NCAA proposals would target graduation rates

Scholarships, academic progress would be tied

AAU limits considered

July 21, 1999|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

The NCAA yesterday announced dozens of proposed reforms designed to clean up college basketball. Linking scholarship allotments to graduation rates and lessening the importance of AAU tournaments in the recruiting process were among the recommendations of a 27-person committee, which spent 10 months studying the game and its ills.

Some of the committee's recommendations could become NCAA rules as early as the 2000-2001 school year.

"We asked these folks to be `practical idealists,' " said Kenneth Shaw, the Syracuse chancellor who chaired the Division I Working Group to Study Basketball Issues.

"How should Division I basketball operate in a perfect world? But because we don't live in a perfect world, we also wanted solutions that will work and that will be supported by our constituents. Those solutions have to work in perhaps the most litigious environment we have ever experienced in higher education and intercollegiate athletics."

Stung by recent court decisions, including one that declared unconstitutional its requirements for initial eligibility, the Working Group steered clear of the concept of freshman ineligibility. That was one of the causes of Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, whose criticisms of the direction of college basketball led to the formation of the Working Group.

Among Division I sports, attrition and graduation rates are the worst in men's basketball. The issues mesh in one of the Working Group's recommendations, which would reward men's programs from 12-14 scholarships, based on graduation rates. Players who turn pro early or transfer would not count against a program, as long as they left in good academic standing.

"The key is, this would not penalize an institution for student-athletes who transfer in good standing, which the current graduation rate information does," Maryland athletic director Debbie Yow said. "This addresses those who have exhausted their eligibility. You play four years, what happens to that individual? For that reason, I support that recommendation."

The NCAA would allot scholarships based on graduation rates compiled over a four-year rolling period, with players given six years to earn a degree. If approved, the proposal could take years to implement.

When the NCAA publishes its graduation rates report next month for the class that entered in 1992, the Maryland men will not fare well. Four recruits who completed their eligibility didn't get degrees within the six-year window, but a fifth who transferred out in good standing will help the Terps' rate.

Coach Gary Williams wasn't as enamored with the recommendation as was Yow.

"When I was at Lafayette for six years, every kid I coached graduated," Williams said. "Every kid wanted to go to graduate school. That's Lafayette. Different schools have different priorities. A blanket rule is going to help some schools, and hurt others."

Fang Mitchell, the coach and athletic director at Coppin State, liked that recommendation, but said that colleges with larger budgets will continue to prosper.

"It's a little harder at my end," Mitchell said. "At historically black institutions, graduation rates are lower. It's going to be one more advantage for the bigger schools. They've got the resources to use charter jets and lessen their travel time, and hire the tutors. Most changes benefit the bigger schools anyway."

The Working Group's 32 recommendations include requiring freshmen to pass 12 credits with a 2.0 grade-point average in the first semester, and prohibiting programs from adding late qualifiers after the first semester. If that recommendation had been in place four years ago, Shawnta Rogers wouldn't have had a freshman season at George Washington.

Shaw was hopeful that the recommendations will be accepted in principle next month by the NCAA's Board of Directors. They then would be passed along to the Management Council, which would seek feedback. The recommendations could become NCAA law by next January, and go into effect by August 2000.

"A number of the proposals are thought-provoking," said Yow, one of 34 members of the Management Council. "I'm sure there will be healthy and spirited conversation about this."

En route from a recruiting trip to Florida, Williams spoke from the Atlanta airport. Coppin State's Mitchell was reached from southern California, where he was scouting talent at a Nike tournament.

It is near the middle of the 24-day July evaluation period, which the Working Group proposed be trimmed to 14 days. In turn, the number of evaluation days during the high school and junior college seasons would be increased from 40 to 50, a small step toward shifting the emphasis of recruiting from summer camps and tournaments to scholastic competition.

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