Div. I schools required to field more teams Rules within reach of most local colleges

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

NASHVILLE,TENN. — NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In the days leading to the National Collegiate Athletic Association's convention, the battle lines seemed clearly drawn.

Either the NCAA's special committee on restructuring would push through its sweeping reform package, and dozens of schools -- including seven in Maryland -- faced the possibility of being herded from Division I to Division II, or the little guys would lobby hard and hang tough.

Yesterday, both occurred.

Division I members approved new rules that will require schools in the top athletic echelon to sponsor more teams and give more athletic scholarships. Then they voted up with their computer buttons to amendments that apparently bring the new criteria within reach of most affected schools.

The final product was a set of rules that will require Division I schools to spend $500,000 a year on scholarships, evenly split between men's and women's athletes, but contained important exceptions.

The new rules won't apply to financially strapped schools whose students receive need-based federal aid exceeding $500 per year. Coppin State, Morgan State, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and most historically black colleges will be exempt on this basis. Howard University in Washington will not, however.

By a single vote (161-160), the Division I delegates also approved a liberal definition of scholarships that allows schools to count most categories of aid, athletic and otherwise, toward the $500,000 magic number. This was received warmly by, among others, Loyola and Towson State.

In another refinement that relaxes standards, Division I delegates voted down a proposal to count indoor and outdoor track and field as one sport, rather than the current two. That will make life considerably easier for schools struggling to meet the new rule, which will require Division I schools to sponsor seven men's and seven women's teams.

In all, it was a day of mixed results for the schools on the bubble. Most emerged from the meeting confident they would retain their cherished Division I status, but at a price.

"They talk about cost-cutting, but we're defeating the purpose," said William Hytche, president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, who offered a laundry list of complaints with yesterday's outcome.

"It's totally inappropriate to require all schools to have seven men's and seven women's teams. They make a rule that you have to play 100 percent of your games against Division I opponents. All that means is I can't play other schools in the state that might be good revenue-producing competition -- and I have to travel long distances to do it."

Still, the outcome could have been worse for most. While Morgan State, Coppin State and UMES will be required to form new teams to meet the amended Division I rules, they won't have to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for extra athletic scholarships, as many feared when the convention began.

Coppin State athletic director Ron DeSouza, for instance, faced the unenviable task of helping to raise about $350,000 to be used for athletic scholarships. The new rules remove that dark cloud, and DeSouza acknowledged his relief. "It could have been devastating for us if [Proposal] 46 [which set the $500,000 minimum] had not been amended," he said.

Officials of Towson State, Loyola, the University of Maryland Baltimore County and Mount St. Mary's said they expected to be able to meet the new standards of Division I, which become effective Sept. 1, 1994.

None of the four will have to add new teams. Although the amended scholarship rule provided some relief, all still will have to find extra scholarship money.

Towson State athletic director Bill Hunter estimated that yesterday's votes added about $100,000 to an athletic department budget that already is operating in the red by about $257,000. He called the new investment simply the new price of doing business.

"It's kind of like the big boys saying, 'These are the rules of the game so live by them if you want to play,' " he said.

The restructuring proposals came to the convention from a 17-member committee that worked for two years to find a better way to group the 295 schools in Division I.

The biggest of the big-time schools, those who play Division I-A football, pushed for a solution that would have put the 50 or 60 smallest schools in Division I into Division II. Those schools resisted, claiming the big schools' only motive was to exclude them from shares of the seven-year, $1 billion television contract that CBS recently signed for rights to the NCAA basketball tournament.

For the moment, it is not clear how many schools ultimately will be squeezed out of Division I by the new standards, which, while watered down, still are more exclusive than current rules.

And until there is a more precise count, supporters of the package said they will refrain from any judgment.

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