Report Blasts NCAA Test Score-Based Sports Eligibility Rule: Scholars Say Prop. 48 Increased Discrimination Not Standards

Article excerpt

Report Blasts NCAA Test Score-Based Sports Eligibility Rule: Scholars. Say Prop. 48 Increased Discrimination, Not Standards;

by Charles S. Farrell

A new independent study of National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rules for athletic eligibility lashes out at the association for what its authors call discriminatory practices. The report, released by the McIntosh Commission for Fair Play in Student-Athlete Admissions as the NCAA prepared for its annual meeting, said the academic regulations commonly referred to as Proposition 48 exclude large numbers of minority, female and low-income athletes who would have graduated had they been permitted to enroll. The rules, which use standardized test scores as a cutoff on which athletes can compete as freshmen and receive athletic scholarships, are subject to modification this month at the NCAA's San Diego convention.

The commission, empaneled by the not-for-profit McIntosh Foundation, warned that tougher standards scheduled to go into effect next August would eliminate even more qualified minorities.

Current Proposition 48 standards require freshman athletes to have at least 700 scores on the SAT or the equivalent on the American College Test and C averages in a core curriculum of 11 courses in order to compete. The tightened standards, grouped under the heading of Proposition 16, raise the ante. Prop. 16 requires a grade-point-average of 2.5 in 13 core courses, with the 700 SAT, but it allows a lower GPA to be offset by a higher SAT score.

Delegates to the NCAA convention are to vote to abolish, modify or delay implementation of the tougher standards.

The Florida-based McIntosh Foundation has long been interested in providing access to higher education for student-athletes. The commission it empaneled is the first outside group to analyze NCAA data on initial eligibility. The commission cited the association's research in making its accusations of bias.

"According to the NCAA's own research, Prop. 48 eliminated 45 percent of African-American students who would have graduated if they had been allowed to enroll," said Peter Schonemann of Purdue University, who coordinated the external data review. "That compares with 6 percent of otherwise-qualified white students who would have been ruled ineligible. Though the NCAA did not perform the research, similar negative consequences are likely for members of other minority groups, women and low-income students."

Both NCAA and McIntosh researchers agree that the test-score requirement of 700 on the SAT or 17 on the ACT college admissions tests is the main reason why minority groups, women and low-income students are disproportionately affected. "Simply put, raising the test-score cut-off is not the same as improving academic standards," Schonemann said.

Added Pamela Zappardino, executive director of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing and a McIntosh panel member, "Even the NCAA's own Academic Performance Study concludes that the use of test scores in this manner is not justified. Prop. 48 and current proposals to make it even more restrictive, such as Prop. 16, are based on a series of Faulty premises and inaccurate conclusions."

During its research, the McIntosh Commission uncovered documents the showed that the NCAA knew of Prop. 48's disproportionate impact as early as 1983. The documents include a letter from Gregory Anrig, president of the Educational Testing Service, which prepares the SAT, and an NCAA-commissioned study, both of which conclude that the regulation is biased against Blacks and should not be used as part of initial academic standards. …