Knight Leaders Hail NCAA For Backing Higher Initial-Eligibility Standards; Say Convention Vote Means Sports Reform Is “On Track”

SAN DIEGO — Refusal by the National Collegiate Athletic Association convention to water down higher initial- eligibility requirements for athletes means “college sports reform remains on track,” according to leaders of the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

“The Knight Commission is gratified that the presidents of American colleges and universities have acted through their NCAA representatives at this convention to uphold their previous stand for academic integrity,” said Creed C. Black, president and CEO of the Knight Foundation.

“We are confident that young student-athletes will meet this challenge successfully and therefore be more likely to attain a solid college education from which they will benefit for the rest of their lives,” Black said.

Black commented after the NCAA’s 1995 convention here adopted two proposals which support so-called “Proposition 16,” the legislation of higher academic standards passed by the NCAA’s 1992 convention and which was scheduled to take effect later this year.

  • The convention adopted, by a vote of 277 to 43, Proposal 35 as amended by 35-1, which puts the new standards into effect, although permitting a one-year delay “to avoid confusion”  while the scoring methods for college admissions tests (SATs) are revamped.
  • The convention also adopted by 255 to 72, Proposal 36 as amended by 36-1, which redefines “partial qualifiers” and, most importantly, maintains a three-year eligibility limit for such athletes.

“By their adoption of Proposal 36-1, America’s higher education leaders have stood firm for reform in the face of a serious attempt to undermine the entire effort to upgrade initial-eligibility standards by providing a way to circumvent them,” Black said.

Black said college presidents “clearly responded” to a letter from the Commission co-chairs, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, president emeritus of Notre Dame, and William C. Friday, president emeritus of the University of North Carolina, asking them to become involved in convention deliberations.

Hesburgh and Friday had asked the presidents to attend the convention or to “provide clear instructions on how your institution’s vote is to be cast on these matters.”

Proposition 16, adopted by the NCAA three years ago, was strongly endorsed by the Knight Commission, an independent, blue-ribbon group of civic, education, and business leaders.  The Commission adjourned in 1993 after nearly four years of activity and following NCAA passage of significant reform measures.  The Commission recently reassembled in
response to challenges faced by the reform movement.

At a meeting in Washington, D.C., in October 1994, the Commission members heard data presented by NCAA researchers on the anticipated effect of Proposition 16 on admission of minority athletes, and interpretation of that data by prestigious analysts of The RAND
Corporation.  Both groups studied what effect Proposition 48 had when passed in 1987, raising initial-eligibility standards to the current rule of a minimum 700 SAT score and 2.0 GPA.

“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 ties the minimum test score requirement to the high school grade point average on a sliding scale.  For instance, an athlete with a 700 SAT score would need a 2.5 GPA to be eligible to compete as a freshman; on the other end of the scale, an athlete with a 2.0 GPA will require a 900 SAT score.  Proposition 16 also raises the required number of high school core courses from 11 to 13.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which established andfunds 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.