Only five freshmen signed by the Maryland football team for the 1990-91 school year did not meet the university's regular admission standards. That's the football team's lowest number of "exceptions to admissions" in the last decade, although the number could go up again for the 1991-92 recruiting class.
"The number we've been working with in football the last two years is eight," said Dr. Gerald Gurney, associate athletic director and head of the academic support unit. That's just a general guideline; the athletic director also has two discretionary exceptions, or "individual admissions," that could be granted to football or any other sport, Gurney said.
The issue of exceptions to admissions has been raised by head football coach Joe Krivak and members of his staff, because some recruits who could not gain admission to Maryland are now playing for teams that the Terps compete against, particularly in the Atlantic Coast Conference. But Gurney said it's difficult to compare admissions policies from school to school.
"We have a general idea of what other schools are doing, but every school is a little different in the way it determines [exceptions for athletes]," Gurney said. "I know there's some talk about a Virginia student who was accepted there but wasn't accepted here. But it happens vice versa as well.
"In general our academic standards would be in the upper echelon of ACC schools . . . certainly in the upper half," Gurney said.
Maryland's guidelines for athletic exceptions were set up by the academic task force established in 1986, after the death of basketball star Len Bias. The athletic department's number of exceptions reached an all-time high of 48 in 1986, before the new guidelines were set. That included 13 exceptions for the football team.
The number of exceptions was cut dramatically the following year, to a total of 26 for all sports, although football was granted 14. Exceptions have declined steadily since then. Only 14 freshmen athletes were admitted as exceptions for the 1990-91 school year. Gurney said he expects the number to "level out at 18 on a per year basis."
Maryland's regular admissions standards have stiffened in recent years. Twelve of the football recruits who signed with Maryland for the 1990-91 year met those regular standards.
Football recruiting often is complicated because national letters of intent are signed in February, when many high school seniors are still trying to bring up their grades and scores on the college boards.
The Maryland coaches might go into the signing period with eight exceptions, but they're not always used -- as was the case for the 1990-91 class. "Sometimes the student becomes a regular admit, or sometimes the student decides to enroll at another school," Gurney said.