have a decent idea ahead of time that they won't be admitted to school in the summer or fall.
The University of Colorado has allowed such visits in the past -- official visits are paid for by the school -- and still might in special circumstances in the future, but it is curtailing the practice as a response to poor performances in recent years by its men's basketball and football programs with the Academic Progress Rate report.
Both programs were sanctioned with a loss of scholarships two years ago for failing to meet the APR standards set by the NCAA. The football program took a five-scholarship hit in 2009 and the basketball program lost one scholarship. Penalties are based on squad size.
Looking for ways to help its coaches and programs avoid similar stumbles with the APR, which tracks student-athlete retention and eligibility, athletic department administrators formed the Athletics Academic Assessment Committee (AAA for short). The panel reviews the academic credentials of any prospect who falls below a predetermined academic threshold.
"The underlying purpose of the committee is to assist ourcoaching staffs in all sports in being successful in their recruiting efforts," said Dr. David Clough, CU`s faculty athletic representative who chairs the committee. "Successful meaning, the recruitment of outstanding athletes who will be successful students here."
Clough is one of three committee members who work outside the athletic department. The other two are Joseph Jupille, associate professor of political science who is a member of the faculty assembly intercollegiate athletics committee and Dee Menzies, associate registrar. Senior women`s administrator Ceal Barry and associate athletic director for academics Kris Livingston are the two members of the committee from the athletic department. There is no set length of time for the committee members to serve.
The committee evaluates recruits at two different points in the recruiting process. The first is the point when the recruit is ready to take an official visit to the school. In order to make an official visit, the NCAA requires a recruit to be registered with the eligibility center, to provide a transcript and to provide a test score for one of the standardized tests. The committee evaluates each recruit based on that information and any additional information the coaching staff decides to provide.
Official visits are approved a great majority of the time even when a prospect`s overall academic record falls below the threshold that lands him or her in front of the committee in the first place.
Clough said official visits are denied when a prospect is considered a long shot to become an NCAA qualifier.
The committee reviews the prospect once again just before he or she is set to sign a national letter of intent.
Committee`s decisions aren`t always based on individuals. The committee also considers the academic credentials of the entire recruiting class to date.
If the committee knows that 25 percent of the recruiting class is already considered "academic risks" it might be less inclined to approve a recruit to add to the percentage.
"So what you`re looking at from the overall cohort perspective is, let`s be strategic and let`s try to balance things out," Clough said.
Clough said he is not aware of another school that has a similar committee or review process in place to examine the academic credentials of recruits before they sign a national letter of intent. Many schools have academic review committees in place that go to work once the prospect has been signed.
Clough said coaches have embraced the committee because it prevents them from wasting their time recruiting a prospect only to find out that the player won`t pass the NCAA eligibility center or they fall short of CU admissions standards.
"We took a look at that because we were thinking pretty seriously about trying to do things better following our APR difficulties in men`s basketball and football," Clough said. "One of the problems with that type of scheme is that you`re waiting all the way to the end of the process, and you`re turning back to a coaching staff that has, perhaps, been recruiting this individual for a year and a half or maybe even two years and they have expended tremendous effort to recruit the individual and get them to come to the university. It just sort of struck us that that`s not a very good system."
Colorado already is one of few major colleges with no special admissions policy to allow for recruits who clearly don`t measure up academically but are exceptional in their sport. Even future Pac-12 partners such as California and UCLA -- more prestigious academic institutions than CU -- have special admissions policies for athletes and other students.
Admissions standards for each school in Colorado are set by the Colorado Commissions on Higher Education.
"What you`re saying is admit them when they`re really not qualified to be admitted to CU," Clough said. "Other institutions do that. They have what are called special admissions, which is a nice way of saying admitting students who are not qualified."
Former CU offensive line coach Denver Johnson said he and most members of the former football coaching staff viewed the committee as a positive development and not a negative one last fall. An athletic department source said another reason why the committee was formed was in response to continuous attempts by Hawkins` staff to recruit athletes who lacked the academic qualifications for CU.
Johnson said there is plenty of myth circulating about Colorado`s ability to compete for the best athletes year in and year out because of its academic standards. But there are also realities in Boulder that don`t exist in a lot of other places, the AAA Committee is now another one.
"I think there is kind of two issues when you`re talking about that," Johnson said. "One, is getting them in, and, two, is keeping them eligible or retaining them.
"A guy doesn`t need to be a genius to make it here, but he certainly needs to be a capable student, a competent student, and one who is willing to be a student and work at it. I think you need to keep that in mind in the recruiting process. There are plenty of guys out there who are great football players that can survive in school in a place like Colorado."
Former Carolina Panthers quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer is expected to be announced as quarterbacks coach in Boulder sometime this week. Scherer is the final assistant coach to be hired by Jon Embree for the 2011 season. ... Former CU cornerback Jimmy Smith has opted not to participate in the Senior Bowl later this month. Former Buffs Jalil Brown and Nate Solder are scheduled to participate in the game.