Educators took lead at NCAA convention

January 11, 1991|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,Evening Sun Staff

NASHVILLE,TENN. — NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The 85th annual NCAA convention might be remembered as the year educators took control of intercollegiate athletics.

The NCAA Presidents Commission, responding in part to the perception that big-time college sports have gotten too powerful and are rife with abuses, backed a series of reforms that passed with few exceptions.

"We're definitely headed in the right direction, but there's still a lot of work to do," said William E. Kirwan, president of the University of Maryland. "We're going to be talking about the reform business for at least the next four years, but we began to take some positive steps this week.

"Moreover, there's the symbolic message that the presidents can get involved and put forth meaningful legislation. When they participate, they can have influence."

A review of the key developments at this week's NCAA convention follows.

* COST CONTAINMENT: Major-college powers will be hit by several pieces of legislation that will save their schools money, and a by-product could be greater parity in football and basketball.

Scholarships were cut 10 percent across the board, all sports lost coaching positions, new recruiting limits were approved and schedules were shortened in every sport except football.

Big-time football lost a bid to regain five days of spring practice it had lost in recent years. In addition, there will be a gradual ban on athletic dorms and a limit of one meal a day at an athletic training table.

The big schools did win a victory with legislation allowing them to set their own limits on what constitutes a scholarship. That is now tuition, room and board, and books, but individual divisions will be able to include other expenses that add to "cost of attendance."

Smaller schools fear that those in Division I-A will add enhancements such as "laundry money" that would give them a recruiting edge, but the major powers said they aren't going to pay their student-athletes.

* RESTRUCTURING: Because they knew they would have to bite the bullet in cost containment, some of the big-budget schools backed a package of proposals that would cause members at the opposite end of the Division I spectrum to spend more. The big-time football schools say some in Division I are there only for the riches of the NCAA basketball tournament, and that those schools should fund more scholarships in other sports.

Legislation was passed, but not before it was watered down by amendments, one that will grant exceptions to schools whose students often rely on need-based financial aid. That applies to many historically black colleges.

Coppin State and Maryland-Eastern Shore spend approximately $100,000 on scholarships in non-revenue sports. They now will have to double that, but they came here facing the prospect of spending four times as much. Morgan State, Coppin State and UMES also will have to add one women's sport.

On another restructuring issue, voters narrowly defeated a proposal that could have made it more difficult for Johns Hopkins to remain Division I in lacrosse. Division III schools like Hopkins and Division II schools will still be able to field one or more teams in Division I.

* ACADEMICS: In coming years, student-athletes will be able to spend no more than four hours a day or 20 hours a week on sports-related activities. Elite athletes in individual sports received concessions that will allow them more leeway to practice.

A resolution passed yesterday calls for an Academic Requirements Committee to recommend legislation next year that will strengthen admissions and eligibility standards. Recruits will now have to provide a standardized test score to receive a paid visit to a campus.

* ETC.: Legislation will be drawn up for next year's convention that would make it possible for athletes to be drafted by professional leagues without losing their eligibility if they decide to remain in school.

The convention ended with the installment of Judith M. Sweet, athletic director at California-San Diego, as NCAA president. She is the first woman to hold the position, and the first from a Division III school.

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