Hike grades, not budgets, MAAC urges

January 03, 1991|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Evening Sun Staff

A reform package that will be one of the major topics of discussion at the NCAA convention next week would call for many schools to spend more if they want to remain in Division I.

Loyola College and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference would like to up the ante in another area: academics. At its core, MAAC-sponsored Proposal 66 would require Division I members to graduate 50 percent of their student-athletes who receive athletically related financial aid.

When the 85th annual NCAA convention is held in Nashville, Tenn., next week, the MAAC doesn't expect to get much support for Proposal 66, but the conference that includes Loyola and eight other like-minded Catholic institutions is still going to make a statement.

"This is the response of our presidents to the so-called restructuring proposals regarding sports sponsorship, scholarship limits and scheduling in Division I," said Rich Ensor, commissioner of the MAAC.

"Our presidents feel that reform needs to start on the academic side. We don't usually make a big deal of it, but when the I-A people start to force things on us, we have to bring this matter up. We're proud of our graduation rate. I think it's something that sets us apart from other conferences."

The MAAC wears that figure on its sleeve. For the second straight year, advertising on the SportsChannel cable television network was sold based on the rate the conference graduated its senior men's basketball players. That rate was 100 percent last year.

Loyola is a typical MAAC member. Since November 1987, 12 of its athletes have received GTE District 2 Academic All-America honors. In the spring semester of 1990, 31 percent of Loyola's athletes had a grade-point average of 3.0 or better. The academic support program that then-basketball coach Mark Amatucci devised in the mid-1980s is considered a model.

La Salle, which is seeking its fourth straight basketball championship, has the biggest profile in the MAAC following the defection last year of Fordham, Holy Cross and Army. The current membership also includes New York's Canisius, Iona, Manhattan, Niagara and Siena; Connecticut's Fairfield and New Jersey's St. Peter's. None have scholarship football.

While the MAAC membership would have no difficulty meeting Proposal 66 or any other academic measures, it is a self-described basketball conference, and some of its members

would have difficulty reaching the scholarship spending minimums of Proposal 46.

If Proposal 46 passes, a school in Loyola's position would have to fund 19 full scholarships for men and 19 for women, exclusive of basketball scholarships.

On the men's side, Loyola already meets that requirement, as the Greyhounds are spending $335,000 on scholarships in soccer and lacrosse. Among the women, lacrosse, field hockey and volleyball will split $205,000 in 1990-91, and Proposal 46 would require Loyola to spend approximately $100,000 more in that area.

Joe Boylan, a Rutgers assistant athletic director who will become Loyola's athletic director next month, knows the school will spend any additional money needed to remain in Division I.

"I've been promised that no matter what the Division I requirements are, Loyola is committed to meeting them," Boylan said.

Loyola has concentrated its resources on selected teams, and the two-tiered system has paid off. Soccer reached the NCAA quarterfinals in 1986 and '87, and lacrosse reached the national championship last season. The women's lacrosse team also reached the Final Four. The MAAC does not sponsor lacrosse, but Loyola would rather remain independent in that sport anyway.

Last fall, Loyola's second-tier teams did well in MAAC competition, as the golf and women's tennis teams won championships and men's tennis finished second.

"In a financial aid sense, yes, half of our sports have a philosophy closer to Division III," said Jamie Smith, who has been Loyola's interim athletic director since Tom Brennan went to San Jose State last September. "We do try to play a Division I schedule in those sports, and we do try to treat our athletes equally."

Loyola will spend $980,000 on scholarships this year, and its operating budget for 1990-91 is approximately $600,000. That does not include coaches' salaries. The bulk of the money comes from tuition payments, although $400,000 was raised in the fiscal year ending June 30, 1990.

Most of the money was raised by the Loyola College Athletic Fund, the rest by the Greyhound Club.

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