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Since 1983, reform has been a byword in college sports. First, the NCAA approved Proposition 48, which mandated a minimum grade-point average and standardized test scores for entering Division I athletes. Next, the newly formed NCAA Presidents Commission, a 49-member body, pushed through tougher penalties for rules violators; these included the "death penalty," which can cost a school that is a repeat serious offender an entire program. At last week's NCAA convention in San Diego the reform bug became an epidemic as athletic directors actually vied with their presidents to see who would pass the next piece of reform legislation.
The 751 voting delegates, most of them athletic directors, ordered a reduction in the number of football and basketball scholarships offered to recruits, and in the size of basketball coaching staffs. The convention curtailed activities by boosters (they aren't allowed even to phone or write prospects anymore), cut the number of recruiting visits a basketball coach can make and shortened the football and basketball recruiting seasons by 60%. It also reduced the number of games basketball teams can play on foreign tours and decreed that coaches have to report to their schools any outside income from job-related ventures. The convention voted down motions to extend seasons and player eligibility. Division II colleges voted to accept, beginning in 1988, the academic requirements of Proposition 48.
Some of these measures were passed by the eager delegates despite a plea from the Presidents Commission that action on them be deferred. The commission announced that it hopes to correct the imbalance between college athletics and academics at a special convention in Dallas in June. "We want to look at this thing more holistically," said University of California chancellor I. Michael Heyman. Delegates in San Diego were asked to set aside a number of proposals so the presidents could deal with them in a "broader context" in Dallas. When the convention bulled ahead on some of these proposals anyway, NCAA president John R. Davis noted that at least "their actions on them were harmonious with what the presidents want to do."
What they want to do immediately, said Heyman, is "cap the momentum" toward ever costlier and more grandiose athletic programs on college campuses. When a subcommittee was appointed to study the feasibility of a football playoff and national championship game, Heyman quickly answered, "This is just the kind of momentum thing we're talking about; we think it very unlikely there would be a playoff in Division I football." Looking further down the road, Heyman went so far as to urge the "mutual disarmament" of the biggest college athletic programs.
Before reform became all the rage, such talk was sacrilege. These days, it's all one hears at NCAA gatherings.
TOP GUN (CONT.)
It was amusing to hear U.S. Navy secretary John Lehman say last week that basketball star David Robinson is "not physically qualified" to be commissioned as an unrestricted line officer following his graduation from the Naval Academy next May. But it's true: The 7'1" Robinson, who has grown six inches since entering the academy, is too tall to serve on either ships or planes. And so he has been excused from his five-year active duty commitment. Instead, Robinson will serve two years of full-time active duty in the Naval reserves and four more years of limited reserve duty.
It's expected that an arrangement will be worked out allowing Robinson to play in the NBA even as he fulfills his Naval obligations. Such an arrangement enabled former Navy tailback Napoleon McCallum to play for the Raiders this season.