NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NCAA adopted tougher academic standards for student athletes Wednesday, but the organization's top division changed its vote a few hours later.
Earlier in the day, Division I voted 163-151 and Division II voted 125-31 to require athletes to achieve specific grade-point averages to remain eligible in their sports.
But although the smaller Division II schools stayed firm, the Division I colleges reversed itself on a vote of 162-143. DePaul University Athletic Director Bill Bradshaw, who voted for the measure the first time, asked that the Division I vote be reconsidered.
The proposal required athletes to achieve a 1.6 (out of 4.0) grade average as freshman, an accumulative 1.8 after the second year and an accumulative 2.0 after the third year.
"I assume people would be in favor of setting grade standards," said Ted Finman, faculty representative at the University of Wisconsin. "But I have to wonder if, in some instances, keeping athletes eligible is more important than academic standards."
Opponents argued that different schools have different standards of grading and, anyway, such a rule would be an infringement on internal academic control.
"We have difficulty defining normal progress even for internal purposes," said Wake Forest President Thomas Hearn. "If this meeting was not about athletics, there would be strong opposition to this legislation."
"Is 1.6 unreasonable?" asked Appalachian State President John Thomas. "Is a student who has less than a 2.0 going into his final year on track for graduation? I say he is not."
"You may try to read something in that (second) vote that wasn't there," said NCAA Executive Director Dick Schultz. "There is a lot of diversity in grading and academic progress. Don't misinterpret what you heard. Some of the schools opposing have the highest academic standards in the country."
The NCAA Convention, scheduled to run through noon Thursday, completed its 164-item legislative agenda Wednesday evening and adjourned.
The convention escaped projected lengthy debate when a proposal to eliminate deadlines for football bowl invitations was withdrawn, at the bowl representatives' request.
Opponents said the proposal, which would have allowed groups to extend invitations whenever they desired, would have caused "chaos." One bowl representative predicted that if the deadline had been eliminated, some bowl "would sign Notre Dame in the spring."
A resolution calling for the establishment of 1-AAA football -- that is small-time football in the NCAA's top division -- was adopted, but only after prolonged debate. The other Division I schools weren't happy about the proposal but were outvoted.
At present, while there is 1-AAA basketball, Division I teams that did not want to compete in football at the 1-A or 1-AA level competed in either Division II or III.
During the first round of debate on grade-point standards, Edmund Edmonds, the athletic faculty representative at William and Mary, warned that the required grade averages would result in pushing some athletes "toward courses of less risk."
Athletic Director Edgar Johnson of Delaware agreed with Edmonds, warning the rule could cause some schools to inflate grades.
So did Vanderbilt Athletic Director Roy Kramer who said, "As an old coach, I'm familiar with selective curriculums. This is bound to have an adverse effect on selecting majors and courses to remain eligible."
Kramer received an ovation in the afternoon when he thundered, "to push a student into a major only to get them eligible is a crime. Would you have a student with a 1.96 in electrical engineering made ineligible while another with a 2.4 in Canadian fly fishing can play."
Carol Mertier, the primary woman athletics administrator at Purdue University, disagreed.
"Some say if this passes, students will major in eligibility," Mertier said. "I say they will be majoring in graduation."