NCAA Defends Test-Score Cutoffs

University Testing

Despite a federal court ruling that its initial eligibility rule, Proposition 16, has a “racially adverse impact caused by the SAT cutoff score” that is “not justified by any legitimate educational necessity” (see Examiner, Spring 1999), the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) continues to spend millions defending its misuse of ACT and SAT results.


At a late summer meeting, presidents of NCAA member institutions decided there was “no compelling reason” to alter the controversial eligibility requirements and promised to pursue all legal avenues to overturn the court decision.


The NCAA’s arguments were heard by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on October 1. The NCAA tried to focus the three judge panel on the question of whether the association actually receives federal funds and therefore must comply with non-discrimination provisions in the Title VI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act, not the impact of its rules or their propriety. Countering with evidence that an NCAA arm regularly received federal funds for a summer youth sports program, plaintiffs attorneys from Trial Lawyers for Public Justice stressed the disparate impact of the test-score based eligibility requirements and the minimal predictive value of the SAT and ACT for African American athletes. A decision by the three judge Appeals Court panel is expected by the end of the year.


Meanwhile, the SAT’s sponsor, whose guidelines specifically warn against test-score cutoffs, continues to give tacit support to the NCAA’s misuse of the test. For example, six pages in the College Board’s Fall, 1999, enrollment management magazine, On Target, are devoted to a one-sided defense of Proposition 16.


Such test-maker hypocrisy continues to be a major reason why institutions feel free to misuse test results. No institution has ever lost the right to use SAT scores -- or even suffered public censure from the test promoter -- no matter how flagrant its abuses of the College Board’s high sounding test-use principles.