College athletes posted record scores in the classroom for the 12th consecutive year while historically black colleges and universities continued to bear the brunt of the harshest academic penalties, according to figures released Wednesday by the Indianapolis-based NCAA.
The NCAA's most recent Academic Progress Report shows the four-year average in Division I was 981, two points higher than last year. Scores are calculated by giving each player on each team one point per semester for remaining academically eligible and another point each semester if they remain in school or graduate. A perfect score is 1,000. This year's numbers cover the 2012-16 academic years.
Teams that consistently fall below 930 can face penalties, including postseason ineligibility.
Of the 17 teams ineligible to participate in NCAA Tournaments next year, 15 come from historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs.
Alabama A&M and Southern University in Louisiana each had four teams make the ineligibility list. Southern will be banished in baseball, men's and women's cross country and men's track and field. Alabama A&M will be ineligible in baseball, men's basketball, men's golf and women's cross country. The Bulldogs also received Level 2 penalties in four additional sports, including football, giving Alabama A&M the distinction of having the highest total of teams being punished in Division I.
Grambling, another Louisiana school, received postseason bans in men's basketball, men's cross country and men's track and field. Savannah State, in Georgia, received postseason bans in football and men's basketball, and a Level 1 penalty in baseball.
Teams receiving Level 1 penalties lose four hours of practice time and one practice day per week during the season. Those hours are supposed to be replaced by academic activities.
Those facing Level 2 sanctions will be assessed the same practice restrictions but also lose four hours of practice per week out of season and are not permitted to participate in non-championship season events such as spring football. Teams that don't have non-championship events out of season will be required to play fewer games.
The men's basketball team at Southeast Missouri State and the men's cross country team at Illinois-Chicago also received postseason bans.
Still, the overall picture shows universal improvement across the sports spectrum, even among low-resource institutions.
Baseball players had a cumulative score of 973 and football players came in at 962. Both numbers were up three points from last year.
Men's and women's basketball teams both improved by two points over last year's report, with 966 and 980, respectively.
Since 2010, low-resource schools have seen scores jump from 939 to 968 while HBCUs have seen their numbers go from 913 to 956.
"I am so pleased that the Academic Progress Rates continue to rise, but I am more excited about what those numbers mean: Thousands of college athletes continue to make real progress toward earning their degrees," NCAA President Mark Emmert said in written comments. "A college degree, combined with the skills they learn while participating in sports, will provide countless opportunities for them later in life."