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Baseball Coach Blasts New NCAA Academic Rules

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ Mississippi State coach Ron Polk blasted new rules designed to promote academics and questioned NCAA officials who said Thursday that college baseball players weren't performing at the same level academically as college basketball and football players.

``Duh, how dumb of a statement is that?'' Polk said the day before the start of the College World Series.

``When our kids are on a book scholarship, or 10 percent or 15 percent, and they have to pay the balance of the fee to go, and all football and basketball and girls' sports are on full scholarships and they can go to summer school _ how stupid of a statement is that?'' Polk said.

NCAA officials said earlier Thursday that baseball players were found to be academically ineligible in the fall at a rate three times higher than their counterparts in other sports.

``They're coming into colleges with an academic profile that says they ought to be doing a lot better than their academic performance in college,'' said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for membership services. ``These are young men who are bringing in good high school grade point averages, solid test scores, particularly when you compare them with other sports.''

The problem isn't necessarily grades, but that many players are taking too few credits to advance toward getting their degrees, said Todd Petr, NCAA managing director of research.

The most contentious rule change guarantees that any scholarship player would receive no less than one-third of a full ride. Also, no more than 27 players can receive any portion of a scholarship.

Many college baseball coaches say they already have trouble recruiting top-caliber talent with a limit of 11.7 scholarships per team.

Polk said the NCAA officials shouldn't have held a new conference about college baseball issues without inviting at least one of the eight College World Series coaches.

``I can go back and naysay those statements down the line in regard to what the state of baseball is,'' Polk said.

``I know I've got the support of all the baseball coaches, all the kids in this country, and parents and friends, that what the NCAA does to college baseball is criminal,'' Polk said.

Dennis Poppe, NCAA managing director of football and baseball, said the rule changes are an effort to improve academic performance and graduation rates.

``I don't know how that's criminal,'' Poppe said.

Poppe said he's heard complaints from four coaches about the rule changes, which will take effect in August 2008.

``There were individuals representing 26 institutions and conferences _ two presidents, four conference commissioners, seven or eight athletic directors, four coaches _ a lot of people that put a lot of time and a lot of thought into the process,'' Poppe said. ``They didn't take it lightly, they took it seriously.''

Other rule changes include a one-year waiting period for transfers, similar to football and basketball rules; making sure athletes are eligible academically in the fall instead of using that time to improve grades before spring; and establishing penalties where schools that fall below a certain four-year average on the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate scale would play fewer games.
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