Wednesday, March 10, 1999

NCAA to appeal ban on Prop 16

Judge says use of minimum test score is unfair

The Associated Press

        The NCAA will fight a ruling that struck down test-score requirements for freshmen athletes as unfair to blacks, saying the judge's decision could create chaos at its member colleges.

        In the latest twist in one of the most enduring controversies in college sports, the NCAA today will seek to block the ruling while it prepares an appeal.

        Elsa Cole, NCAA general counsel, said she expects a response on a request for a stay of the order “within a day or two.”

        U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter in Philadelphia ruled Monday the NCAA may not use a minimum test score to eliminate freshmen from being eligible for athletics. He cited the NCAA's own research showing the practice harmed black students' chances of being declared academically eligible.

        The policy, known as Proposition 16, required the athletes to have a minimum score of 820 on the SAT regardless of their high school grades. The ruling did not rule out some use of the tests, which many educators have long said are racially and culturally discriminatory.

        “We are encouraged by the court's acknowledgment that the initial eligibility standards serve a legitimate educational goal,” said Charles Wethington, president at Kentucky and head of the NCAA's executive committee.

        “In addition, the judge has not precluded use of the SAT or ACT as a part of an initial eligibility rule. The challenge for the NCAA remains as it has always been: to develop standards to meet that goal.”

        Also Tuesday, the NCAA agreed to pay $54.5 million to about 2,000 Division I coaches who had sued over the restricted earnings rule, which had capped their salaries at $16,000 for a calendar year.

        A judge had struck down the rule as a violation of antitrust law in 1995 and both sides had been fighting over a settlement ever since.

        Without Proposition 16, the 302 Division I schools would be on their own in determining which freshmen would be academically eligible to play sports. Some administrators and officials worried that could create chaos.

        “It means that there is no standard to guide the schools,” Cole said. “Each school will have to decide itself whether a student can play the first year.”

        Buckwalter was hailed as courageous, however, by Temple basketball coach John Chaney.

        The test score requirement, Chaney said, was “a denial of opportunity and access for youngsters and targeted 80 to 90 percent black, Hispanic, poor and disadvantaged youngsters.”

        If upheld, the ruling might restore a lost year of eligibility to athletes like Temple senior guard Rasheed Brokenborough, who sat out his freshman year because of the SAT cutoff and ran up $15,000 in debt because he could not qualify for a scholarship that year.


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