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NCAA Reforms Drawing Nigh

The much-talked about NCAA reforms are about to be voted on, and they do
sound interesting. Schools will be required to make certain academic standards
or risk losing scholarships.

There are a few promising points to consider:

  • rather than connecting the new plan strictly to graduation rates, which
    are influenced by everything from transfers in (including JUCOs), players
    leaving early for professional sports, or, in the case of Baylor, murder
    (you'd hope they would make an accomodation for Baylor's situation, but
    there are no givens with the NCAA).
  • According
    to the New York Times,
    "a team will be awarded points when an athlete remains eligible and when that athlete advances academically from semester to semester."
    That seems fair enough.
  • The standard will not be universal, which is good too, because there are
    vast differences between, say, Pan American, Duke, Louisville, and Ohio
    State. Some flexibility will be built in.

The immediate reaction, at least to us, is, well, the cheating will just
shift to passing kids through classes, a la Jim Harrick, Jr., who taught a class
at Georgia and tested his students with questions like "how many players
are on a basketball team?"

A number of professors and reformists have objected to the plan for various
reasons, among them, the idea that student athletes have to be watched in this
way when other students don't.

In general, it seems like a good idea, even though it will spark a number of
ingenious ways to cheat. And it will likely replace the 5/8 rule, which is
a good thing.

William C. Rhoden, also of the Times, says that he
largely thinks this is a sham, but that there are good points too.
believes in athletic scholarships, "especially at a time when access to quality education for the economically disadvantaged is shrinking."

That's a salient point, and echoes the criticism Paul Hewitt makes of the 5/8
rule: a lot of scholarships, which would primarily have gone to minority
students, sit unused.

Might we make a suggestion to the NCAA?

When the scholarships are removed from the sports teams, why not award them,
on at least a one-year basis, to kids who otherwise could not afford to go to

We admire a lot of people in college athletics, but near the top of the list
is John Chaney. Chaney was denied many things by segregation, but he has truly
dedicated his life to making a difference for kids who came after him. The
man has taken dozens of kids who otherwise would have had no chance in life and
given them the tools they needed to succeed at Temple and beyond.

The NCAA could do a lot worse than to award the scholarships to deserving
kids who have no chance to go otherwise, and they could do a lot worse than to
call it the Chaney Scholarship Fund.

As a matter of fact, they could even require the school to surrender the
scholarship money, rather than just not spend it, pool that money, and finance
quite a few educations.

Hey, it's just an idea. But who knows.