In June, however, McAlister was preparing to board the bus that would take the UCLA track team to the airport for the flight to the national championships in Seattle when he was stopped by his coach, Jim Bush. He was taken to Athletic Director Morgan's office and told that he was ineligible to compete in the meet. McAlister stood stunned for a moment, then he rushed from the room and slammed his fist into a wall.
What had gone wrong?
The NCAA had begun its investigation of McAlister's eligibility last March after receiving a tip. From whom? The NCAA refuses to say. But the NCAA did rule that in taking the test on June 2 McAlister had violated the National Test Date regulation established the previous January. In the first four years of the 1.6 rule, the NCAA Council had discovered that athletes had been taking the tests under conditions entirely too congenial to them, sometimes even with coaches present. The January rule required them to be tested with ordinary student candidates under properly administered conditions. The new rule was to be hard and fast with no exceptions. UCLA was in clear violation.
In order to appeal the Council's conclusion, the school had to declare McAlister ineligible immediately. The appeal was to be based on the athletic department's contention that it had adhered to the intent, if not the letter, of the regulation. McAlister and the other students had been deprived of taking the regulation test because of a technicality. The makeup examination was given by an authorized supervisor—the same one in fact who gave the regulation test. The appeal was rejected in August. McAlister was ordered to sit out a full year of varsity competition, his eligibility to be restored in time for the 1972 football season.
But there was a darker side to the matter. The investigation continued, and on Oct. 27 the NCAA Council further declared that UCLA should receive a year's probation—although without further penalty. The new evidence was startling, for it now appeared the university had not merely committed a technical error. The Council charged that one of its athletic recruiters had arranged for someone to cosign a note for $1,767.12 which enabled McAlister to purchase a car. This was considered an improper inducement, although UCLA protested the transaction was made after McAlister had signed his letter of intent to enroll there. But most damaging of all was the Council's conclusion that the June 2 test papers had been mysteriously altered.
There were 63 erasures on McAlister's test, the NCAA said, 65 on Jones' and 38 on Johnson's. Of McAlister's 63 erasures, 49 resulted in correct answers to the mostly multiple-choice questions. In the social studies section alone, there were 26 erasures, 25 of them to correct answers. The NCAA points out that when an erasure is made, chances are only one in four that the change will become correct. After consulting with the ACT service, NCAA investigators concluded that it would be impossible, "even for a superior student," to make that many erasures in the time allotted for the examination.
"We have rather incontestable evidence that these tests were tampered with," said Tom Hansen, assistant to Executive Director Walter Byers. "Either the tests were improperly administered or the alterations were made by someone other than the young men. Either they were improperly handled in Iowa City or tampered with before they got there."
Dr. Oluf Davidsen, in charge of ACT's Program Operations, says that for his part, the chances of the tests being changed in Iowa City were "one in a billion," because they are machine scored.
That, it would seem, leaves Dr. Verge. While the NCAA says it is making no specific charges against anyone, Verge appears to be the only person who could have tampered (or permitted tampering) with the exams. ("That conclusion is unwarranted and not to the point in question," argues the NCAA. "We have confidence in the ACT National Test Date administration....") Astonishingly, the NCAA has charged UCLA with the burden of investigating what is, by implication at least, its own crime.
As for Verge, he feels that he has been damaged by innuendo.