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A SNAIL'S PACE FOR NCAA REFORM...
On the eve of the NCAA Presidents Commission meeting in Denver earlier this month, that body's chairman, Indiana University president John Ryan, sat in his hotel room and expressed his hopes for a fruitful session. The commission was considering measures to deal with abuses in college sports. Any recommended legislation would be presented to the full NCAA convention in January, and Ryan called the need for action "incontrovertible and immediate."
Sadly, what resulted was tepid and tentative. About the only thing the commission did was to recommend making Proposal 48, the controversial eligibility rule scheduled to go into effect next summer, more flexible. As enacted. Proposal 48 holds that entering athletes can be eligible as freshmen only if they have a minimum score of 700 on the combined college board SAT test (or a 15 of 36 score on the American College Test) and a 2.0 high school grade-point average in 11 core courses. Under the commission's proposed modifications, the SAT score could dip as low as 660 if it were balanced by a higher GPA, or grades as low as 1.8 could be acceptable if the SAT score were above 700. However, such fine-tuning would have been unnecessary had the presidents abandoned Proposal 48 and simply eliminated eligibility for all freshmen. This the commission declined to do, despite Ryan's admission before the meeting that he personally "would be inclined to favor a decision against freshman eligibility."
The Presidents Commission, in fact, failed to take action in any of several other areas where it's sorely needed—limiting use of special admissions for athletes, curbing demands on their time, tougher rules governing satisfactory progress toward graduation and on and on. This failure displeases Duke law professor John Weistart, who specializes in legal and social issues affecting sports. Noting that college presidents have lately been taking more interest in reform of their sports programs, Weistart fears that the momentum for reform may soon be lost. "It'll be quite surprising if three years from now sports have the level of involvement from college presidents that they have now," he says. "If the presidents are to lead a reformation, they should do it now. The iron's hot now—you strike when it's hot, or it will cool."
...AND A REASON TO SPEED IT UP
Last week a special committee on intercollegiate athletics of the North Carolina University System's board of governors called for reform of special admissions programs in state schools. The committee said that far too many special admissions—in which normal entrance standards are bent—were going to athletes. Of an average of 90 each year at N.C. State, 31% went to athletes, including 14 in football and basketball. At the University of North Carolina, 15 football players were accepted as special admits each year. The committee said that it had "identified many instances of serious problems in these programs, some of which could lead to gross abuses unless they are more effectively monitored and controlled."
Given those findings, it wasn't surprising that the committee also determined that only 23% of all athletes on full scholarship at State, and only 48% at Chapel Hill, graduated. These rates are, respectively, 12% and 27% below graduation rates of the student bodies in general at those institutions.
It was sad enough that Bears coach Mike Ditka was arrested for drunk driving, speeding and improper lane usage early Monday morning in Chicago shortly after the flight home from his team's big 26-10 win over the 49ers in San Francisco (page 30). More unfortunate still was the reaction of some Bears fans, who blitzed state police with irate, sometimes obscene, phone calls protesting Ditka's arrest. The police said they needed three troopers to deal with the callers, most of whom, giddy over the Bears' success this season, seemed to feel that Ditka deserved special treatment. One fan called the coach "the best thing that ever happened to Chicago."
Bears fans have cause to be happy about their team's showing, and Ditka no doubt deserves much of the credit. But that's no reason police should treat him any differently than they would other citizens. Gridiron heroics need to be kept in perspective; when it comes to suspected violations of law, the same game plan should apply to everybody.