NCAA Standards Are a Barricade Instead of a Gate

Article excerpt

Ricardo Rhodes was denied the opportunity to enroll at Missouri to play football. So he took on the NCAA and won. He refused to be branded an academic failure. He wouldn't allow the NCAA to smear his reputation.

An NCAA subcommittee, facing an unfavorable ruling by a judge, reversed an earlier decision and declared Rhodes academically eligible. This was more important than any touchdown Rhodes scored as a Post-Dispatch Player of the Year at Hazelwood East High.

By all accounts, Rhodes is a good person, a responsible student. Yes, he wants to play football. But he also wants a diploma. Rhodes had initially fallen only .003 points short of qualifying. And for that minuscule deficiency, he got pushed aside. Rhodes responded and registered a solid victory. Regrettably, his triumph probably won't change the way the NCAA plays judge and jury with the lives of young student-athletes. Now, more pressure is being applied. Wednesday, a lawsuit was filed against the NCAA, charging racial discrimination and asking that the academic requirements used to determine eligibility of freshman athletes - the Proposition 16 guidelines - be declared invalid. The class action, based on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, was filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on behalf of two Simon Gratz High School graduates, Tai Kwan Cureton and Leatrice Shaw, and other African-American student athletes nationwide. According to the complaint, Cureton and Shaw ranked near the top of a graduating class of 305, but were unable to compete as freshmen track athletes at Division I schools because they didn't meet the minimum standardized test requirements. Some educational experts claim that standardized tests such as the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) are unfair to low-income African-American students because the tests traditionally have been written from a white, middle-class viewpoint. According to one study, 59 percent of the athletes being affected by the current academic requirements are minorities. …