NIU votes ‘Yea’ on NCAA issues

By Joe Bush

The reform movement headed by university presidents at the 84th annual NCAA convention in Dallas attempted to rid “clean” schools, including NIU, of the public’s guilt-by-association image.

Public relations people will tell you that reality doesn’t matter, public perception does.

“I think there’s a cynical view among some people out there and we try to work hard to overcome that,” NIU President John La Tourette said.

NIU voted in favor of the presidents’ three most talked-about reforms—required release of athletic graduation rates, shorter basketball and spring football seasons and modifications in Proposition 42—and all were passed.

Effective Aug. 1, 1990, spring football practices will be cut to 15 games from 20 and a shorter basketball season will begin in 1992. Prop 42 changes will be in place on Aug. 1, 1990 and schools must begin compiling graduation rates immediately for a Division I report Oct. 1, 1991.

The debate on athletics’ graduation rates release was spurred into action this year by threatened congressional intervention. That there was a debate at all was a subject La Tourette and O’Dell disagreed on.

“Most of the discussion was based on what should be disclosed,” O’Dell said. “It wasn’t disclosure of the sports or GPAs, it was the rights that the student has. Race, sex—that‘s what the discussion was over.”

La Tourette said: “I never had any problem, but I think there’s so many schools that’d be embarrassed by this. There are quite a few major universities that have a 22-23 percent graduation rate out of football and basketball. I think people will see that our grad. rate in the athletic area has been about as high, if not slightly higher than it has been overall for all students.”

A recent General Accounting Office study of 97 Division I basketball programs revealed that 35 had a graduation rate of 20 percent or less. Of the 103 Division I-A football programs surveyed, 53 had rates of 40 percent or less, including 14 with 20 percent or less.

NIU graduation rates were not available at press time.

To increase graduation rates, schools have requirements to ensure entering freshman have a chance to get that degree. Proposition 42 amended Proposition 48, which required entering freshmen to have a minimum score on the ACT or SAT and a 2.0 GPA on a NCAA-chosen high school core curriculum to be athletically eligible their first year, and allowed scholarships to partial qualifiers.

Prop 48 was described as discriminatory by its opponents because blacks historically have scored lower on entrance tests.

La Tourette agreed with Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, who defended the requirements at the convention, saying it would be more demeaning to minorities if less was expected of them.

“Forty-eight is not something so difficult to achieve,” La Tourette said.

Prop 42, passed in 1987 and due to take effect this Aug. 1, denies any academic aid to partial qualifiers and was strongly opposed.

The change in Prop 42, allowing partial qualifiers financial aid on the basis of need, the same as other students, was passed as Prop 26. La Tourette called Prop 42 “too strict” and Prop 26 “very reasonable.”

The shortening of the basketball season from 28 to 25 games and spring football practices from 20 to 15 was designed to increase study time for athletes. Athletic directors see the move as another drain on their resources non-revenue generating sports.

“The money made from three basketball games is insignificant to the amount of monies that we spend when we have programs or sports that are two season—fall and spring,” Huskie Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell said. O’Dell suggested moving all seasons to one semester would be better.

La Tourette said the shorter seasons were important symbolically, but would make little difference in the classroom. More important, he said, were student-athlete eligibility requirements which NIU has developed. NIU currently requires a 2.0 GPA by the junior year and, in 1991, will require the 2.0 by the start of the sophomore year.

“That’s sending out a very clear message and a reinforcement to our coaches,” La Tourette said. “If their players are not eligible to play, they’ve wasted all their time and effort to recruit these players and get them to campus.

“What we’re really saying to the coach is ‘Don’t bring in people who can’t maintain eligibility—you’re not gonna be able to use them.'”

Making freshmen ineligible regardless of requirements was a stirring concept pushed at the convention by UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young, who said student-athletes need time to adjust to college demands. Neither La Tourette nor O’Dell agree.

La Tourette referred back to NIU’s atudent-athlete requirements as sufficient to maintain eligibility and O’Dell said such a rule would foster freshman teams which would increase the costs the NCAA is trying to contain. However, Young has said in his proposal there would be no freshman squads.

“The money made from three basketball games is insignificant to the amount of monies that we spend when we have programs or sports that are two season—fall and spring.”

Gerald O’Dell, Huskie athletic director