NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After voting for legislation that would have required minimum grade-point averages for athletic eligibility, delegates representing the major colleges at the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. convention changed their minds.
They reconsidered the item, just hours before the convention ended Wednesday, and voted it out.
Christine H.B. Grant, women's athletic director at the University of Iowa, was among the outraged.
"I think this is a total disgrace," Grant said. "The NAIA (National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics) has a 2.0 minimum. Division II (of the NCAA) had the guts to pass (this rule). How can we reconcile a commitment to higher education with our failure to adopt an absolutely minimal grade-point requirement?
"The delegates have utterly embarrassed themselves today. We have just made a major faux pas for our student-athletes."
Surprisingly, the Division I schools that defeated the move for a grade-point standard were Harvard, Rice, Yale, Georgetown, Virginia, Princeton. . . .
DePaul Athletic Director Bill Bradshaw made the motion to reconsider. And he did that at the urging of Gene Corrigan, former Notre Dame athletic director and current commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference, who had spent the noon break doing some serious lobbying to change a 12-vote yes margin to a 19-vote no margin. USC and UCLA were among the schools that favored the measure in both votes.
Among the schools that changed to no votes in the afternoon were Holy Cross, Seton Hall, Providence, St. Francis of New York and St. Peter's, several of the private schools that Corrigan had made contacts with during his days at Notre Dame.
Corrigan acknowledged the link to his old alliances.
"I was able to talk with some people who were not real strong on their votes earlier and persuade them to consider why we, in our conference, felt so strongly," Corrigan said. "I wasn't the only one. Roy Kramer was also working on it."
Kramer, the athletic director at Vanderbilt, pointed out that not all schools have the same standards and that a grade-point requirement might "push" athletes into less challenging majors. Kramer shouted: "I cannot look into the face of an athlete who has a 1.96 in electrical engineering, a student-athlete who is a seeker, and tell him that he cannot play across the line from another who has a 2.46 in tourism or Canadian fly-fishing."
Frank Rienzo, Georgetown athletic director, made his point with a less flamboyant but more masterful strategy.
Knowing that many of the delegates were voting for the measure, thinking that it was a mandate in this era of the Presidents' Commission move for integrity, balance and respect for academics, Rienzo stepped to a microphone and asked for a point of information.
He suggested that it might be helpful to the delegates to know how the presidents had, unofficially, voted among themselves on the question. He asked if there were any presidents who might be willing to share that information.
When it was announced that two presidents on the committee favored the legislation and a dozen had been against it, Rienzo was leaning back in his chair, a big smile on his face.
As Dick Schultz, the new executive director of the NCAA was so adamant in explaining after the satisfactory progress proposal had gone down in defeat, the issue with the presidents was institutional autonomy.
"Please don't try to read something into that (vote) that wasn't there," Schultz said. "The vote reflected the tremendous diversity between institutions . . . and a desire to protect institutional autonomy.
"The institutions that voted against it were some of the finest institutions in the country. . . . Please don't overreact and see it as a vote against academic integrity."
Kentucky State President Raymond Burse argued eloquently in favor of the rule and convinced his fellow Division II delegates not to reconsider the item. He said he understood the issues but was still wondering how some of the most respected academic institutions in the country could reconcile their argument against the satisfactory progress rule with their hard stand in favor of a minimum grade-point average in high school core courses and a minimum test score for freshmen to be eligible to play.
Burse, who is president of a historically black school and who chairs the newly formed committee for reviewing the role of minorities in intercollegiate athletics, was referring to 5-1-j, the controversial legislation that has worked against a lot of black athletes on the basis of an inflexible test score.
"I don't think you'll find any individuals from the historically black institutions who are anti-academics," Burse said. "We voted for this legislation."
But he said that in 1983, when black administrators asked for autonomy and the right to decide who would be admitted and who would play for their teams, these same voters had stood firm on the side of a standard.