Doing more with less is NCAA focus

January 07, 1992|By Paul McMullen and Susan Reimer | Paul McMullen and Susan Reimer,Evening Sun Staff

Presidents want stiffer admissions and ongoing eligibility standards, but the Big East Conference wants to make it easier for freshmen to play right away.

In the name of fiscal sanity, some smaller Division I members want to play non-scholarship football, a concept generally opposed by larger Division I institutions. In a related issue, the football powers in Division I-A want smaller, private colleges to spend more scholarship money on sports other than basketball.

Battle lines are being redrawn for what should be another heated NCAA Convention. The 86th annual convention of the governing body of intercollegiate athletics runs today through Friday in Anaheim, Calif. Voting on issues is scheduled to begin tomorrow morning.

As always, the issues are complicated, and the NCAA rule book figures to be thicker than ever at week's end. Legislation also could affect the status of some Division I members, and trigger yet another round of conference shifting, which in recent years has had an impact on all but a handful of the nation's 33 leagues.

3' A look at some of the major issues:

Academics

The NCAA Council and Presidents Commission, continuing its attempts to regain control of intercollegiate athletics, is seeking to tighten freshman eligibility standards beyond the 700 Scholastic Aptitude Test and 2.0 grade-point average in the high school core curriculum laid down by Proposition 48.

New proposals would increase the number of courses in a freshman qualifier's core curriculum from 11 to 13 and raise the minimum GPA in those core courses from 2.0 to 2.5.

Another proposal, however, would create a sliding scale that would allow a freshman with a 900 SAT to have a high school

core GPA at the 2.0 level. A 700 SAT would require a 2.5 GPA in the core curriculum, which covers English, math, social sciences and natural or physical sciences.

"I think this package is going to pass, but I think it's a little too much when the NCAA is telling us how to run our admissions office," Coppin State athletic director Ron DeSouza said. "Proposition 48 was fine and it obviously improved retention rates, but every year there's something new to deal with."

Additionally, the academics package includes proposals that would stiffen the requirements for ongoing eligibility and ensure that athletes are progressing toward a degree.

Opposed to stiffening requirements, the Big East is sponsoring legislation that would discontinue the use of SAT and American College Test scores in determining freshman eligibility.

Division I-AAA football

A year ago, legislation was approved that banned Division I and II institutions from playing football at a lower division. Nineteen affected members of the Eastern College Athletic Conference have formed a non-scholarship football group that will begin play in 1993, but they and others in similar circumstances, including Towson State, want to be recognized by the NCAA.

Instead of falling under the scope of Division I-AA and its soon-to-be limit of 63 scholarships, Division I-AAA proponents would like to be grouped by themselves. They would not have spring practice and would be limited to two full-time assistant coaches, and most importantly, financial aid would be need-based.

Last week, Towson State athletic director Bill Hunter said that the Tigers would start playing non-scholarship football in 1993. UMBC also is interested in the concept. Similar moves threaten the shrinking I-AA constituency, and as a means of making peace with those members, a resolution would keep the I-AA playoff field at 16 teams through 1997.

Division I-AAA proponents, a diverse group that includes basketball-rich Georgetown and colleges with far fewer resources, argue that their proposals make fiscal sense and that it will allow more institutions to play football. Opponents contend that it allows Division I members to adopt a Division III philosophy in selected sports.

"It is an accommodation for schools not interested in spending the dollars they need to spend to stay in Division I," said Navy athletic director Jack Lengyel, who heads the nation's I-A athletic directors. "It is a Big East issue. They are trying to be Division I and spend a disproportionate amount on one sport to the detriment of a broad-based program.

"It will destroy the integrity of I-A and start a domino effect in I-AA. Administrators will take a look at it [I-AAA] and ask their athletic directors why they can't compete in a division without scholarships and with fewer coaches."

Federation

A related funding issue being dealt with for the second straight year is federation. In 1991, the minimum number of teams a Division I member must sponsor was raised. Scholarship minimums also were adopted, with Division I members being required to spend as much as $250,000 each on men's and women's scholarships in sports other football and basketball.

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