As a record 125 college presidents and chancellors began arriving here today among more than 1,000 delegates for the 77th NCAA convention, Jim Frank, the organization's outgoing president, said "the mood is right" to pass proposals to increase academic standards for incoming freshmen athletes.
Frank, ex-president of Lincoln (Mo.) University, also said the NCAA Council does not plan "at this time" to withdraw a proposal that would impose basketball attendance requirements on schools wanting to remain in the top division although they do not play Division I football.
Opponents of that proposal say they have more than enough votes to defeat it. The Big Eight Conference plans to offer a resolution to defer it and even Frank says, "Its chances for passage are very questionable." But he says the council wants the proposal to come before the convention for debate because "it is a problem that will not go away by wishing it away."
Voting on 132 proposals is scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday, the final days of the convention.
The academic proposals include the Pacific-10 Conference's bid for a 2.5 average (on a 4.0 scale) and one by the American Council on Education to require test scores and a 2.0 average in a core curriculum of academic subjects.
Frank, who is black, said that even though he believes that test scores are "culturally discriminating," the mood of the leaders is right to pass such legislation. He said it would be a bad mark against college athletics if no academic proposals were passed.
"The reaction generally would be, 'There is no interest in strengthening academics. The emphasis is still on television and revenues.' The CEOs (chief executive officers) sense this and that's why the time is right." The only present requirement is a 2.0 average in high school.
The purpose of the proposal that would include requiring basketball attendance of 3,500 per home game or 110,000 annual total home and away is seen by its opponents as an effort by the major football schools to dilute the coalition of I-AA and other Division I schools that vote against the football powers on many proposals.
As many as 63 schools, but more likely 35 to 45, would be affected adversely if the proposal were passed. They include American, George Mason and George Washington universities from the Washington area.
Even if the basketball attendance requirement--part of a proposal that also requires a Division I member to play eight men's sports, including either football or basketball, and give at least 50 percent of its maximum scholarship limit--fails, the football powers will not come away from the convention empty-handed if proposals to restructure the council from 22 to 44 members and the executive committee from 10 to 12 are passed. Each proposal would give the football powers more weight in forming NCAA policy.
Other significant proposals would:
Allow a 12th regular-season football game in Division I; reduce by 10 each, to 85 and 65, the maximum number of football scholarships available in I-A and I-AA, respectively; define what extra benefits are, thus giving the enforcement department a stronger hand, and including in future contracts a clause that would clearly give the university president or chancellor the power to fire a coach caught cheating and hold that administrator responsible for taking action; put into effect a full-scale women's enforcement program next season, two years earlier than originally planned, and prohibit anyone but staff members from recruiting off campus.