NCAA Eligibility Debate Continues

University Testing

The debate over the NCAA's controversial initial athletic eligibility requirements, Propositions 48 and 16, continued at this year's Final Four men's basketball tournament in Seattle this April. Members of the McIntosh Commission for Fair Play in Student-Athlete Admissions presented the findings of their 1994 study (see Examiner, Winter 1994-95) to more than 700 coaches and athletic administrators from Divisions I, II and III. The Commission, which was staffed by FairTest, again called on the NCAA to drop its use of a standardized test score cutoff to determine who is eligible to receive athletic scholarships and participate on varsity teams during the first year of college.


The NCAA currently requires incoming student-athletes even if they receive no athletic aid to post a 700 on the SAT (820 on the "recentered" scale) or a 17 on the ACT in order to be eligible to participate in a varsity sport. As of August 1996, the bar will be raised higher by Proposition 16: incoming freshmen with a GPA of 2.0 will need the recentered equivalent of 900 on the SAT or a 21 on the ACT. The test score cutoff will be enforced at every NCAA Division I school, including those schools that do not require minimum test scores for non-athletes. Even student-athletes who choose to attend institutions that have joined the growing ranks of test-optional schools (see article, page 5) will face these test score requirements. The NCAA's rules place unnecessary obstacles in the path of any college or university that sees its mission, at least in part, as educating students from disadvantaged backgrounds.


Propositions 48 and 16 represent a flagrant misuse of the SAT and ACT, violating guidelines laid down by the creators and sponsors of those tests. The College Board, which sponsors the SAT, notes, quite correctly, that differences of less than 130 points between two SAT composite scores "have little significance." Most college admissions officers recognize these test score limitations and therefore refrain from the use of score cutoffs. The NCAA has provided no satisfactory explanation for its refusal to abide by the test makers' guidelines.


Opponents of the NCAA's eligibility standards include civil rights groups, educators, and women's groups. FairTest will take its campaign to amend Propositions 48 and 16 to the NCAA's 1996 Convention in Dallas. FairTest will also conduct a public education program to inform members of the media, university leaders and the broader public about the unfair burden that the test-score-based requirements place on minorities, women and students from lower-income families (see Examiner, Winter 1994-95 and Fall 1994).


In the coming months, FairTest will take the issue to meetings with the Black Coaches Association, the Rainbow Coalition and other groups. Please contact FairTest if you know of additional upcoming conferences where a discussion of Propositions 48/16 should be placed on the agenda.


For a fact sheet on NCAA Props. 48 and 16, send an SASE to NCAA at FairTest.