Scholarship cuts to have varying effect NCAA notes

January 10, 1991|By Mark Hyman | Mark Hyman,Sun Staff Correspondent

NASHVILLE TENN. — NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Delegates to the National Collegiate Athletic Association convention remained firmly in their cut-and-slash mode yesterday.

With few exceptions, proposals that asked the 295 Division I schools to accept less than what the rules now allow passed handily.

But while schools voted to reduced athletic scholarships, to impose new limits on recruiting and even to outlaw the sending of greeting cards to recruits, it wasn't clear how much they really were saving.

The scholarship cuts were a clear example of how the reductions will affect some schools more than others.

In one of yesterday's more dramatic votes, Division I schools voted to accept a 10 percent reduction in athletic scholarships offered to 16 men's teams and nine women's teams. In separate votes, the schools also voted to slice scholarships in basketball and men's football.

The effect for a school that now offers a full complement of scholarships in all sports would be dramatic, a reduction of roughly 20 full rides.

At the University of Maryland, however, the impact will not be nearly so great. Athletic director Andy Geiger estimated that the new rule would force Maryland to cut eight to 10 scholarships in, among other sports, football, men's basketball, lacrosse and volleyball. Football will lose three scholarships and basketball one as the result of rules that passed yesterday.

But Geiger said he hoped to "reinvest" those scholarship in other sports in which Maryland has few or no scholarship athletes.

"In our situation, this gives us the opportunity to reallocate to get away from the dramatic tiering that we have in place," said Geiger, referring to a system recently implemented at Maryland that groups Terps sports teams according to the number of scholarships offered.

Another rule that passed easily, one that limits athletes to 20 hours of practice time per week, could develop into a costly reform, according to some of its opponents.

The rule requires schools not only to observe the limit but also to set up a system to track each of its athletes. Opponents said that was creating a bookkeeping nightmare, and, if the rule isn't observed closely, a lot of work for the NCAA committee on infractions.

Said Jeff Orleans, executive director of the Ivy League: "My fear is that people either will not take it seriously or they will take it so seriously that their students will be absolutely bird-dogged."

Geiger did not see as many trap doors.

"We'll have to do more paperwork," he said, "but the coaches are smart people. They'll have to keep records, and we [department administrators] will check."

* Each time a controversial cost-cutting proposal has passed this week, those in favor have soothed opponents by pointing out that if the rule doesn't work, it can be "fine-tuned" at next year's convention.

There was an example of that yesterday when Division I delegates voted to extend the men's basketball season from 25 to 27 games. The extension comes a year after the basketball season was reduced from 28 to 25 games.

* A new postseason football game was launched this week when members of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and the Southwestern Athletic Conference received approval to create the Heritage Classic. The game will match the champions from the historically black conferences. Morgan State is among the football playing members of the MEAC.

* The rush to reform did not extend to rules governing grades and graduation rates. The members easily sent down to defeat a proposal sponsored by the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference to require Division I members to graduate 50 percent of their athletes.

Another proposal that would have set a minimum grade-point average of 1.9 for athletes with 96 semester hours also went down resoundingly. In both cases, opponents said they preferred to wait for the findings of a Presidents Commission study of academic standards.

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