NEW ORLEANS — Supporters of a controversial plan to toughen academic requirements braced for criticism from black educators Sunday on the eve of the opening of the 80th annual NCAA convention.
The question of whether to modify proposition 48, the much-debated academic plan scheduled to take effect in August, is expected to be among the first agenda items delegates take up today.
A counter measure by the predominantly black Southwestern Athletic Conference that would eliminate standardized test scores in determining freshmen eligibility was not given much chance of passage.
John Ryan, chairman of the powerful NCAA Presidents Commission, predicted Sunday that delegates would instead adopt a three-year phase-in for the academic requirements, which is bylaw 5-1-(j) on the books but widely known as proposition 48.
The three-year phase-in, proposal 16, would retain standardized test scores on the ACT or SAT tests along with a C average in a core curriculum of college preparatory work, but allow for slightly lower test scores if students have higher grade point averages for the next years.
"I think it will pass," said Ryan, president of Indiana University. "And I do not in any way believe that it represents a watering down of the original intent of bylaw 5-1-(j)."
Ryan agreed that many schools may vote against No. 16 in hopes of having the original language of bylaw 5-1-(j) take effect in August.
"I'm told it will be close," he said.
Many black educators have promised to raise the same heated objections they made at the 1983 convention when proposition 48 was first adopted with a target date of August, 1986. Essentially, they say the tests to be used--the ACT and SAT--are culturally and racially discriminatory because they are written from the point of view of the suburban white experience.
Officials at some predominantly black schools have indicated they might consider legal action or withdraw from the NCAA if the test scores are retained.
"Bylaw 5-1-(j) is discriminatory," said Percy A. Pierre, president of Prairie View A&M and head of the Council of Presidents of the Southwestern Athletic Assn. "While it errs for blacks and whites, it is twice as inaccurate for blacks as for whites. It is not only highly ineffective in distinguishing between potential graduates and non-graduates, but is also discriminatory against black males and females."
Research has indicated that as many as 50% of next fall's black male freshmen athletes may not meet the requirements, Ryan said Sunday.
"Under proposal 16, looking at the class of 1982, some 59% of the black males would qualify and 67% of the white males would qualify," Ryan said. "Of course, no one can say with any certainty what the percentages will be for 1986. But we have reason to believe it will be higher, that black students have been scoring higher on the test since 1982."
Freshmen who do not meet the requirements have three options. They can enroll at a Division I school and become eligible as a sophomore by establishing a satisfactory academic record. They can enroll in an NCAA Division II or III school, or a smaller non-NCAA institution. Or they could go to junior college and try to become eligible.
Before the convention's scheduled close on Wednesday, delegates also will vote on a drug-testing program for NCAA championships and football bowl games. The measure sets down a lengthy list of banned street and performance-enhancing drugs, including cocaine, marijuana and bulk-building anabolic steroids.
Other items on the agenda include giving athletes five years of eligibility, reducing from eight to six the number of sports a school must sponsor to qualify for Division I, and banning boosters from on-campus recruiting. Sponsored by the scandal-plagued Southwest Conference, the latter proposal would effectively curtail boosters from the recruiting process altogether since NCAA schools voted two years ago to ban them from recruiting off-campus.