A meeting scheduled by the American Council on Education to serve as a pep rally for support of a strong academic proposal for Division I schools, including a minimum requirement on controversial test scores, tonight turned into a gripe session from leaders of the nation's 114 predominantly black colleges and universities.
Joseph Johnson, president of Grambling State University and chairman of the athletic committee of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, said black schools had no say in drawing up ACE's proposal, and that Division I schools in his group would not vote for it.
He cited several reasons why predominantly black schools have said standardized tests discriminate against minorities.
Johnson also questioned the motive of the proposal, made by ACE's ad hoc committee on athletics that includes many football powers. He suggested its passage could force schools from the Mid-Eastern and Southwestern Athletic Conference, the two predominantly black conferences in Division I, into Division II. Howard is a member of MEAC.
The proposal, which ACE officials say they have the votes to pass when 132 proposals are taken up Tuesday and Wednesday at this 77th annual NCAA convention, would establish initial eligibility on the basis of a minimum score on standardized tests (700 total on SATs and 15 on the ACT) and a 2.0 average in a core curriculum of 11 academic high school courses.
Otherwise, a student would be ineligible for an athletic scholarship, competition or practice in his first year. If he met the school's eligibility requirement after a year, he could get a scholarship, with four years eligibility.
Earlier today, Joab Thomas, president of the University of Alabama and of the College Football Association, said that 60-member lobbying group was supporting ACE's proposal. But some schools within the CFA, including those in the Atlantic Coast Conference, want it modified.
These schools would include part of another proposal, allowing a school to give a scholarship to an athlete who has a 2.0 overall average in high school, the only current requirement for initial eligibility, if he does not meet either or both of the requirements proposed by ACE. He could practice during that season, but would have only three years' eligibility if he met institutional requirements after his freshman year.
Asked if ACE's proposal could pass unamended, CFA Executive Director Chuck Neinas said, "I wouldn't count my chickens before they hatch." He said the CFA's modification would get more votes from CFA schools and would take into account minority concerns over test scores.
Neinas also said the compromise was Thomas' suggestion. At a press conference, Thomas declined to discuss compromises to ACE's proposal, on which he will give a supporting speech. Later, after ACE's meeting, he said: "No. 48 (the proposal) is far and away my choice; it's a much stronger position. But if we cannot get it, a combination is the best alternative. It's not perfect by any means, but it's a step, and as far as the NCAA can go in prescribing curriculum matter."
"We're not at all against academic excellence, but this proposal is not well thought out or received," said Johnson. "It would be devastating to us because students at our school average 12 on the ACTs. All we're asking for, and we didn't think we'd have to do it in 1982, is participation in a democratic process."
According to ACE spokesman Bob Aaron, Luna Mishoe of Delaware State and Leonard Spearman of Texas Southern University were members of the committee, but did not attend any meetings. Mishoe said he wasn't added to the committee roster until one week ago.