Photo: Commission co-chairs William C. Friday and Rev. Theodore Hesburgh.
CHARLOTTE, N.C., — A call went out today to U.S. college presidents and chief executives to rally once again around the cause of college sports reform by helping to reject an attempt to water down new, higher academic standards for student-athletes.
In a letter to all college heads, leaders of the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics asked the presidents for their “direct, personal support” in next month’s National Collegiate Athletic Association convention in San Diego, Calif., particularly in the crucial session on Jan. 9, 1995.
“We ask you to attend the convention personally,” said the letter signed by the Commission co-chairmen, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, president emeritus of Notre Dame, and William C. Friday, president emeritus of the University of North Carolina. “If you are unable to attend personally, we strongly urge you to review this legislative agenda with your voting representative and provide clear instructions on how your institution’s vote is to be cast on these matters.”
At issue in the convention will be “Proposition 16,” a rule already adopted by the N.C.A.A. at its 1992 convention which raises the academic admission standards for college athletes and also provides higher academic requirements for athletes in college. The rule is scheduled to take effect in 1995, but is being challenged by some groups who want it revised or canceled altogether.
Proposition 16 was adopted by the N.C.A.A. with the strong support of the Knight Commission, an independent, blue-ribbon group of leaders in education, athletics and business. The Commission adjourned in 1993 after three years of activity when reform rules were passed, but now has reassembled, at least briefly, in response to challenges faced by the reform movement.
“Since passage of Proposition 16, there has been widespread sentiment within the coaching community for watering it down and, failing that, delaying its implementation,” the Commission said in the letter.
At a meeting in Washington, D.C., in October, the Commission members heard data presented by N.C.A.A. researchers on the anticipated effect of Proposition 16 on admission of minority athletes, and interpretation of that data by the prestigious analysts of The RAND Corporation. Both groups studied what effect proposition 48 had when passed in 1987, raising admission standards to the current rule of a 700 SAT score.
“The research makes it clear… that the initial reduction of African-American athletes under Proposition 48 was quickly reversed as African-American athletes who did not meet the requirements were replaced by African-American athletes who did,” the Commission said.
“Proposition 16 promises to further improve graduation rates for minority and majority athletes alike,” the Commission concluded.
Proposition 16 replaces the flat 700 SAT requirement by linking the SAT scores to class marks. It calls for a sliding scale — an athlete with a 700 SAT score would also need a 2.5 grade point average; on the other end of the scale, an athlete with a 2.0 grade point average would require a 900 SAT score.
The Commission did agree current efforts by SAT Test officials to revise the grading of SAT tests, so-called “re-centering” of scores, might make necessary delay of Proposition 16 by one year to avoid “confusion.”
For that reason, the Commission letter urged college presidents to support passage of Proposal 35 at the convention, which calls for implementation of Proposition 16 but allows a one-year delay if needed for SAT re-centering.
The letter also urged support of Proposal 36, as amended by Proposal 36-1. This rule change would redefine so-called “partial qualifiers,” chiefly students admitted by transfer, while retaining the current three-year limit on their athletic eligibility. In fact, it called this issue the “critical debate” at the convention, because it believes raising eligibility to four years would undermine the entire admission requirement.
“Though the motives of many who support this concept (a fourth year of eligibility for partial qualifiers) are unquestionably decent, others are more interested in sabotaging the effectiveness of the Association’s initial-eligibility requirements. More than any other issue facing the membership, this must not be lost.”
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which funded the Commission, makes national grants in journalism, education, and the field of arts and culture. It also supports organizations in communities where the Knight brothers were involved in publishing newspapers but is wholly separate from and independent of those newspapers.
The text of the letter follows:
Mr. Thomas K. Hearn, Jr.
Wake Forest University
Post Office Box 7226
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
Dear President Hearn:
We are writing to express our growing worry that the effort to reform college sports might grind to a halt at the January N.C.A.A. convention in San Diego and to ask for your direct, personal support to keep reform on track.
As you know, the widespread involvement of college and university presidents and chancellors in N.C.A.A. matters in recent years has helped restore public confidence in the integrity of intercollegiate athletics and our institutions themselves. Although the direct cause of our present concern — the attempt to water down initial-eligibility requirements — involves only Division I, the larger issue of academic integrity in athletics administration reflects on all of American higher education.
Among the most significant N.C.A.A. reform measures enacted in recent years was Proposition 16 governing “initial-eligibility” standards. Proposition 16 was enacted in 1992 (and scheduled to take effect in 1995) by a majority of three-to-one because it enjoyed overwhelming presidential support. It amended existing initial eligibility requirements (known as Proposition 48) by requiring that eligibility for intercollegiate competition in the first year depend on the following academic credentials: a 2.5 grade point average in 13 core high school courses, with a combined SAT score of 700 (or an equivalent score on the ACT), indexed such that a grade point average as low as 2.0 on the same 13 core courses could be combined with an SAT score of 900 or more (or the ACT equivalent).
Since passage of Proposition 16, there has been widespread sentiment within the coaching community for watering it down and, failing that, delaying its implementation. The Knight Commission urges that Proposition 16 be put in place without delay. The only plausible excuse for postponing implementation beyond August 1995 would be the inability of The College Board to explain how the new requirements contained in Proposition 16 would be affected by “re-centering” Scholastic Assessment Test results.
The Knight Commission also supports the concept of “partial qualifier” developed by the Presidents commission — but only if partial qualifiers attain at least a 2.5 average in 13 core subjects, do not compete in their freshman year, receive an athletics grant-in-aid counted against grant-in-aid ceilings, and are limited to three years of competitive eligibility.
The Knight Commission reached these conclusions after hearing a presentation of data by N.C.A.A. researchers and a summary of findings on Proposition 48 from respected analysts at the RAND Corporation. The research makes it clear that: Proposition 48 increased graduation rates and numbers for all student-athletes, including minority student- athletes; the initial reduction of African-American student-athletes under Proposition 48 was quickly reversed as African-American student-athletes who did not meet the requirements were replaced by African-American student-athletes who did; and Proposition 16 promises to further improve graduation rates for minority and majority athletes alike.
We are enclosing a summary of the research findings along with comments about their implications from leading figures in the sports world, higher education, and the media.
In light of this evidence, we ask you to support the following convention proposals:
— Proposal #35 as amended by Proposal #35-1 — together these allow implementation of Proposition 16 standards to be delayed for one year in order to eliminate confusion over “re-centering” SAT scores. This proposal and its amendment are supported by the N.C.A.A. President’s Commission and Council.
— Proposal #36 as amended by Proposal #36-1 — together these redefine which student-athletes are partial qualifiers, while maintaining the current three-year limit on their competitive eligibility. This proposal and its amendment are supported by the N.C.A.A. President’s Commission and Council.
Make no mistake: The critical debate at this convention will involve the additional year of competitive eligibility for partial qualifiers. The Knight Commission firmly rejects this legislation — the addition of a fourth year seriously undermines the value of Proposition 16 as a motivator for pre-college preparation. Though the motives of many who support this concept are unquestionably decent, others are more interested in sabotaging the effectiveness of the Association’s initial-eligibility requirements. More than any other issue facing the membership, this must not be lost.
Finally, if at all possible, we ask you to attend the convention personally. Presidential participation has advanced reform in the past; it can secure it in the present. In order to facilitate your involvement, Monday, January 9, has been designated “Presidential Agenda Day.” If you are unable to attend personally, we strongly urge you to review this legislative agenda with your voting representative and provide clear instructions on how your institution’s vote is to be cast on these matters.
We know you have many demands on your time. We would not add to them were the issue and the stakes involved for our students, our institutions, and the general public so important. We count on your continued leadership and thank you for your sustained support.
With all good wishes,
William C. Friday Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C.
/end of of letter/
SPECIAL ANALYSIS FOR THE 1995 N.C.A.A. CONVENTION
Stand Up for Reform: The Case for Proposition 16
You want to know in a nutshell, about the state of big-time college athletics. You want to know, in one sentence, how screwy it is? Forget about recruiting misdeeds for the moment. Forget about campus crime drug abuse, job insecurity among coaches and all the other afflictions.
Here’s everything you have to know: Big-time college athletics is one of the few pockets of civilization in which humans actually argue against higher standards.
In anybody’s drive for excellence, higher standards should take a front seat. Higher standards should be a priority. High standards are good, not bad. Low standards are bad, not good.
When 17 countries score better than the United States on basic math and reading tests, nobody should be arguing against higher academic standards. But they are.
The Des Moines Register
June 30, 1991
Keeping Reform On Track
The 1995 convention of the National Collegiate Athletic Association promises to be historic. At this convention, the N.C.A.A. can keep the college sports reform movement on track by agreeing with the Presidents Commission and the N.C.A.A. Council: Proposition 16, adopted by a majority of more than 3-1 in 1992, must be implemented. The only reason for postponing implementation beyond August 1995 would be if Scholastic Assessment Test results cannot be “re-centered” in time.
Proposition 16 and Minority Access
The most disturbing feature of the public discussion of Proposition 16 is that opponents of higher standards have framed the debate as though access to American higher education for African-Americans depended on access to playing fields and athletics scholarships. Nothing could be further from the truth. About 15,000 African-American students with athletics scholarships are enrolled in Division I member institutions — about 1.2 percent of the 1.3 million African-Americans enrolled on the nation’s campuses in 1992.
This fall, the Knight Commission called upon experts from The RAND Corporation to assist in a careful review of the multi-year, statistical analysis from the N.C.A.A. These key facts are indisputable:
— Proposition 48 has increased graduation numbers and rates for all student-athletes.
— The combination of high school core grade point average and test scores works to predict the academic success of African-American and white students equally well.
— For student-athletes, admissions test scores are more accurate than core high school grade point average in predicting graduation rates.
— The initial reduction in the number of African-American student-athletes under Proposition 48 was quickly reversed as students responded to the new standards. Preliminary N.C.A.A. research indicates the proportion of African-American student-athletes is greater now than before the implementation of Proposition 48.
— African-American student-athletes who did not meet the requirements of Proposition 48 were replaced by African-American students who did.
— Proposition 16 will improve graduation rates for minority and majority student-athletes.
In brief, student-athletes have risen to the challenge of new standards. Proposition 16 is a logical next step. Raising the bar a little higher will improve graduation rates of student-athletes, majority and minority alike.
Partial Qualifiers and the 4th Year
The Knight Commission also supports the concept of “partial qualifiers” developed by the Presidents Commission-but only if partial qualifiers attain at least a 2.5 average in 13 core subjects, do not compete in their freshman year, and receive an athletics grant-in-aid counted against grant-in-aid ceilings. The Commission firmly rejects the fourth year of competitive eligibility for partial qualifiers — the additional year seriously undermines the effectiveness of Proposition 16 as a motivational tool and devalues initial eligibility standards by sending the message that we are not really serious about pre-college preparation.
THE BOTTOM LINE: WHAT THE NUMBERS TELL US
TABLE 1: PROPOSITION 48 WORKS
Graduation Rates of
Scholarship Athletes African-American White
Before Proposition 48 36% 59%
Under Proposition 48 45% 63%
TABLE 2: ACCESS FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS DOES N0T DEPEND ON ATHLETICS
Enrollment Number Percentage of Total
1992 U.S. Enrollment
Total U.S. Enrollment 1,300,000 100%
Student-Athletes (Less than)15,000 (Less than)1.2%
TABLE 3: LESS CAN BE MORE: HIGHER STANDARDS MEAN MORE GRADUATES
Enrolled Black Freshmen Percent Graduating # of Black
in two Years: Number Percent Black White Graduates
Before Prop 48 7,303 29% 36% 59% 2,593
After Prop 48 6,154 25% 45% 63% 2,739
Change -1,149 -4% +9% +4% +146
Source Tables 1 and 3: N.C.A.A. Division I Graduation Rate Reports
for African-American and white student athletes entering all 298
Division I institutions in 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987.
Note Table 3: Numbers of African-American student-athletes declined in the two years following implementation of Proposition 48 — a trend reversed as athletes responded to new requirements. Preliminary data indicate the proportion of student-athletes who are African-American is now larger than it was in 1985. If Division I institutions stay the course on standards, they may soon have the best of both worlds — more minority student-athletes and more graduates.
The Challenge Before Presidents and Chancellors
University presidents and chancellors have been the backbone of the reform movement. The challenge today is to stand up for academic integrity in the face of intense opposition from those who would reject higher standards. We urge campus chief executive officers to stand up for reform. Support the Presidents Commission. Seize the opportunity to reaffirm this message: Student-athletes are students as well as athletes; we believe in access and opportunity-but we are committed to access and opportunity that are genuine; and, in the final analysis, academic leaders must judge what is academically acceptable, and what is not.
To support reform, the Knight Commission urges delegates representing Division I institutions to:
— Support Proposal #35 as amended by Proposal #35-1 — these implement Proposition 16 and permit a one-year delay to eliminate confusion about “re-centering” SAT scores. They are supported by both the N.C.A.A. Presidents Commission and Council.
— Support Proposal #36 as amended by Proposal #36-1 — these redefine which student-athletes are partial qualifiers and maintain the current three-year limit on their competitive eligibility. Both are supported by the N.C.A.A. Presidents Commission and Council.
WHAT OTHERS ARE SAYING …
“College athletes have proven they can rise to the challenge of higher academic standards. There is no reason for the National Collegiate Athletic Association to reverse direction on tougher
Seattle Times Editorial
October 29, 1994
“I must say it is strange to hear someone seriously propose lowering academic standards, when the President and governors recognize the importance of raising them to achieve the six National Education Goals.”
Stephen P. Klein, Ph.D.
The RAND Corporation
“The three-year limit on competition sends a clear message to high schools that the partial-qualifier provision is not just another route to preprofessional athletics competition.”
Judith E.N. Albino
Chair, N.C.A.A. Presidents Commission
“The evidence tells me clearly that student-athletes will rise to the occasion if the expectations are raised and are reasonable. What I keep hearing from black kids across the country is ‘Don’t sell us
LeRoy T. Walker, President United States Olympic Committee
“The N.C.A.A.’s research is a step in the right direction but it suffers from critical flaws. It assumes that student-athletes, faced with higher standards, will not adjust. It ignores the fact that scholarships denied some potential black student-athletes will go to other black student-athletes.”
Robert M. Bell, Ph.D.
The RAND Corporation