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Making the Grade : Student-Athletes Are Finding That Being No. 1 in a Sport Isn't Enough. They Must Also Score the Right Numbers in the Classroom to Earn College Scholarships

November 08, 1994|CHRIS FOSTER and MICHAEL ITAGAKI | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Doug Gottlieb is the NCAA's Proposition 16 ideal.

The Tustin High senior is a point guard with vision. He saw that athletic skills were not going to be enough.

"I wanted to play in college, so I had to understand all the academic requirements," Gottlieb said. "Every (basketball) camp I went to had an academic session. Some people didn't listen. I took it to heart."

The reward? He will sign a letter of intent with Notre Dame Wednesday.

Gottlieb's numbers show he earned it. His scoring: 18.0 per game. His assists: 8.1 per game. His grade-point average: 3.7. His Scholastic Aptitude Test score: 1,040.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday November 9, 1994 Orange County Edition Sports Part C Page 7 Column 4 Sports Desk 1 inches; 23 words Type of Material: Correction
SAT score--The Scholastic Aptitude Test score of Tustin basketball player Doug Gottlieb was reported incorrectly in Tuesday's Prep Extra. His score was 1,140.

He has that student-athlete balance the NCAA pictured when it set out to improve academic performance, a mission that continues to evolve with the possible institution of Prop. 16 in August.

An aspiring college student-athlete will need to have a higher grade-point average (2.5) in more core classes (13) than he did under Prop. 16's predecessor, Prop. 48, which required a 2.0 GPA in 11 core courses.

An SAT score of 700 out of a possible 1,600 or a 17 out of a possible 36 on the American College Test is also required for the student-athlete to receive full benefits from an athletic scholarship, and avoid partial-qualifier status.

But Prop. 16 offers a sliding scale, where a higher GPA in the core classes could offset a lower SAT score, and vice versa.

"The goal was to try to establish a national standard at the Division I level," said Francis Canavan, the NCAA's group executive director of public affairs, "so that the student-athlete would have some reasonable measure of preparedness."

But Prop. 16 has opponents too, including the Black Coaches Assn. Its concern is that sports in which many blacks compete, football and basketball, will be disproportionately affected.

Prop. 16 will be put to a vote at the NCAA's convention in January.

But no matter how the vote falls, it would behoove high school seniors to have their academic houses in order.

"If you can't pass Prop. 16, you probably won't survive in college," Gottlieb said. "It wasn't a problem for me, but a lot of players will be playing at junior colleges because of it."

But is it possible that Prop. 16 will eliminate four-year college opportunities for students who could have actually succeeded?

Is the NCAA really trying to improve preparation of student-athletes for college, or is Prop. 16 merely window dressing in an attempt to improve its public image?

Has Prop. 48 raised academic awareness for student-athletes or has it caused more damage?

The effects of Prop. 48 were devastating for some athletes. If they didn't meet the requirements, they lost a year of eligibility. They also could not work out with the team and could not receive athletic scholarships as freshmen.

It caught many student-athletes flat-footed.

"I wasn't aware of the requirements until after I signed a letter of intent," said Tes Whitlock, a former Loara basketball standout who signed with Arizona State. "It was tough. I had been playing ball for 10-12 years. I didn't know how to go to school and not play basketball at the same time."

Whitlock did improve his grades and became eligible at Arizona State. But he never worked into the Sun Devils' starting lineup. Whitlock equated his presence at the school with his sport. When he did not receive playing time, he stopped attending classes and his grades slipped.

He attended Saddleback College, where he still struggled academically. He is now playing at Hawaii and is eligible to play this season.

But those who fall short on Prop. 16 may not face as tough a road.

Numerous amendments to Prop. 16 will also be examined and voted on at the NCAA convention. According to Canavan, some of these will help determine whether Prop. 16 is approved.

Among the amendments:

* A one-year delay on the implementation of Prop. 16.

* Adjusting the admission requirements of a partial qualifier and altering the potential financial aid benefits and athletic participation rules.

* The "fourth-year" rule.

This is one of the most hotly debated topics, Canavan said.

The fourth-year rule attempts to reinstate the year of eligibility that Prop. 48 partial qualifiers lost.

According to Canavan, the amendment would allow a partial qualifier, who has shown "satisfactory progress toward completing a degree" during his three years of athletic eligibility, to have his fourth year reinstated.

"If you don't reinstate that fourth year for someone who has shown for three or four years that he can achieve academically at that university, then you are penalizing him for a test he took four or five years ago," Canavan said.

"You need to find the balance between the standards and the consequences. If you raise the standards, but the consequences aren't as harsh, that will be more acceptable to most people.

"You get into problems when the consequences are considered too severe or lenient for the present standards."

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