The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has been grappling for over 50 years with the minimum requirements for first-year student-athletes who want to compete in big-time college sports. Part of this struggle has involved efforts to avoid complaints that standards were unfairly penalizing minority student-athletes. In its ongoing efforts to ensure that student-athletes enroll in college with the necessary academic background needed to successfully complete college coursework the NCAA has vacillated between lowering and raising its standards.
The most recent major changes in these standards went into effect in 2003. In response to criticisms regarding the disparate impact on minorities of standardized exam requirements, the new standards attempted to create greater access to higher education for student-athletes by creating a sliding scale for grade-point averages and standardized-test scores. The minimum requirements for a 17 on the ACT or an 820 on the SAT were abandoned.
Since 2003 gains in minority access to higher education for student-athletes wanting to participate in big-time college sports have been negligible. This information has been reported by the NCAA itself through studies it has commissioned. In addition to a lack of significant gains in access studies have also shown a widening gap between the academic profiles of student-athletes enrolling in Division I football and basketball programs and the student bodies of entering classes as a whole at member institutions.
Some critics argue that this gap serves as evidence that NCAA reform efforts have had the unintended consequence of challenging the academic integrity of member institutions. Critics point out that the time demands of big-time athletics on student-athletes forces many of them into academic majors that require little effort and allow a large number of elective courses that can be taken in so-called easy subject areas. Universities are said to be in the eligibility business, not the education business.
There is an excellent article recently published in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Gerald S. Gurney that analyzes whether or not the NCAA has met its stated goals with its 2003 changes. There are many people who feel that these standards need to be reviewed again. Their ranks seem to increase each time problems surface involving student-athletes at member schools. To read this entire article please go to http://chronicle.com/article/Stop-Lowering-the-Bar-for/127058/.
Academic issues as applied to athletics in college and in high school are hot button issues among sport administrators. Readers, please share your thoughts on this important topic and let your voice be heard.