Reform school: NCAA's higher standards make the grade

Hey, Bubba. Hey, Beanpole. Better start taking those books home from school. And reading them.

As surely as defeat follows a Big Ten team in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, the NCAA Convention sets up shop in early January and its actions invariably lead to analysis, antagonism, anguish and apprehension -- everything but agreement. And that's covering just the a's.


The august body met last week in Anaheim, home of Disneyland, which some say was appropriate, and continued its impressive run at reform.

Everybody knows the ramshackle structure that is collegiate athletics needed remodeling. But as soon as proposals for improvement drawn up, discussed and approved, the in-fighting and bartering starts.


For example, last year, among other things, the convention approved cuts in coaching staffs and the number of days spring football practice could be conducted. Already, Division I-A coaches have their staffs back up to nine full-time and two graduate assistants, and seven additional practice days very mysteriously reappeared on the spring calendar.

This time around, the NCAA's Presidents Commission sought to invoke cost-cutting measures for obvious reasons while continuing to raise academic standards and improve graduation rates by giving athletes more time to discover which of the buildings on campus is the library.


Any time you move in the direction of requiring a high school hotshot to show more than a good move to the bucket or a large number in the bench press, words like "deprived socio-economic background" begin cropping up in the discussion.

Many continue to rue the day Proposition 48 went into effect even though studies continue to verify that athletes have raised their personal standards to meet those of Prop 48. Still, those same folks are forecasting doom now that academic standards are being raised again, effective in 1995.

It only makes sense to set goals that kids will strive toward and ultimately live up to, rather than relying on what kids are willing to do dictate the standard. Why even establish a modest goal of a 700 SAT score and a 2.0 grade point average in 11 core subjects as a standard if going to college and playing football or basketball is going to be fostered as a right and not a privilege?

When you think about it, raising the number of core subjects VTC from 11 to 13 and the GPA to 2.5 (alias C+), as the convention did, can only help a high school athlete cope with the rigors of college work. The pressure is on the high schools. Yet all the naysayers can come up with is the fact/claim that minorities are going to be "disproportionately impacted."

If it's true, maybe they should be; for establishing one standard for all is designed ultimately to create equal opportunity. Any exceptions to this could be construed as reverse discrimination.


It's a sorry state of affairs when any raising of standards, not only in education but in anything else, comes with a black/minority issue built in. And if it precludes standards ever being improved, obviously it's time to just withdraw from any activity involving competition.

Setting the improved standards and enforcing them is only half the problem the NCAA will face down the road. Somehow, the athletic departments in the colleges have to get back to the mind-set that they are in existence to educate people. For too long, too many athletic directors, sports administrators and coaches have had about as much to do with advancement of knowledge as the guy parking cars on a football Saturday.

Sooner or later, the NCAA will set up an accreditation program dealing with athletics, just as schools have undergone with regard to academics for years. It's long overdue and, when in place, it figures to solve many of the problems that now befall the organization's beleaguered enforcement department.

For some reason, simple solutions to supposedly complex problems are never accepted. It's 99 and 44/100ths percent fact that the vast majority of the problems facing college sports stem from the thing that is the root of all evil: money.

Figure out what to do with all the loot out there and suddenly fun and games will return to their rightful place in the scheme of higher education. Simple. Meanwhile, Bubba and Beanpole, hit the books. You've got three years to get those grades and test scores up. Forewarned is forearmed.