Group Seeks To Bar Freshmen From Varsities
An independent committee established by the National Collegiate Athletic Association last week proposed making all freshmen ineligible to play varsity football and basketball, but experts said the measure would face a difficult fight for ratification.
The panel, appointed in July 1982, also proposed that all colleges closely monitor their athletes' academic performance and issue annual reports describing their findings. That proposal is expected to be greeted warmly by ncaa members.
The 16-member Select Committee on Athletic Problems and Concerns in Higher Education will make its formal proposals to the ncaa Council next month. The council is responsible for writing all legislation, which is voted on by member schools that would be affected by the rule.
Under the freshman-ineligibility proposal, announced after a meeting of the committee in Kansas City last week, college football and basketball players would be permitted to take part in only three years of varsity competition, said an official for the ncaa
The proposal would not supercede the controversial Rule 48, said Ted C. Tow, the assistant executive director of the ncaa That rule, passed in January, sets stricter academic standards for freshman athletes in Division 1's 277 colleges.
Rule 48 has come under fire from the leaders of predominantly black colleges and of civil-rights organiza-tions, who claim that it would discriminate against black athletes. Some of the educators have threatened to pull out of the ncaa rather than abide by the rule.
If both rules were in effect at the same time, officials said, colleges probably would create separate "junior-varsity" leagues for freshmen. Only freshmen who meet the academic standards would be eligible to take part in that program.
Knowledgeable observers said the freshman-ineligibility provision--which was part of the ncaa's rules until 1972--would face stiff opposition. Officials did not say whether the proposal will come up for a vote when the body holds its annual meeting next year. Any group of any six members may propose a measure.
The select committee, Mr. Tow said, "was very much aware" that the measure would meet opposition, partly because it could entail the expense of creating a whole new athletic system for junior-varsity competition. But, he said, committee members "wanted to take a philosophical stand."
John P. Schaefer, the chairman of the committee, said committee members frequently disagreed about whether to propose the measure but decided to do so to spur debate on the problems of academic performance among athletes.
Robert Atwell, vice president of the American Council of Education, said his organization once considered promoting a freshman-ineligibility rule but has dropped the idea for now. He said it would be "unrealistic" to hope for the measure's passage. The ace actively promoted Rule 48.
The ace's committee on athletics will meet next month to discuss possible alternatives to the select committee's proposal and ways to deal with the protests of the black leaders.
Top 10 Percent of Class
Among the proposals under consideration is a plan developed by Robert Klitgaard, associate professor of public policy and special assistant to the president at Harvard University, which would retain Rule 48 but grant eligibility to students whose grades and test scores rank in the top 10 percent of the most recent graduating class of the student's college or university.
Mr. Klitgaard conducted a study for the ace that found that 58 percent of all black high-school seniors nationwide would not qualify to compete under the rule, compared with 14 percent of all whites.
Mr. Klitgaard used data from the Educational Testing Service in the report.
The rule, which takes effect in 1986, requires freshman athletes to have earned a C average in 11 designated high-school subjects and combined scores of at least 700 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test or 15 on the American College Test in order to take part in any activities of the football and basketball programs.
The members of the committee include David P. Gardner, president of the University of California and the chairman of the National Commission on Excellence in Education, and Lou Holtz, the athletic director and head football coach at the University of Arkansas, who has been outspoken about the academic shortcomings of college athletes.