By Th‚oden K. Janes
Arizona Daily Wildcat
The NCAA's raising of its initial eligibility standards, effective in 1995, has caused a stir among athletes and administrator
To her right was television commentator James Brown. On her left sat NCAA President Joseph Crowley and Southern Cal men's basketball coach George Raveling. And in front of her were the CBS cameras that would broadcast their meeting to a national television audience.
The date was April 2 and the pace was Charlotte, N.C., the site of the 1994 NCAA men's national basketball championship. The woman was Tanya Hughes, a UA student and high jumper for the school's track and field team.
The open forum, which was broadcast during halftime of the women's basketball Division I title game between North Carolina and Louisiana Tech, centered around the NCAA's 1991 decision to alter its initial eligibility standards. The changes will go into effect on Aug. 1, 1995.
Currently, high school athletes are required to score a 700 on the SAT and maintain a 2.0 GPA in 11 core course requirements to play in their first year at a university under a guideline entitled Proposition 48. If these requirements are not met, an athlete still might receive a scholarship, but they will not be allowed to participate with their team.
In 1995, the NCAA will replace Prop 48 with Prop 16, which will raise the number of core course requirements to 13 and the GPA requirement, which will be dependent on how the student scores on the SAT.
For instance, a student-athlete who scores a 700 on the SAT will be required to have a 3.0 GPA, while one who receives a 900 score will have to maintain only a 2.0. Accordingly, scoring 800 will make a 2.5 GPA necessary, and so on.
It was the subject of such a major discussion in Charlotte because many NCAA administrators and athletes question whether these new standards are appropriate and whether they are too demanding and discriminatory.
Hughes, an interdisciplinary studies senior, was in distinguished company because she was chosen as the representative for the NCAA student-athlete advisory committee, of which she is an active member.
The committe consists of about 30 student-athletes from around the country, and it examines the effects of NCAA legislation on student-athletes.
Hughes agrees with those who believe the initial eligibility standards discourage certain youths.
"More than likely, those who are disadvantaged will be excluded from this whole system if we increase the eligibility standards," Hughes said. "I think (what was said at the forum was if) student-athletes have been graduating at a higher rate than the general student body, why increase the standards? You already have a Prop 48, so why increase the standards if that is working? What is the rationale behind it all?"
Some have said that the NCAA is just trying to take strides to bring in more aca-demic-oriented athletes. There are people, though, who aren't sure if the steps being made are in the right direction.
Said Bill Morgan, UA assistant athletic director for compliance: "I really don't know if it's better or worse. ... The attempt of the rule is to assure that those youngsters who are admitted to come to college to participate in athletics have the academic credentials to have a chance of succeeding. I agree with that completely. I'm not sure if it is the best way, but I think we will evolve into the best way."
For proponents of Prop 16, there may still be a glimmer of hope. In January, the NCAA executive board agreed to examine the reliability of the research that went into the initial eligibility standards legislation for both Propositions 48 and 16.
NCAA President Joseph Crowley, also the president of the University of Nevada, said the committee will also complete any research it deems unfinished.
In addition, a special NCAA commitee will soon begin looking at the standards to determine if they are discriminating against minorities, Crowley said. These investigations were expected to begin sometime this year.
If the NCAA doesn't amend the changes by its January 1995 convention, Prop 16 will be set in stone.
Ted Leland, athletic director at Stanford, said he agrees the changes elimi-nate opportunities for certain kids to go to college, but sees some good in them.
"In the old Prop 48, no one was disqualified because of bad grades," said Leland. Stanford, known for its high academic standards, does not admit any student-athlete who has a score in the area of 700. "(With Prop 16), there are going to be a much larger amount of people disqualified, but this time it is going to be because of grades. I think that will give us more qualified students."
Other NCAA officials agree, saying that graduation rates will improve because of the changes.
"Student-athletes who have a better academic preparation are going to be more competitive with the rest of the student population, and are more likely to get their degrees," said Jerry Kingston, an economics professor at Arizona State, who also serves as the chairman of the NCAA academic requirements committee.
Kingston indicated that, in general, academic standards are being raised. He noted, for example, the Arizona Board of Regents' April 15 decision to toughen entrance standards for high school students seeking to gain admission to the state's three universities.
But Hughes said inner-city schools are incapable of preparing students as well as middle- to upper-class systems do. Even though disadvantaged kids are less prepared for college, Hughes said, it should not count against them.
"Our educational system is using the SAT, which is known to be culturally biased, as a tool to rate how a kid is going to do in college," Hughes said. "You can have somebody who scores a 1400 who still flunks out of school. I barely got 1000, but I have a 3.5 GPA in college. So you can't tell me the SAT is an accurate depiction of a person's ability. It is not.
"Give disadvantaged kids the chance to get into school to work it out. These kids are in an environment where people don't give a damn about their academics. ... They don't have the support that other kids may have. Coming to college adds some structure to their lives and gives them some opportunity.
"It gets them off the street. I'm not saying that we need to be some type of a halfway house, I'm not saying that is what the university is for, but it is there to create an opportunity and ... if a person doesn't get the grades, they can't play anyway.
"So we need to reprioritize what we want. We need to concentrate on getting people off of the streets, not putting more people back on the streets." Read Next Article