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NCAA CONVENTION : New Director Urges Leaders to Show Flexibility


SAN ANTONIO — Cedric Dempsey, the new executive director of the NCAA, Sunday urged college sports leaders to be willing to consider amending some of their decisions, including the controversial academic requirements that have drawn criticism from black coaches.

"I submit that reform does not mean rigidity, and refinement does not mean retreat," he said in his first "State of the Association" address, the formal opening of the 88th annual NCAA convention.

Dempsey, former athletic director at Arizona, was named to replace Dick Schultz in the NCAA's top administrative post in November. Dempsey did not use his first opportunity to address NCAA members as a bully pulpit for a particular issue, but touched on some of the key matters facing the group, including debate over the new academic requirements.

The NCAA Council voted last Friday to present a resolution to convention delegates directing various NCAA committees to review legislation that will raise academic standards for prospective student-athletes. The new academic standards, commonly known as Proposition 16, were approved in 1992 and are due to take effect in 1995.

The Black Coaches Assn., a national group of college and high school coaches, has complained that the requirements will disproportionately affect blacks. The group has also raised questions about the research that was used to support the requirements.

Urging convention delegates to approve the resolution, Dempsey said: "We need to evaluate whether we have been successful in communicating these new requirements to prospective student-athletes. We must also determine if, based on the best and most current information, these requirements meet our goals of academic integrity and educational opportunity, particularly . . . for minority student-athletes."

Charles Whitcomb, athletic faculty representative at San Jose State and chairman of the NCAA Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee, said reviewing the legislation is a good idea.

"The NCAA has got to look at some issues--the research data group as well as the effect Proposition 16 is going to have on Afro-American students of the future," he said.

Dempsey also expressed his support for a convention resolution that would set up a special committee to study a restructuring of the NCAA. He added that an outside panel might also become involved in developing a plan for such a restructuring.

Commissioners from the eight major Division I conferences, pressing for a greater voice in shaping their own destinies, have suggested setting up a separate division for schools with annual athletic budgets of $9 million or more.

Addressing one of the hotter issues of the day, Dempsey noted that a special panel, chaired by UCLA Chancellor Charles Young, has been formed to study the feasibility of a Division I-A football playoff. Dempsey said the NCAA should examine the concept and "either place it back on the shelf or present legislation for the Division I-A membership to consider."

Speaking at a news conference after his speech, Dempsey described himself as being "neutral" on the playoff issue, but seemed to approach the subject with skepticism.

"Without a (significant) financial impact, I don't think it makes much sense," he said. "It's not bad to have 18 (bowl) winners."

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