Smarter College Athletes


The Black Coaches Association met the other day with the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss ways of changing some of the regulations and practices of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The coaches feel that blacks have been excluded from leadership roles in the NCAA, and that decisions regarding such things as the size of staffs and the number of scholarships have been harmful to black youths.

Many of the items on the black coaches' bill of particulars are right on target, but one is not. That is their opposition to raising admissions standards for athletes.

Seven years ago, the NCAA adopted Proposition 48, which disallows freshmen eligibility and athletic scholarships to high school graduates who do not meet minimal scholastic standards: 700 on the SATs (out of a possible 1,600), 2.0 grade point average (a C) in 11 basic high school courses. That standard is scheduled to be made somewhat tougher in two years.

The black coaches say black youths from very low income communities have been hurt by this requirement. Or have they?

In the first few years of Proposition 48, the percentage of athletic scholarships going to blacks went down significantly. A recent study determined that in the first year of the rule an estimated 700 black athletes did not enter college compared to immediate pre-Proposition 48 years.

But a comparison of graduation rates for the same years showed a larger percentage of black athletes graduated than before -- and an increase in the real number of graduates of about 1,500.

Furthermore, the drop in the percentage of total athletic scholarships going to blacks has gradually risen since the dip of the early Proposition 48 years; today it is only 1 percentage point lower than it was before Proposition 48 was adopted. Average SAT scores for all freshmen on athletic scholarships have risen 40 to 50 points as a result of the standards.

One reason seems to be that because of Proposition 48, high schools, especially in low income black urban communities, have begun to work much harder on athletes' academics. Everyone -- black coaches, the Black Caucus, parents, high school educators, students -- should be pleased by this development. No one should try to interrupt or jeopardize such progress.

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