Proposition 42 will do one thing: punish blacks. This is racism. I believe that, as colleges have increasingly relied on black athletes, the public response has been: "Let's do something about these black athletes. There are too many." Could it be that the NCAA voted for the measure to make it almost impossible for some black athletes to get into college?
Under Prop 42, numerous athletes—most of them black—will have to pay their own way to school, and many of them won't have the money. The result is that they won't be able to attend college. This is absurd.
Athletes don't need punishment, they need inspiration. If you put another hurdle in front of them, the likelihood that they will succeed at both academics and athletics becomes slimmer. What we should be saying to our black athletes is that we will give them an opportunity by providing them with scholarships, but they have to go to class and produce like everybody else.
What's America afraid of? Education isn't a privilege for the privileged, it's a necessity for all—athlete and nonathlete alike. But educators have a negative perception of athletes. They see all the money that a few athletes end up making, and they're envious. It's easy to educate the bright kids, but even a deficient student should have the opportunity to get an education. I say don't discard a youngster because he doesn't have good grades or test scores. Educate him.
Let me talk more specifically about the NCAA's role in all of this:
1) The NCAA should not be exercising any influence on college admissions. Admissions is the business of the schools, and the schools will be enhanced or diminished by the standards they set for themselves. If some schools want to maintain high standards, fine. But don't interfere with my mission, and at Temple our mission has always been to serve the entire community.
2) The NCAA should have no say in academic matters affecting enrolled students. Let each school set its own curriculum and graduation requirements, which should apply to all students. People say that universities will cheat by admitting athletes who are not academically qualified and then keeping them there by trickery. But I believe that academic integrity ultimately rests with the colleges, not the NCAA. It's the job of each college president to be responsible for his school's mission, image, academic integrity—and policing.
3) One thing the NCAA could do is work with high schools to ensure that athletes receive proper guidance in their studies. Some high schools in economically deprived communities don't even have guidance counselors. Athletes at those schools aren't being steered into the courses that will help them meet the NCAA's requirements. We must focus our resources and energies on helping students at an early age. The athletes who will suffer most under Proposition 42 are poor—and usually black. They have been victims, in many cases, of their backgrounds. When a freshman in college can't read or write, it isn't because he suddenly became unable. Hell, he couldn't read or write in first grade. Who has been guilty for 12 years?
Get rid of Proposition 48 and Proposition 42 because they are antipoor and antiblack. Get the NCAA out of the academic arena, which should be the domain of the universities. And let's give economically disadvantaged athletes a chance.
John Chaney is Temple's basketball coach.