Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Core Problem: MEAC Offers New Proposal to Modify NCAA Student-Athlete Eligibility Rules

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Core Problem: MEAC Offers New Proposal to Modify NCAA Student-Athlete Eligibility Rules

Article excerpt

Core Problem: MEAC Offers New Proposal to Modify NCAA Student-athlete. Eligibility Rules

A new proposal has been submitted to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) by a group of nine historically Black college and university officials who want to modify the organization's academic rules.

It would eliminate the use of standardized test scores if athletes have a high enough grade-point average in a core curriculum.

The proposal has some proponents cautiously optimistic that the NCAA may be willing to bend its hard line on academic reform. Similar proposals have been overwhelmingly defeated over the years.

Under the proposal, as drawn up by the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), freshman athletes who have a 2.25 grade-point average in a curriculum of 13 courses would not have to meet minimum Scholastic Assessment Test or American College Test scores. Those scoring under 2.25, however, would still have to meet this criteria.

Currently, freshman athletes must have a 2.0 grade-point average in 11 core courses in order to be eligible for competition. Those requirements increase next August to a core curriculum of 13 courses, plus a sliding SAT or ACT score depending upon grade point average.

Leading the Charge

The MEAC proposal was developed after a National Center for Education Statistics study showed that overall initial eligibility increased, particularly for those in lower socioeconomic and minority groups, and for women as well.

Hallie E. Gregory, athletics director at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, said the rationale for the proposal is simple: "We don't do as well on the standardized tests, but grade-point averages bear out that we can do well academically."

Gregory said HBCUs are leading the charge on dropping use of the test scores for those with higher grade-point averages because it favorably impacts Black student-athletes by enabling more of them to be eligible for competition as freshmen.

"We've worked with [Black students] longer and we are also them," Gregory said. "We know what it took to make us successful. I would never have made it if they had relied on the testing. Judge me on the merit of what I can do; don't rate me on a one-shot affair, especially if it is on information I may not have had at an early age."

Darrell Pope, compliance coordinator at UM Eastern Shore, said if the academic-standards changes are allowed to go into effect, fewer student-athletes -- as many as 25 percent -- will not qualify for competition and be denied an education.

Said Dorothy Body, senior women's administrator and financial aid director: "You assume the NCAA rule book is based on trying to graduate students, but the emphasis is on who and how many you can get on the field and how often you can win, not on education and graduation."

Many Supporters

The MEAC proposal is being reviewed by such organizations as the Women's Sports Foundation, whose executive director, Donna Lopiano, said, "The SAT is biased by race and gender, so removing it is good." But she was reluctant to say if passage would assure increased female participation in college sports.

Lobbying for the MEAC proposal is Fair Test, a Boston-based organization. Charles Rooney, campaign director for Fair Play, said that "de-emphasizing the test score, you get a more equitable rule for eligibility and you will not exclude lower-income people, minorities and women who score less on the tests. …

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