N.C.A.A. Rule Found To Bench Most Athletes

September 12, 1984 3 min read

A majority of the athletes who were freshmen at college sports powers in 1977 would not have met a new academic-eligibility standard approved a year ago by the National Collegiate Athletic Association, according to a study commissioned by the organization.

The study revealed that only 18 percent of the black athletes and 57 percent of the white athletes who were freshmen in 1977 would have met the new standard.

It also found that the new standard, which is scheduled to take effect on Aug. 1, 1986, would have disqualified over two-thirds of the black athletes and one-third of the white athletes who were freshmen in 1977 and later went on to graduate from college.

The study was conducted by Advanced Technologies Inc., a Washington, D.C., consulting firm, for the ncaa’s Special Committee on Academic Research. It involved a review of the records of 16,000 student-athletes who were enrolled in the 276 Division I colleges and universities in 1977 and 1982.

Tougher Standard

Representatives of the Division I institutions voted last year to require all of their students who wish to participate in intercollegiate sports as freshmen to have graduated from high school with a minimum grade-point average of 2.0 out of a possible 4.0 in a “core curriculum” of at least 11 academic courses. The rule also requires them to achieve a combined score of at least 700 out of a possible 1,600 on the mathematics and verbal sections of the Scholastic Aptitude Test or a minimum composite score of 15 out of a possible 36 on the tests of the American College Testing Program.

Athletes at Division I schools currently need to graduate from high school with a C average to be eligible for intercollegiate competition in their freshman year.

The new standard, known as Proposition 48, has drawn heavy criticism from predominantly black institutions, whose leaders claim that the standards discriminate against black students.

The study’s authors concurred: “Requiring that both components be satisfied simultaneously results in a standard that would have very negative impact on all student-athletes, but would be particularly harmful to blacks.”

Alternatives Proposed

The ncaa’s committee on academic research recently proposed alternatives to Proposition 48, including permitting students to meet either the core-curriculum requirement or the minimum-test-score requirement; requiring them to meet the test-score cutoff only if they fail to meet the core-curriculum stan6dards; and weighting the two components of the standard before combining them. Greater numbers of the athletes in the study met these criteria.

The alternatives are scheduled to be reviewed by the ncaa’s governing council and its Presidents’ Commission next month. Any changes in the standard would have to be approved by the membership of the ncaa at its next annual meeting, scheduled to take place in Nashville in January.

Among the other findings in the study:

Slightly fewer than one-third of black male athletes had graduated within six years of entering college, compared with 53 percent of white males, 56 percent of black females, and 63 percent of white females. The average graduation rate for all athletes was 50 percent, compared with 55 percent for all students at the institutions involved in the study.

Sixty-two percent of the black male athletes did not meet the core-curriculum requirement for freshman-year eligibility, compared with 52 percent of black females, 26 percent of white males, and 16 percent of white females.

Sixty-nine percent of the black male athletes did not meet the test-score criterion, compared with 59 percent of black females and 14 percent of white males and females.


A version of this article appeared in the September 12, 1984 edition of Education Week as N.C.A.A. Rule Found To Bench Most Athletes