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UA News
NCAA wants eligibility requirements to focus more on classroom, less on tests

By Staff & Wire Reports
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday October 23, 2002

INDIANAPOLIS The NCAA wants to change eligibility requirements for incoming student-athletes by lowering the emphasis on standardized tests and increasing the weight of classroom work.

In a sweeping package of academic reforms approved yesterday, the Management Council increased the number of core courses high school students must take and extended the "sliding scale" that helps determine freshmen eligibility.

Student-athletes must now score at least 820 on the SATs, but the changes would allow freshmen to become eligible with lower test scores with a higher corresponding GPA. The minimum GPA of 2.0 in core courses remains unchanged although high school students would now have to complete 14 core courses, one more than the current rule.

But the tougher NCAA standards will have little impact on UA, where minimum academic standards are already above those proposed by the NCAA.

For example, UA requires student athletes to complete at least 16 core courses like math, science and English before being eligible for admission. The NCAA is considering raising standards to require 14 core courses for admission.

Since the regents already require all UA students to have a 2.0, the GPA required for graduation, before they begin their fourth year, the higher NCAA requirements would boost standards at other schools comparatively.

The average GPA for male athletes at UA is 0.23 points lower than the general student body population, and the department of athletics plans to hire one more graduate assistant to help student-athletes.

"All of our student athletes have a learning disability: lack of time," said Regent Gary Stuart at a meeting in March.

If approved by the NCAA's Board of Directors on Oct. 31, the changes would take effect next year.

"We now have the best research data ever available to us, in terms of predicting success, during the first two years of college," said Percy Bates, the council's chairman. "That research clearly indicates that the number of core courses, and the performance in those courses, are the best predictor of college success."

The change has been discussed since January, when the NCAA released data showing that students with higher GPAs fare better in college than those with higher test scores.

The council had discussed the proposed changes at its meetings in April and August but did not act until Tuesday.

As part of the reform package, the council approved other changes that would increase the workload to remain eligible while attending college.

College students would have to accrue 24 semester hours before entering their second academic year, while maintaining a minimum load of 18 hours each academic year and six hours per term.

Progress toward college graduation also would have to come at a quicker pace. Current rules require four-year students to complete 25 percent of their credits each year, but the proposal would increase that to 40 percent after one year, 60 percent after the second year and 80 percent after the third year.

Indiana University President Myles Brand said he agreed with the reforms earlier this month when he was selected as the new NCAA president. Brand will succeed Cedric Dempsey in January.

Bates said the new requirements will help the NCAA reach its goal of achieving higher graduation rates for student-athletes, rather than just allowing athletes to maintain their eligibility.

"For the first time ever, we are addressing in one legislative package the entire academic experience of student-athletes, from high school performance through college graduation," Bates said.

The council also gave initial approval to new rules for football practices.

The proposals would require a strength or conditioning coach certified in CPR to attend voluntary weight training or summer conditioning drills.

It also would allow prospects who have signed, but have not yet started taking classes, to participate in summer conditioning following a medical examination.

Those changes came after the deaths of Eraste Autin, an incoming freshman at Florida, and Rashidi Wheeler, a Northwestern player, who died during voluntary workouts in the summer of 2001.

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