NCAA Group Proposes New Test-Optional Eligibility Rule

University Testing

Delegates to the January 1996 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) annual convention will consider a new initial eligibility rule that reformers say will raise academic standards without the bias of a test-score mandate by making SAT or ACT scores optional for student-athletes with good high school grades.


The proposal was submitted by the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). It would require prospective athletes in NCAA Division I to earn a 2.25 grade point average (GPA) in a high school core curriculum in order to receive athletic scholarships or compete in sports their first college year. Alternatively, students could qualify with a 2.0 GPA and the equivalent of an 800 on the original SAT test scale or a 19 on the ACT. FairTest's Campaign for Fair Play in Student-Athlete Admissions provided assistance to MEAC in drafting the proposal.


The current NCAA rule, Prop. 48, and the rule slated to go into effect in 1996, Prop. 16, require all students to meet both test score and GPA requirements. Prop. 48 and Prop. 16 have long been criticized for ignoring a large body of data showing that arbitrarily mandating higher test scores is not the same as admitting capable students. The NCAA's own research shows that these rules exclude large numbers of other-wise qualified young people, particularly African-Americans, who would have succeeded in college if they had been allowed to participate. In fact, the NCAA's Academic Performance Study specifically recommended against requiring grades and test scores simultaneously.


The MEAC plan is consistent with the trend for test score optional admissions now implemented by at least 235 four-year colleges across the nation. The proposed rules place the primary burden on performing well in high school course work rather than on cramming for standardized tests.


The test score option gives those who do not achieve the required GPA another way to gain eligibility. Additionally, students who achieve a GPA between 2.00 and 2.25, but fall short on the test score, would be deemed partial qualifiers. They would be eligible to play in their second year if they make satisfactory academic progress.


FairTest expects to play a visible role at the NCAA convention scheduled for Dallas, Texas, from January 6 - 10, 1996 and in NCAA events leading up to that forum.