August 9, 1999
NCAA Will Keep Freshman-Eligibility Rules
Despite Judge's Finding of Bias
By DOUGLAS LEDERMAN
The National Collegiate Athletic Association
does not plan to change its eligibility requirements for freshman
athletes, even though a federal judge has declared them to be
The N.C.A.A.'s Division I Board of Directors
voted Thursday to leave intact Proposition 16, which uses a sliding
scale of standardized-test scores and high-school grade-point
averages to determine whether a first-year athlete can participate
in college sports. Athletes must score at least 820 on the SAT
or an average of 17 on the four ACT components to play as freshmen.
The association uses its eligibility requirements
to try to insure that athletes benefit academically from being
in college, and eventually graduate. But in March, in a lawsuit
brought by several black athletes who had been disqualified under
Proposition 16, a federal judge declared that the rules discriminated
against black athletes, and that the N.C.A.A. had not proved that
using the test-score criterion was a legitimate way to achieve
its goal of raising the graduation rates of athletes. (See a story
from The Chronicle, March 19.) Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter barred
the N.C.A.A. from using the standards, but the U.S. Court of Appeals
for the Third Circuit granted a stay of the judge's ruling pending
the appeals court's further review of the case.
After discussing the issue at their meeting on
Thursday, the college presidents who make up the N.C.A.A.'s Board
of Directors determined that there was "no compelling reason"
to change the eligibility standards at this time, said Graham
B. Spanier, president of Pennsylvania State University and chairman
of the N.C.A.A.'s board.
He said that the Third Circuit had set a date
of September 14 to hear oral arguments in the N.C.A.A.'s appeal
of Judge Buckwalter's ruling, and that it was unlikely that the
Third Circuit would rule in the case before the next meeting of
the N.C.A.A. board, in October.
"I'm confident that we will ultimately prevail
in the courts on the principles we've articulated as to the appropriateness
of higher education setting its own standards," said Mr. Spanier.
"One of those principles is the desire of our institutions to
continue to use test scores in evaluating the readiness of our
students, for athletics or admissions purposes."
In other developments, the Division I Board of
Directors also endorsed the substance of the recommendations of
an N.C.A.A. committee that has been studying basketball issues.
Among other things, the panel proposed toughening academic standards
for players, as well as rewarding teams that posted high graduation
rates and penalizing teams whose players dropped out. (See a story
from The Chronicle, July 30.) The board said it would send the
report to other N.C.A.A. committees to develop formal legislation
based on the panel's recommendations, and then would decide which
specific rules changes to endorse.
At the same meeting, the Division II Presidents'
Council announced that it would spend $250,000 next year to finance
a matching grant program aimed at encouraging Division II colleges
and conferences to hire more black and female athletics administrators.
Lederman, Douglas. "NCAA will keep freshman-eligibility rules despite judge's finding bias." Chronicle of Higher Education. 9 Aug 1999. For Fee$$ http://chronicle.com/cgi2-bin/texis/chronicle/search