NCAA board to investigate 'diploma mills'

High schools and prep schools with questionable academic standards will now have to prove their legitimacy to the NCAA if they want their student-athletes to be eligible when they enter college.

Yesterday, the board of directors gave the NCAA unprecedented authority to investigate so-called "diploma mills" and the ability to question individual transcripts that could lead to freshman ineligibility. The penalties take effect this fall.

"This in no way is an indictment on all of our secondary schools because we know the vast, vast majority do a good job," said Kevin Lennon, vice president of membership services.

The new rules allow NCAA officials to visit questionable secondary schools while the NCAA clearinghouse, which certifies first-year student-athlete eligibility, can now question any records that appear unusual.

The board also approved the elimination of the rule that limited college basketball teams to playing in two exempt tournaments every four years. Teams can now play up to four games in one such tournament annually. Those tournaments will count as one game toward a 28-game limit.

Teams not competing in a multi-team tournament could play 29 regular-season games, two more than previously allowed, and the basketball season will start earlier, on the second Friday of November.

College basketball

Villanova's Lowry declares for draft

Villanova point guard Kyle Lowry will make himself eligible for the NBA draft but retain the option of returning to school by not hiring an agent. Lowry, a sophomore, had until tomorrow to declare for the June 28 draft. The deadline to withdraw is June 18. The speedy 6-foot guard led the Big East with 2.3 steals per game.

Arizona -- Marcus Williams, one of the top freshmen in the Pacific-10 last season, has decided to stay at school for another year rather than make himself available for the NBA draft. The 6-foot-7 forward had strongly considered testing the NBA waters but said at a news conference that he decided he needed another season of college basketball to boost his chance of being a high draft pick.

Pittsburgh -- Aaron Gray, a 7-footer chosen All-Big East in his first season as a starter, plans to skip his senior year and enter the NBA draft. The center has not signed with an agent.

South Carolina -- Forward Renaldo Balkman declared himself eligible for the NBA draft, though he has not hired an agent. The 6-8 junior was Most Valuable Player in the National Invitation Tournament.


Vargas-Mosley bout set for Vegas in July

Shane Mosley and Fernando Vargas will meet July 15 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas in a rematch of their bout two months ago. Mosley stopped Vargas in the 10th round on Feb. 25 in Las Vegas. Mosley, 34, from Pomona, Calif., has a 42-4 record with 36 knockouts. Vargas, 28, from Oxnard, Calif., is 26-3 with 22 knockouts.

Mitchell -- Former world champion Sharmba Mitchell (65-5, 30 knockouts) of Washington will face Mexican-born Jose Luis Cruz (31-1-2, 26 KOs) in a 10-round main event on ESPN2's Wednesday Night Fights on Wednesday in Cathedral City, Calif.


Costa's career ends with loss to Ferrero

Former French Open champion Albert Costa's career ended with a 6-1, 5-7, 7-5 loss to fellow Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero in the third round of the ATP Open Seat Godo in Barcelona, Spain. Costa, 30, said last week he would retire after this tournament. He won 12 ATP titles and in July 2002 reached his highest ranking of sixth.

Fed Cup -- Indonesia refused to play a Fed Cup series in Israel in July and wants the women's tennis matches switched to a neutral country. Indonesia, home to about 190 million Muslims, has no diplomatic relations with Israel and has long supported Palestinian independence. "We cannot play in Israel," said August Ferry Raturandang, the Indonesian Tennis Association deputy secretary-general. If the request for a venue change is denied, the Indonesian team will have to forfeit. Raturandang told the Associated Press his group would be fined $5,000 and banned for a year.

Horse racing

'Derek,' Barbaro arrive at Churchill

Early Kentucky Derby favorite Brother Derek arrived safely at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., after making the cross-country trip from Santa Anita. The winner of the Santa Anita Derby is scheduled to get his first look at the track today, with a workout scheduled for Monday under jockey Alex Solis. Barbaro, undefeated in five career starts, made the 90-minute commute from Keeneland to Churchill Downs. He had been the lone major Derby contender stabled at the Lexington track.

Et cetera

Limestone coach Hasbrouck fired

Limestone College fired men's lacrosse coach Chris Hasbrouck a week before the team was expected to make the NCAA Division II tournament. Hasbrouck's dismissal comes after last week's arrest of Michael "Brock" Spilker, 19, of Pasadena. Spilker was charged with aggravated assault, malicious damage to property and possession of a weapon on school property.

More college lacrosse -- North Carolina senior attackman Ryan Blair, senior defenseman Hayward Howard (St. Paul's) and sophomore midfielder Rob Driscoll will not play for the Tar Heels tonight in the ACC tournament game against Maryland. They have missed the past two games and have been suspended for the rest of the season for violating team and athletic department policy.

Auto racing -- Seven-time NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt, who died in a crash during the 2001 Daytona 500, was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in Talladega, Ala., along with longtime NASCAR team owner Jack Roush; driver Harry Gant; Janet Guthrie, the first woman to drive in the Indianapolis 500 and the most successful woman in NASCAR's history; and Charlotte track president H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler.

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