Impact 1996 the Year in Review: NCAA Toughens Freshman Eligibility Standards

Black Issues in Higher Education, January 9, 1997 | Go to article overview

Impact 1996 the Year in Review: NCAA Toughens Freshman Eligibility Standards


Impact 1996 The Year In Review: NCAA Toughens Freshman Eligibility. Standards

1996 will be remembered as the year the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) kept its promise to increase initial eligibility standards despite overwhelming evidence that minorities, women and low-income students would again be disproportionately affected.

The tougher standards, which went into effect in August, require freshman athletes to have a grade-point average of 2.5 in 13 core courses and a 700 SAT, in order to compete athletically. The rules allow a lower GPA to be offset with a higher SAT.

The new standards replace freshman eligibility requirements of a 2.0 GPA in 11 core courses with a minimum 700 SAT.

It will be a few years before the true impact of the new standards can be measured, but predictions based on the previous standards suggest that while graduation rates of student athletes may go up, a disproportionate number of minorities will suffer because they will not meet the standards.

According to the NCAA's own research, 85 percent of those negatively affected by the previous rise in standards were African American and 45 percent of them would have graduated if allowed to enroll in college. That compares to 6 percent of otherwise-qualified white students who would have been ruled ineligible.

The new standards are expected to exclude even more otherwise-qualified African Americans, who historically have not fared as well on the SAT as their white counterparts.

"Sticking with an unfair rule and voting to make it even worse, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, is morally questionable, to say the least," said Russell Grough, a professor of ethics at Pepperdine University and sports ethics fellow with the Institute for International Sport. "It is unfair to exclude students who, in fact, would graduate, simply to make the NCAA look like it is cracking down on the programs which exploit athletes. Such a fundamentally flawed proposal undermines academic integrity even more so because this sports bureaucracy is legislating a `one-size-fits-all' policy for very diverse institutions."

The NCAA proudly points to improved graduation rates, but some critics call it a smoke screen.

"We have to look at who we are harming," said Marilyn Yohe, a program associate with Fair Play, an organization which has vigorously protested the academic standards. …

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