Wednesday, March 10, 1999

Judge made the right call, coaches say

Eligibility rules 'racially biased'

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Before Proposition 16, Proposition 42 and Proposition 48, when members of the NCAA governed themselves on admitting student/athletes the same way they govern themselves on admitting just plain students, college basketball was a different game.

        Louisville was a perennial power. The Cardinals and fellow urban schools St. John's, DePaul, Houston, Providence, Memphis, UNLV and Georgetown made a combined 15 Final Four appearances in a 10-year span.

        Cincinnati Bearcats Bob Huggins does not see that time returning as a result of the U.S. District Court ruling by Judge Ronald Buckwalter that struck down the NCAA's Proposition 16 eligibility requirement, which held that incoming freshman had to have an 820 score on the Scholastic Assessment Test.

        The court ruled the NCAA's own statistics provided evidence the rule was disproportionately punitive to minority students.

        “The big-time schools will still take academic risks,” Huggins said. “Everybody has their exceptions. I don't think it's a big deal as far as changing the balance of power.

        “It's going to be a big deal for kids. I agree with what thecourt said: All the data showed it's racially-biased. I don't think we would want to continue to do things that have been shown to be racially biased.”

        The rule could help UC and other schools to recruit some top prospects without concern as to whether they would be eligible to play as freshmen.

        The Bearcats have been waiting for a decision from 6-9 guard DerMarr Johnson of Maine Central Institute, who has said he intends to play college basketball if he is academically qualified to play as a freshman. If the test requirement were no longer applicable, his chance of playing next season would be much greater.

        MCI coach Max Good said he hopes Johnson will opt for college if that opportunity presents itself.

        Center B.J. Grove of George Jr. Republic, who signed a letter of intent with UC, was working toward a qualifying score. Likewise, Xavier recruit David Young from New Castle, Pa., also is still trying to achieve the necessary test score to be eligible.

        “Based on the information, it is not surprising that the court ruled the way they did,” said Jim Haney, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. “What was surprising was the NCAA did not make changes to the rule before the court ruling was handed down.”

        Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, president of the NABC, said the coaches group had always been concerned with how the legislation affected minority students and he looks forward to the NABC helping to create new rules.

        “I don't like to see people eliminated from opportunities,” said Good, who coached Xavier players Lenny Brown and Aaron Turner in prep school. “I think our country was built on giving opportunities to people, and then it's up to them to take the ball and run with it.”

        Prep schools and junior colleges that polish up players' academic credentials for Division I eligibility may find fewer or less talented players available to them.

        “Even though it might affect us adversely,” Good said, “I don't have a problem with it if it offers more opportunities. We'll get players regardless. What we do, we do very well with the young people we serve.”


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