By Greenlee, Craig T.
Black Issues in Higher Education , Vol. 17, No. 15
The college sports scene for this academic year promises the usual mixed bag of on-the-field triumphs and woes. But those high-profile events are likely to be accompanied by some unique off-the-field celebrations and disappointments. Here's a look ahead at developments likely to occur during the course of the school year.
The legislative courts have ruled that the National Collegiate Athletic Association can keep its freshman eligibility requirements intact, in spite of litigation asserting that the rules discriminate against Black student-athletes.
In January, a team of Washington, D.C.-based lawyers were hopeful they could convince a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the NCAA requirements should be altered. The panel ruled otherwise.
Even so, Adele Kimmel, an attorney with the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice, has renewed hope that the NCAA eventually will be forced to alter its bylaws. Kimmel is one of the lawyers representing the plaintiffs in a lawsuit, Cureton vs. NCAA, challenging those eligibility roles.
"The only way to get the NCAA to react is to get a fire lit underneath it," Kimmel says. "And that fire is a lawsuit. Without pressure from a suit, the status quo will continue, so we're going to keep pressing the issue."
At issue are the academic eligibility requirements for incoming freshman athletes at Division I schools. The requirements stipulate that students must successfully complete 13 core courses in high school, keep a prescribed minimum grade-point average and score at least 820 on the SAT or a minimum combined total of 66 on the ACT. Those who fail to meet these requirements are prohibited from playing college sports as freshmen.
"It's amazing to me that the NCAA continues to ignore its own research," Kimmel says. "They know that using minimum test scores is not a good predictor of academic ability. They also know there are other effective alternatives they can use that are not discriminatory."
Kimmel says she is confident that proposed U.S. Department of Education regulations, now under review, will help plaintiffs in future cases. Finalization of these new roles is expected by the end of 2000, and Kimmel says future suits filed under these rules would provide a wider scope of coverage under federal civil rights law.
The proposed regulations would mandate that federal civil rights laws apply to all facets of an organization's operations and not be limited strictly to those programs receiving federal dollars. These proposed regulations resulted from January's appellate court ruling, which noted that under federal civil rights law, the NCAA could be sued for discrimination, but only as it relates to its programs that receive direct federal funding. In this interpretation, the judges ruled that only the federally funded National Youth Sports Program could be legally challenged.
"Assuming those proposed regulations become final by the end of this year, freshmen in the fall of 2001 can take action," Kimmel says. "This will provide recourse for the next class, giving them a way to force the NCAA to change their rules."
The heated debate over the Confederate flag isn't about to die down.
Neither South Carolina nor Georgia is off the hook just yet. For now, South Carolina will still be the host for early-round games of the NCAA men's basketball tournament in 2002, and Atlanta is still home for the NCAA men's Final Four in 2002 and 2007, and for the women's Final Four in 2003.
The South Carolina legislature removed the Confederate flag from the Statehouse dome under duress, in part because the NCAA threatened to move tournament games -- and the millions of dollars that come with them -- out of the state if the flag wasn't moved. But that didn't put the issue to rest. Lawmakers did move the flag to a Confederate monument, but the monument is located in a prominent view on the capitol grounds. …