THE NCAA'S OPTIONS
The war of words continues over Proposal 48, the NCAA's recently enacted measure to tighten up various academic eligibility requirements for Division I athletes. In our first look at the subject (SCORECARD, Jan. 24), we stated that the NCAA was right to attempt to cure academic abuses afflicting intercollegiate athletics, but we also expressed the hope that the organization would find a way to modify Proposal 48 so as to accommodate historically black colleges, which maintain that the measure would discriminate against black students. The most inflammatory expression of that view has come from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the civil rights activist, who said in a speech in Baton Rouge, La. that the intent of Proposal 48 was to reduce the number of blacks in big-time college sports "because the bottom line is: White boys are inferior athletes to blacks."
The part of Proposal 48 that offended Jackson was the stipulation that, beginning in August 1986, incoming students must score at least 700 on their SATs (or 15 on their ACTs) to be eligible to compete as freshmen in Division I athletics. After his Baton Rouge speech, Jackson approached SI for the purpose of putting his remarks "in context." He said he meant that blacks are athletically superior to whites, "not innately but for cultural reasons"; and he conceded that while black students generally do less well on standardized tests than white students, Proposal 48 might not greatly reduce the total number of black athletes at major colleges; after all, many of the blacks who didn't qualify under the rule would presumably be replaced by blacks who did meet the requirements.
Jackson did say, however, that the standardized testing minimum would be unfair to "certain"—i.e., poor and rural—blacks, and in this he's no doubt right. There's strong evidence that cultural bias creeps into standardized tests and that this is why blacks tend to perform less well on them than whites. For this and other reasons, SATs alone are an unreliable way of predicting academic success. Minnesota Viking Wide Receiver Sammy White has told SI that his SAT score was less than 700, yet he graduated from Grambling and is now a substitute high school teacher in Monroe, La. Conversely, Detroit Piston Center Bill Laimbeer, who says he scored a solid 1,100-plus on the SATs, flunked out of Notre Dame after his freshman year because "I got lazy and didn't go to class." After a year at Owens Tech in Toledo, Laimbeer returned to Notre Dame and earned a bachelor's degree in economics.
Another possible drawback to the use of standardized test scores is mentioned by Bradley University Athletic Director Ron Ferguson. Noting that the 700 SAT minimum would apply only to freshman eligibility, Ferguson predicts that a greater number of academically deficient athletes will simply attend junior colleges for a year and then move on to Division I schools. That route, of course, is littered with all too many academic-transcript scandals. And there's little doubt that major colleges would use jucos even more than they do already as a place to "stash" promising athletes.
Imposition of the same academic standards on Grambling as on Harvard makes no sense; the objective should be to use test scores in combination with other criteria to ensure that admission requirements are the same for athletes and non-athletes within each school. If the NCAA wants to go beyond that, it could also take action to encourage higher standards once athletes are in college. For example, it could abolish athletic eligibility for all freshmen, thereby freeing them to concentrate on their classroom work during their first year on campus. It could also set grade-point standards that athletes would have to meet to remain eligible. Finally, it could legislate limitations on the time given to team meals, meetings, film sessions and practice, all of which cut deeply into athletes' studies. In its push to enact a standardized test-result requirement, the NCAA has spurned these other options, which would be both fairer and more effective.
SOUNDING OFF ABOUT THE SOUNDERS
In his three seasons as coach of the Seattle Sounders, Alan Hinton had a 58-38 record, won two division championships and took them to last season's Soccer Bowl, where they lost to the Cosmos 1-0. But the club reportedly lost $4 million during that same period and after it was sold last month, the first thing the new owners, businessmen Bruce Anderson and Jerry Horn, did was to give Hinton, an Englishman who favored a deliberate, ball-control style of play, the boot. Anderson, who was an NFL defensive end from 1966 to 1970, explained that he wanted the Sounders to adopt a more wide-open offense and use more American players. He also said that he objected to calling soccer fields "pitches" and players "lads." "Pitch is something I get on my hands when I remove the Christmas tree," he said. "Lad is something I call a dog."
Many NASL people were shocked by the firing of a coach who had taken his team to the most recent league championship game. Seattle sportswriters and fans were especially critical of the manner in which the firing was handled; Anderson never announced it directly but offhandedly broke the news in response to a question at the press conference at which his purchase of the Sounders was announced.
Some observers also felt that Anderson's linguistic preferences, while perhaps understandable from a marketing point of view, went a little too far. One such critic was former Vancouver White-caps and current Canadian national coach Tony Waiters, who was said to be in the running for the Sounders' coaching job, but has evidently taken himself out of consideration. As he put it in a recorded message he left on his telephone answering machine at home in West Vancouver, B.C.: "If you're a media lad checking on the Seattle Sounders rumor, the answer is a simple 'No.' This lad is not going there because I don't like the pitch, nor, I suspect, the new owner."