Delegates to the NCAA convention in Miami Beach this afternoon will begin considering a string of proposals that, if passed, could shake the foundations of intercollegiate athletics.
The two major areas of controversy are women's athletics and the awarding of athletic scholarships solely on need.
The latter is fairly straightforward. Delegates will be asked by those sponsoring the proposal to rule that all athletic scholarships be bases strictly on a student's financial need.
In 1976, a proposal to make scholarships in all sports except basketball and football based on need failed by seven votes. The current proposal, however, would include basketball and football and has been lobbied against heavily by the major football and basketballs powers, most notably the 61-member College Football Association, made up of many of the top football schools in the country.
"To a large degree, we believe it is basically unfair," said Charles M. Neinas, executive director of the CFA. "There are those who are opposed philosophically and those who favor it philosophically, but just don't feel it would be workable."
Most of the faculty representatives and college presidents attending the convention would probably like to see such a rule passed for financial reasons. cBut that would change recruiting considerably and might make the NCAA's already difficult job of enforcing the rules impossible.
If football and basketball were not included in the package it might have a chance. But with the CFA and much of Division I-A lobbying against the proposal, it is not expected to pass.
The same cannot be said of the proposals involving women. Several proposals, loosely titled "governance," will come before the convention. The two keys ones would give women representation on NCAA committees and would create Division I NCAA championships for women.
The major group lobbying against the proposals is the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women. The AIAW stands to lose much of its power and influence if the proposals are passed. The CFA is allied with the AIAW on this issue because of financial considerations and, as one Mid-western football coach said, "I don't like the idea of some aging cheerleader helping decide whether a football program should be penalized and not one woman ever coached, played or recruited for a Division I football team."
Although participation in NCAA committees and meetings would be voluntary, women at most major schools would be likely to jump at the chance. And, if the NCAA began sponsoring women's championships for major schools, the AIAW championships would lose much of their meaning -- if they survived at all.
One issue not on the current agenda and not likely to come up is freshman eligibility. Although there has been considerable talk among football and basketball coaches who feel the 9-year-old rule allowing freshmen to play varsity sports should be eliminated, administrators are generally against a change.
The reason is, again, money. If freshmen were ineligible, schools would have to reconstitute freshman teams. That means money for separate uniforms, travel, coaches and training equipment. Money is so tight now that such an added expense might force many schools to eliminate some varsity sports. Most schools would rather let the freshmen take their chances on the varsity than dole out more money to give them a year to adapt to college life.