Teams must meet new NCAA standards or face some strict penalties.

NCAA President Mark Emmert and the Division I Board of Directors are sending a strong message to student athletes and universities, with re-defined academic standards.

?The NCAA has taken a really keen approach on academic performance of student athletes,? said University of Montana Interim Athletic Director Jean Gee.

The Board decided to increase the way academic performance is measured, it is called the Academic Progress Rate (APR). APR is a complicated formula that includes averages of four years worth of points.

It all starts with points assigned to each student athlete. Every student athlete on scholarship can earn two points a semester (4 points a year) based on requirements. They get one point for staying in school and one point for meeting other eligibility requirements, like grades.

The APR schools must meet will increase from 925 to 930. For example, the last five years the University of Montana football team has been above the 925 mark. The Montana State University football team on the other hand sat well below the mark, until the 2009-2010 season.

?We have really worked hard at those changes, we have developed a plan, stick to the plan,? said MSU Athletic Director Peter Fields.

Athletic programs that don't meet the bench mark aren't allowed to participate in any post season competition, like playoffs and championships. Other penalties include loss of practice time and loss of scholarship money.

?Obviously a post season ban for any institution or team, that's significant,? said Gee. ??It?s been moved to the top of the list of penalties, where it used to be third of fourth.?

While Gee is confident the UM Athletic Department is sitting in a good spot, she says there is room for improvement on both the men's track and field team, and the football team.

?It?s always a constant monitoring, making sure that we're where we need to be academically,? she said.

The schools have about two years to phase in the new requirements, before they'll see any penalties.

To see how UM and MSU programs stack up, click here.