The NCAA gets even tougher on athletes' academics
Orange County, Calif., the arch-conservative home of the John Wayne Airport and the Nixon library, seems an unlikely place for a revolution, but that's more or less what happened at last week's NCAA Convention in Anaheim. The upheaval followed a similar assault on the status quo at last year's convention, where long-neglectful university presidents finally pushed through measures that allowed them to gain some control over their runaway athletic departments.
The uprising in Anaheim involved Proposition 48, the nine-year-old measure that rules an incoming freshman ineligible for varsity competition unless he has a 2.0 grade point average and either a 700 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test or a 17 on the American College Test. This year the 44-member Presidents Commission sought to toughen Prop 48 with three changes: increasing the minimum GPA to 2.5 while instituting a sliding test-score index under which higher-than-minimum test scores would enable an athlete to play despite a GPA lower than 2.5; increasing the required number of college preparatory courses from 11 to 13; and insisting that college athletes complete at least 25% of their degree requirements by their third year, 50% by the fourth and 75% by the fifth.
The proposals passed overwhelmingly, but not without predictions by opponents that the new regulations would disproportionately affect black students. "After you have made it impossible for so many of these kids to get into your colleges, then your teams will not be as attractive to fans and to television," said E.M. Jones, Grambling's faculty representative. "Then you will undo what you have done here today."
In seeming support of Jones's point, data released by the NCAA's research department indicate that almost four of every 10 freshman football and basketball players who met the Prop 48 requirements would have been ineligible in 1988 had the new standards then been in effect. For example, Billy Owens barely avoided becoming a Prop 48 victim when he entered Syracuse in 1988; under the new rules, he'd have been ineligible. However, other NCAA data suggest that students will adjust to the new standards. When Prop 48 took effect in '86, there was a drop in the number of blacks who received football and basketball scholarships, but by '88 the number of blacks on scholarships had almost returned to pre-Prop 48 levels. And the graduation rate of black football and basketball players had improved dramatically.
The new legislation is intended to put pressure on parents, teachers and coaches to take care of business earlier in an athlete's career. The hope is that athletes will no longer be allowed to slide along academically, and instead will receive the sort of education that too often has been denied them.
—WILLIAM F. REED
Cyclist Mo Manley battles MS in her Olympic quest
Maureen (Mo) Manley had a decision to make. Manley, the silver medalist in the women's individual road race at the 1991 U.S. cycling championships, was just behind the leaders in the first stage of a road race in Europe in September. "I came up a climb," she says. "There were two ways to go: straight or left. I couldn't sec the pack, so I figured they'd turned left. So I turned left. But the road I took was dirt and I wiped out. I got up, but after the race I decided this wasn't working."