INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Scott Drew had a simple plan to fix the Baylor men's basketball program.
He insisted on doing things by the book, recruiting athletes who could win and players who could perform in the classroom. So perhaps it was only academic that the Bears coach would eventually restore the school's image.
Three weeks ago, the Bears played for the NIT title. On Wednesday, Baylor got another stamp of approval, this time from the NCAA, which added the Bears to a list of academic overachievers.
"For a coach, this is about as satisfying an award as a program can possibly win," Drew said. "For the student-athletes we've been able to bring to Baylor, it shows the great job they've done, and our academic support staff obviously deserves a lot of credit as well."
It's a stark contrast from the dark days of 2003.
Back then, former player Patrick Dennehy's murder led to revelations of major NCAA infractions, forcing coach Dave Bliss to resign.
Slowly and steadily, Drew started repairing the damage. He ignored the wreckage and began constructing a competitive team while continually emphasizing class work.
Six years later, Baylor finds itself among the head of the class academically.
"We knew for us to build a successful program we had to attract the kind of student-athletes who could be successful not only on the court but also in the classroom," Drew said. "This is the measuring stick for judging academics and we've passed with flying colors."
How does Baylor compare with other schools?
The list recognizes the top 11.9 percent of all Division I teams, a group that includes three Final Four participants — national champion North Carolina, national runner-up Michigan State and Villanova.
Three other reigning national champs — Connecticut in women's basketball, Southern California in women's golf and Richmond in the Football Championship Subdivision — also were recognized by the NCAA.
The team scores won't be released until May 6 when the NCAA releases more data.
But this list honors teams that scored between 976 and a perfect 1,000 on the Academic Progress Rate, significantly higher than the NCAA's cut line of 925 for poor performers.
Scores are calculated by student-athletes' performance. Each player receives one point per semester if they are academically eligible and another if they stay at the school or graduate, giving each player a maximum of four points per year. Team scores are then compiled by the school and sent to the NCAA for review. Those excelling above the norm are publicly recognized while those consistently falling below the 925 mark can face penalties.
This year's information was collected between 2004-05 and 2007-08 and 767 teams, an increase of 55 from 2008, were honored.
North Carolina and Kansas, the 2008 men's basketball champion, both made it for the second straight year. Tar Heels coach Roy Williams, who coached at both schools and has won two national titles in Chapel Hill, N.C., was out of town and unavailable for comment. But Williams has credited Wayne Walden, the associate director of the academic support center, for making academics a top priority. Walden now works at North Carolina after serving in a similar capacity for Williams at Kansas.
"That's a credit to our coaches for recruiting true student-athletes, to the student-athletes for staying committed to academic integrity, to our staff for its timeless support and to the University of North Carolina for providing the education and inspiration to achieve academically," athletic director Dick Baddour said in a statement commending the six Tar Heels teams on the list.
College football's traditional powers didn't fare nearly as well.
Of the 23 Division I football schools on the list, only eight reached postseason play and just half of those — Air Force, Navy, Rice and Rutgers — played in bowl games. None of the last four national champs, or the national runner-ups, were recognized.
"The vast majority of sports teams are performing very well academically and exceeding the 925 threshold for their APR scores," NCAA president Myles Brand said in a statement. "Nearly 800 of these teams are worthy of special attention, and I commend them for their excellence in academics and athletics."
Not surprisingly, the Ivy League led all conferences with 144 teams honored. The Patriot League was second with 85 and the Big East was third with 60.
Of the 331 Division I schools, 205 had at least one team recognized.
Yale was the overall leader for the third straight year, with 28 teams making it.
"There is a myth out there some hold that you have to somehow sacrifice your studies to do well on the court and that just isn't true," NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said. "This reinforces that you can excel in competition and in the classroom. So those who hold onto the dumb-jock myth, it's time to let it go."
On the Net: http://www.ncaa.org/wps/ncaa?ContentID=48770
On the Net: http://www.ncaa.org/wps/ncaa?ContentID=48769
AP sports writers Jaime Aron in Dallas and Aaron Beard in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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