NCAA votes to tighten academic requirements Move draws fire from black schools

January 09, 1992|By Ed Sherman | Ed Sherman,Chicago Tribune

ANAHEIM, CALIF VB — ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The NCAA reform movement reached new heights yesterday with approval of its most significant scholastic measures since the early 1980s, voting for a dramatic increase in academic requirements for incoming athletes.

Led by the university presidents, who continue to show unprecedented clout, reformers maintain the measures will enhance graduation rates and bring in athletes more comparable to the rest of the students.

"What you've seen is the need to have standards in place if we're going to have student-athletes, and not athlete-students," NCAA executive director Dick Schultz said. "We want to ensure that we have good, bona fide college students."

Despite arguments from predominantly black schools that the new guidelines discriminate against minorities, delegates at the NCAA convention overwhelmingly moved to toughen initial eligibility requirements under what is commonly known as Proposition 48, the revolutionary act that passed in 1983 and was implemented in 1986.

The new measure calls for a recruit to have a 2.5 high school grade-point average, up from 2.0, along with scoring at least a 700 on the SAT or a 17 on the ACT (the current standards) to be eligible to compete and receive athletic financial aid as a freshman. If an athlete fails in one of those categories, he has to sit out his freshman year and arrange for his own financial aid.

The legislation also features a sliding scale for the controversial standardized tests. For instance, an athlete still can be eligible with a 2.0 GPA if he gets a 900 on the SAT or a 21 on the ACT.

The NCAA also moved to require incoming athletes to take 13 core courses in high school, up from 11.

The new measures don't take effect until Aug. 1, 1995, giving current high school freshmen plenty of time to adjust to the new guidelines, proponents say.

The measures came from recommendations from the NCAA academic-requirements committee, chaired by University of Chicago professor Lorna P. Straus.

Improving graduation rates for athletes has been a priority of university presidents. According to the latest data, slightly less than a third of Division I basketball players graduate, and only 40 percent of Division I-A football players receive their degrees.

The presidents believe the new guidelines will help raise those levels by bringing in athletes who are better prepared to compete in the classroom.

"We're trying to communicate what it really takes to effectively prepare for the college experience," said University of Mississippi chancellor Gerald Turner, who heads the powerful NCAA Presidents Commission. Requiring a 2.0 GPA "doesn't convey that message. We're telling them that they have to do more in high school if they are going to make it in college.

"This is a very important step [in the reform movement]. It underscores the primary goal for academic institutions. That's for students to get a degree, and not just to maintain eligibility."

To that end, the convention also enacted tougher "progress-toward-a-degree" requirements for current students. An athlete now has to complete 50 percent of his course work going into his fourth year and 75 percent entering his fifth.

University of Illinois president Stanley O. Ikenberry said the increased measures would help blunt criticism that athletes have much easier standards for admission.

"It closes the gap between the academic capabilities of the athletes and the rest of the student body," Ikenberry said.

But critics fear the gap will close on black athletes. Blacks currently make up 68 percent of the Prop. 48s.

William DeLauder, president of Delaware State College, said an estimated 70 percent of current black college athletes wouldn't meet the requirements.

"This is clearly discriminatory," DeLauder said. "I find it incredible to believe that, given the decline of the black student in our society, this convention would limit access to the black student."

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