New academic reforms favor NIU

By Wes Swietek

NIU Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell calls it “one for the good guys.”

What he is referring to is the new tougher academic standards passed at last week’s NCAA convention in Anaheim, Calif.

With collegiate presidents (including NIU’s John La Tourette) spearheading the agenda at the convention, the NCAA continued its recent trend of reform.

Since NIU already has tougher academic standards than those mandated by the NCAA, O’Dell said the new legislation—which increases academic standards—will make it easier for NIU to compete with schools that previously had lower requirements.

“I think we’re creating more of a level playing field,” O’Dell said. “We already have higher standards than are out there.”

After years of scandals and negative publicity, the NCAA, starting in 1990, has been toughening academic standards, limiting season lengths, cutting recruiting trips, coaching staffs and scholarships, requiring disclosure of graduation rates and generally tightening the reins.

“To enhance the academic areas was the agenda going in this year,” O’Dell said of the annual meeting.

The academic proposals at this year’s convention will increase academic standards for freshmen entering college in 1995. The new requirements include a 2.5 GPA (up from 2.0) and 700 SAT or 17 ACT. A freshman with a lower GPA will need a higher ACT or SAT score to be eligible.

Also, freshmen will now need 13 core courses, up from 11, in math, English or science.

Satisfactory progress standards were also increased.

But O’Dell is unhappy with other measures that came from the convention.

Specifically, new legislation that allows collegiate athletes, or their representatives, to contact professional sports teams without losing their eligibility.

“I’m concerned because less than 1 percent of college athletes play professional sports, (yet) we’ve relaxed the amateur environment,” O’Dell said. “We have high expectations for our students to graduate—are we sending them the right message (with the new rules)?

“Do we now have half of our teams contacting professional sports teams? Are our students’ minds supposed to be (focused on) testing the pro market?”

Obviously not, O’Dell feels. The AD, however, said the NCAA’s reform movement and recent slew of tougher academic standards will generally help schools like NIU.