Some athletes not making the grade

Cougar News Service

Black students and students from low-income families are having a tougher time meeting eligibility requirements to compete in college sports than other athletes, a recent study conducted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association has found.

The study provides a first look at the effect of Proposition 16, a set of controversial eligibility standards the NCAA approved six years ago in response to the complaints that many athletes were not prepared for college-level studies. The stiffer standards went into effect during the 1996-97 school year.

With tougher standards, the number of black students denied eligibility rose from 16.3 percent in 1995-96 to 26.9 percent in 1996-97. During that same period, the number of ineligible student-athletes from families earning less than $30,000 annually rose from 14.7 percent to 22.2 percent. And for the second straight year, the percent of black students from low-income families who failed to meet the standards was the highest of all categories; the number rose from 21 percent in 1995-96 to 34.7 percent in 1996-97.

"We all knew this was going to happen," Dale Clayton, president of the Black Coaches Association told the Chronicle of Higher Education. "History has shown that African-American students don't test well. Individuals from low-income families don't test well. And many times, these individuals are one and the same."

The new standards require high school students to complete 13 core classes, including four in English; earn at least a 2.5 grade point average; and score at least 820 on the SAT or 68 on the ACT. (However, students can still get eligibility with a 2.0 GPA if they exceed minimum scores on one of the standardized tests.)

In light of the recent study's results, NCAA officials are meeting this week to discuss the possibility of adjusting the standards, said Wally Renfro, a spokesman for the association. Adjusting the standards does not necessarily mean lowering them, he quickly added.

"These requirements were put in place by (educators) who wanted to ensure the preparedness of their athletes for life after sports," he said. "They wanted to make sure athletes weren't graduating without knowing how to perform at the college level."

While the NCAA is concerned about the hurdles keeping some students from competition, it is pleased with higher graduation rates among athletes, Renfro said. He reported that in 1984 athletes graduated at a rate of 52 percent, compared to 53 percent of non-athletes. But in 1990, athletes finished school at a rate of 58 percent, surpassing the rest of the student population, which finished at a rate of 56 percent.

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