Published Online: November 11, 1998
Published in Print: November 11, 1998, as Sports

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NCAA Row: Joyce Caufman is wondering what surprises await her when her school's application to the National Collegiate Athletic Association for the approval of core academic courses comes back later this fall. The guidance counselor at Rocky Mountain High School in Fort Collins, Colo., has been frustrated in the past by what she says is the NCAA's inconsistency in applying its academic-eligibility requirements to its review of her school's course offerings.

"We would have a course approved one year, and the following year, it would be disallowed," Ms. Caufman said.

Such anecdotes have become common around the country since the NCAA, which governs intercollegiate sports, instituted stricter eligibility requirements in 1996. The Overland Park, Kan.-based group decides which classes can be applied toward the 13 core academic courses that prospective college athletes are required to complete.

Some education organizations, and attorneys general in several states, say that changes to the eligibility process over the past 18 months, which education officials had demanded, are inadequate. Consequently, many academically deserving students are still being disqualified from participating in college sports, educators maintain. Interdisciplinary courses, or those that are considered innovative or advanced, are most likely to fail, they claim. ("NCAA Revises Analysis of High School Courses," April 9, 1997.)

The National Association of State Boards of Education has been keeping track of such cases and was set to hold a briefing for other education groups in Washington last week.

"The argument is being made that these are all isolated cases," said David Griffith, NASBE's director of governmental affairs. "But if you step back, you can see the problems are quite widespread. Districts are hesitant of reforming curricula for fear of running afoul of the NCAA."

Critics also argue that the NCAA's rules are dictating high school curricula and impeding education reform.

But NCAA officials say that they have put much of the decisionmaking into the hands of principals and that, as a result, they have expanded the list of approved courses considerably--to more than 1 million titles.

"The vast majority of courses we say no to are ones that the high schools themselves have indicated are not college-prep courses," Kevin Lennon, the NCAA's director of membership services, said last week. "Keyboarding, Dance Techniques, Intro to Art, Word Processing ... these are all courses listed on applications," and are obviously not core courses.

--Kathleen Kennedy Manzo

Vol. 18, Issue 11, Page 12

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