Prop 48 poses a strenuous test

By Jeff Kirik

Editor’s note: This is the last of a four-part series examining the balancing act athletes must perform between their academic and athletic demands.

In August of 1986, Proposition 48 went into effect, putting requirements on which high school athletes could compete in college athletics.

Since it was passed on Jan. 11, 1984, Proposition 48, now known as Bylaw 5-1-(j) in the NCAA Manual, has been criticized by coaches for not being a true measure of a student’s ability to do college work.

Bylaw 5-1-(j) requires that all collegiate athletic hopefuls must be high school graduates and must:

Show evidence of a 2.0 grade point average in a minimum of 11 core academic classes. The 11 core classes must include at least three units of English, two units of Math, two units of social science, two units of natural science—including one lab course—and two additional courses.

Have a combined SAT score of least 700 or a composite ACT score of at least 15.

If the athlete gets a 2.1 GPA or better, he/she can qualify with a 680 SAT score or an ACT score of 14 or better.

If the athlete gets in between a 2.0 and a 2.1, the 700 and 15 scores apply.

If the athlete gets between a 1.9 and a 2.0 GPA on core courses, the he/she can qualify for with a combined 720 SAT score or a 16 ACT score.

If an athlete does not pass the above requirements, he/she is not eligible to play for or practice with the team for one season. Athletes must work their way back onto the team by passing 24 credit hours in an academic year. They also must make the university’s minimum GPA requirement for athletes before they are allowed to compete. At NIU the GPA standard is a 1.7 prior to the athlete’s sophomore year. The GPA requirement varies with each university and conference.

When the rule was first made, players who were not on scholarship did not lose a year of athletic eligibility. However, a new rule states every athlete who misses the cut will be a sophomore, eligibilty-wise, in his/her first year of play.

Several coaches at NIU said the testing requirement is not fair to some athletes.

“I think the ACT and SAT scores are wrong,” NIU football caoch Jerry Pettibone said. “I’ve seen athletes who have not done well on ACT or SAT tests but are able to do college work.”

Pettibone said he has recruited six players in the last two seasons who did not meet Bylaw 5-1-(j) requirements. Of those six, four have made the grade and play for the team.

“It doesn’t affect our recruiting a lot, but it does eliminate some players,” Pettibone said. “We will recruit a small percentage of our athletes each year who are borderline or who would possibly not make it.”

Men’s basketball coach Jim Rosborough, who has had two Bylaw 5-1-(j) casualties in his two-year stint, said the ACT/SAT rule is unfair. But he said he liked the intent of the rule.

“Anything that brings a better-prepared student into college is helpful,” Rosborough said.

Andrew Wells and Antwon Harmon are the two 5-1-(j) victims Rosborough has had to deal with. Both were unable to meet the ACT score requirement.

Wells, who played in 1987-88 after sitting out in 1986-87, said it was difficult for him to watch the team practice and “becuase of that, I was depressed, and it (his first semester) was a disaster.”

Wells finished with a 1.0 GA that fall. However, he said with the help of his friends, family and teammates, he was able to motivate himself and get a 2.54 in the spring semester and a 3.0 in two summer classes.

“I am glad I went through it,” Wells said. “I know I wouldn’t have been able to motivate myself if I hadn’t.”

Harmon is currently trying to work his way back on to the team. He proved he can do college work by getting a 3.0 GPA in his first semester. Because of that, he said he didn’t think the ACT test requirement was an accurate measure of a student’s ability.

“I’m not good at long tests,” he said. “I get bored and my mind wanders.”

If and when Harmon becomes eligible, he will only have three semesters of eligibility left, which is something he and others say is not fair.

“The way they punish you is a little severe,” said NIU women’s basketball coach Jane Albright. “They take a year of your eligibility away and they don’t let you practice with your team. I think that’s absurd.”

Rosborough said because new college athletes have have so much pressure on them, he would support a rule in which freshmen are not eligible to play. This would help them adjust to college classes without having to worry about playing, he said.