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Board of Regents approves policy linking academics to coaches' bonuses

Tom McMillen and the Board of Regents unanimously approved the policy that won't allow coaches to cash in on bonuses unless their teams meet academic benchmarks.
Tom McMillen and the Board of Regents unanimously approved the policy that won't allow coaches to cash in on bonuses unless their teams meet academic benchmarks. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun)

The University System of Maryland's Board of Regents unanimously approved a policy Friday — believed to be among the first of its kind — denying bonuses to coaches and athletic directors whose players don't measure up academically.

The policy applies to the University of Maryland and all other schools in the university system — including Towson, Coppin State and UMBC — that field Division-I athletic teams.

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It was approved during a regents meeting at Frostburg State.

"I think this is another step for Maryland to be in the vanguard on issues of intercollegiate athletics," said former U.S. Rep. Tom McMillen, a member of the Board of Regents. "They were a leader on guaranteed scholarships and now they are a leader in academic accountability."

Maryland said in August that it would provide "lifetime" scholarships to its athletes. Previously, scholarships had only been guaranteed on a year-to-year basis.

The new bonus policy goes into effect immediately, but it will only apply to newly hired coaches, not those with existing contracts.

It has the endorsement of U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. He and McMillen — both former college basketball players — co-wrote a piece last year for USA Today in which they argued coaches needed to be punished financially if their teams didn't perform in the classroom.

This policy ties bonuses to teams' scores on the Academic Progress Rate, which are released by the NCAA each year.

The APR is a measure of whether athletes are on track to graduate. Teams that fall below an annual cutoff rate are subject to penalties such as loss of scholarships or practice time. But coaches' bonuses have not been affected in the past.

University system officials said they did not know of another state that ties coaches' performance bonuses to the APR.

Each year, the NCAA releases single-year APR scores and rolling, multi-year scores. In most cases, the universities will use the single-year scores to determine whether the coaches and athletic directors meet the benchmark for their bonuses.

"A coach shouldn't be punished for the sins of his predecessors," McMillen said. "You can't use a four-year trail, you can only use one year."

Coaches for high-profile teams frequently receive five-figure or six-figure incentives that are performance-based — such as making the NCAA tournament or a bowl game — regardless of how their athletes perform in the classroom. Some coaches also get academic-related bonuses.

The new policy was first approved by the regents' Organization and Compensation Committee on Oct. 14.

"I think the notion is, if we're going to give a coach a performance bonus, that coach ought to meet minimum academic standards or else the coach really does not merit a performance bonus," David Kinkopf, the panel's chairman, said at the time.

Athletic directors Kevin Anderson of Maryland, Derrick Ramsey of Coppin State and Tim Hall of UMBC are among those who have said they're in favor of the policy, as have a number of coaches.

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