Ackerman doesn't care. "I think that whole story line is tiresome," she says. But there's one way to stop the debate. Let 'em play.
The Disability Issue
The NCAA gained a victory in court recently when a federal district court judge in Missouri ruled that the NCAA need not accept the scores from a nonstandard—in this instance, untimed—ACT exam taken by a St. Louis University basketball recruit. But the case may also have exposed the NCAA to further attacks in its legal battles over eligibility requirements for student-athletes with learning disabilities.
Justin Tatum, a star 6'7" forward at St. Louis's Christian Brothers College a year ago and now a freshman at St. Louis, took an untimed version of the ACT during which the questions were played on tape. He was granted that accommodation after a psychological condition known as generalized anxiety disorder was diagnosed. The condition, he says, makes him nervous and distracted when taking tests. After the NCAA refused to recognize his scores (which wore barely over the NCAA-mandated minimums) and declared him ineligible, Tatum, arguing that the NCAA had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), went to court seeking an injunction that would have allowed him to accept a scholarship from the Billikens.
In denying the injunction Judge Donald Stohr cited doubts that Tatum had proved he suffered from a mental disability. But he also rejected the NCAA's argument that as a private entity, it's exempt from some provisions of the disability law. The ruling echoes Justice Department concerns about the screening policies of the NCAA, which accepted only 29% of the learning-disabled athletes who applied for eligibility waivers in 1996. "The Justice Department has held the position for some time that we are bound by the ADA," says NCAA spokesman Wally Renfro. "It continues to be our position that we are not."
The Justice Department's civil rights division informed the NCAA in October that several of its eligibility requirements, such as excluding remedial classes from the group of high school core courses required of recruits, violate the ADA. Wrote Daniel Sutherland, a lawyer in the department's civil rights division, "We do not seek a lowering of the academic standards for students with learning disabilities, but that the NCAA modify the methods it uses to assess whether these students meet [eligibility] standards."
The Justice Department has threatened the NCAA with legal action if its recommendations about screening disabled students aren't implemented. Since it's already fighting at least four lawsuits from learning-disabled athletes around the country, that's a headache the NCAA doesn't need.
In the Name of The Father
Spencer Dunkley, a 6'11" center for the Delaware basketball team in the early 1990s, often bemoaned the attention his name drew, once noting, "That shouldn't be all anyone talks about."
Perhaps Dunkley sees things differently these days. Now 28 and playing for Besancon in the France Pro A basketball league, he and girlfriend Denise Ashton, 25, are expecting their second child, a boy. The couple has yet to decide on his first name, but Dunkley insists his middle name will be Slam.