In the past, players who became academically ineligible because of poor performance in the classroom during the fall semester could simply make up ground toward earning their degrees or raise their grade point average the following spring and summer and regain their eligibility for the next season.
Unlike basketball and other sports where the season is played in both semesters, the football regular season is conducted entirely in the fall and there was no risk of a player missing playing time if he fell behind in school because his grades wouldn't be posted until the season was over.
The new rule will require that players complete at least nine semester hours or eight quarter hours of course work in the fall semester and earn the Academic Progress Rate eligibility point for the term. Those that don't will be suspended for the first four games of the following season.
Sources at CU said if the rule was in effect last year, the eligibility of between five and 10 players would be in question for the first four games of 2011.
However, there is a one-time waiver of the penalty for each student-athlete during their five years of eligibility if the player completes 27 semester hours or 40 quarter hours of academic credit before the next season. This would help true freshmen who struggle to adjust to college life as well as players who endure other major life changes and those who simply have a bad few months.
In addition to the one-time waiver, if a student-athlete fallsbehind academically a second time, he can have the four-game suspension reduced to two games if he completes 27 semester hours or 40 quarter hours of academic credit before the next season. Those totals would include any hours the student-athlete passed during the fall semester in which they fell behind.
"It`s doable, but at the same time you`re saying it`s doable by somebody who has struggled pretty mightily in the fall semester," Colorado`s faculty athletic representative Dr. David Clough said.
Clough has had multiple discussions with his colleagues in the Big 12 Conference about the legislation over the past six months as several versions of it were discussed. He said the legislation was started in a committee comprised of football coaches, athletic directors and faculty athletic representatives.
Clough said the motivation for the rule is a desire for schools to improve their scores in the annual APR reporting to the NCAA. He said the majority of points football programs lose under the APR system are eligibility points from the fall semester.
Clough said data has shown a "sawtooth" pattern to team GPAs in football over the years at Colorado and elsewhere. The numbers are generally down in the fall and recover in the spring. He said the Colorado program had broken out of that pattern over the past three years but definitely fell into the pattern before.
"The idea was to raise the bar," Clough said. "To put in requirements and call attention to the need to do better in the fall. I guess the way that you call attention to that is the old, speak quietly but carry a big stick."
For some programs, the rule will add another level of punishment for poor performance in the class room. Colorado coach Jon Embree held multiple players out of spring ball who needed to focus on their studies this year. Former coach Dan Hawkins did the same.