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N.C.A.A. To Review Eligibility Standards for Freshmen

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The National Collegiate Athletic Association will review the tougher new eligibility standards for freshman athletes that are scheduled to take effect in the 1995-96 school year.

But the decision, made last week at the group's annual convention in San Antonio, has been overshadowed by calls for a boycott of college-basketball games from members of the Black Coaches Association, who contend that the new N.C.A.A. rules unfairly affect minority student-athletes.

Although the coaches' immediate target has been this year's reduction in men's basketball scholarships, they also are contesting the new eligibility standards, arguing that they too would disproportionately harm poor minority students.

As part of its review, the N.C.A.A. will examine graduation rates to determine if student-athletes succeed in college despite entering the institutions with low high school grade averages or college-entrance-examination scores.

"There may be individuals who, for example, would not have qualified but do go on to graduate,'' said Kathryn Reith, a spokeswoman for the association.

She said the review will also focus on how well the N.C.A.A. has communicated the new requirements to high school students.

The review must be completed by June 1 in order to meet the deadline for revisions that would be voted on next January.

Adopted in 1992, the new standards will require high school students to post a grade point average of 2.5 (on a 4.0 scale) in 13 core courses in mathematics, English, and natural or physical science.

The current standard is a 2.0 G.P.A. in 11 core courses.

Students also must continue to achieve a combined verbal and mathematics score of at least 700 on the S.A.T. or a 17 on the American College Testing Program examination.

Students with lower G.P.A.'s may be eligible to participate in sports if they have higher test scores. (See Education Week, Jan. 15, 1992.)

The N.C.A.A.'s move to toughen standards was designed to fit into the overall national strategy of improving student performance and raising the level of academic instruction in the schools.

A Welcome Review

While educators and analysts do not want the review to result in a dilution of the standards, most are welcoming the association's re-examination of the issue.

Richard E. Lapchick, the director of the Northeastern University Center for the Study of Sport in Society, said data show that black athletes who score less than 700 on the S.A.T. graduate at higher rates than white student-athletes.

"The reliance on S.A.T. and A.C.T. scores has been overdone,'' he said.

Frank Burtnett, the executive director of the National Association of College Admission Counselors, also questioned the criteria used in creating the standards.

Using G.P.A. and test scores alone "will deny students admission to college on [criteria] that flies in the face of our admissions policy,'' Mr. Burtnett said.

His group recommends that class rank, course selection, and subjective measures such as a student's personal characteristics be considered as well.

Beginning this year, student athletes in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County district in North Carolina must maintain a 2.0, a point higher than the state requirement.

"We feel the expectations need to be raised,'' said Niles H. Nelson, the district's athletic director.

But Mr. Nelson said the N.C.A.A. should stick with the 2.0 G.P.A. for now, and increase it later when the whole educational system has had time to adapt to the higher-standards movement.

"Giving them a C average [to maintain] is a fairly legitimate way to look at it,'' Mr. Nelson said.

Frank Newman, the president of the Education Commission of the States, said the issue is a part of the reform movement. "All of us have to try to take a stand and say, 'Education first,''' he said.

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