One thing Tom Reed remembers about the summer of 1983, his first as the football coach at North Carolina State, is the 45 to 50 players who had to attend summer school just to remain eligible to play that fall.
He also remembers what Chancellor Bruce Poulton told him the day he was hired to coach a team whose graduation rate had been 15 percent for the entering freshman classes of 1976, 1977 and 1978. "He told me to get things straightened out and to win," Reed said. "He said, 'You must win. You're not immune from that, either.' "
Reed will not criticize his predecessors, but says, "Going to class wasn't quite the thing to do." So, for those still cutting classes, Reed implemented Friday night study halls, from 7 p.m. to midnight. "And if I was really mad, I made it Friday night and Saturday night, too," he said. "It gets their attention."
Now, fewer than 10 of his players are in summer school. However, the academic turnaround has not been matched by success on the field; the team was 3-8 each of Reed's first two seasons. But the case of the football team at N.C. State illustrates a basic theme found during a month of interviews for this series.
Rules by themselves will not improve the academic integrity of intercollegiate athletics; strong leadership is needed to accomplish that. Leaders on the nation's campuses cannot turn their heads, bask in the limelight at bowl games and expect academics to coexist with the win-at-all-costs environment that pervades big-time college sports today.
What follows is an examination of some programs and an attempt to show why some have been successful, academically and athletically, and what steps reform-minded college presidents have taken:
The Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina could be a good place to start. There, within a 30-mile triangle, are located three members of the Atlantic Coast Conference -- North Carolina State, Duke and the University of North Carolina.
A look at North Carolina State shows what can happen when standards are reduced. According to figures compiled by the Charlotte Observer newspaper, N.C. State ranked last in graduation rates for ACC schools for the entering freshman classes of 1976, 1977 and 1978, 12 of 80 football players and zero of 15 basketball players earning degrees. Chancellor Poulton declined a request for current statistics on the football and basketball teams, but said that 35.1 percent of all athletes graduate, compared to 35.8 percent of all N.C. State students.
The university was widely criticized last fall when it became known that Chris Washburn, a freshman basketball star, had been admitted despite his combined math-verbal score of 470 on the college boards. His weak academic background became public in a court proceeding that ended with Washburn being found guilty of stealing another student's stereo.
Nevertheless, Poulton defends the admission of Washburn, saying the 6-foot-11 player would have been admitted even if he had not been an athlete.
"The facts are that we admitted others who were not athletes, who were not any stronger (in the classroom) than Chris, and we will again this year," Poulton said. "Please understand that we have a commitment to surpass 10 percent black enrollment, and the facts are that we are looking at black students who on paper might not appear to you or a lot of others to be the kind of students we should be looking at. People who are talking about him and writing about him are doing (it) from a position of ignorance.
"I've got a file that thick on his ability. He's been tested 16 ways from heaven. He's got perfectly normal intelligence. He has the ability to be successful at this university, and there's no rational reason for him not to be here."
Both Coach Jim Valvano and Athletic Director Willis Casey declined requests for interviews for this series. Valvano said he could live with "whatever rules we have" affecting his basketball program.
Less than two decades ago, N.C. State was issuing press releases about its academic excellence. In June 1971, the university reported that 26 members of the football team, including 12 starters, had made dean's list. The next year State again reported 26 players making dean's list, "one-fourth of the entire squad." The release noted that over the past nine years, the Wolfpack led the conference in placing football players on the ACC all-academic team.
The next year, the ACC dropped its 800 rule, which tied athletic scholarships to a requirement of at least an 800 score on combined math and verbal portions of the Scholastic Aptitude Test. A year later, the school's faculty senate approved a resolution allowing athletes to be included as exceptions to general admissions policy.
N.C. State, where engineering students traditionally had trouble remaining in school, then redefined "student in good academic standing." A student had to enroll for at least 12 hours to be considered full-time. But one could drop courses until the final examination and needed only to pass half of them to remain eligible. Thus, an athlete could sign up for 12 hours, drop six, pass three and be eligible the next semester.
Both Robert Fearn, an economics professor and president of the faculty senate, and F. Joseph Hale, a professor of aeronautical engineering, said the rule was not made with athletes in mind. But it was a loophole the Wolfpack could use while winning two NCAA basketball championships and going to six bowl games in seven years. The rule was changed a few years ago, when State discovered that some regular students were taking eight years to graduate. In addition, the NCAA implemented rules that required athletes to make satisfactory progress toward a degree.
Not until Poulton became chancellor in 1981 were other substantive moves made, including a reduction in the number of athletic exceptions in admissions, an outside audit of the athletic department and drug testing.
Poulton has reduced the number of athletic exceptions from 44 in the fall of 1981, during Poulton's first year, to 33, 22 and, now, 11.
Since the NCAA enforcement program began in 1951, N.C. State has been publicly penalized four times -- twice in basketball, once in football and once for all sports. Only four other schools have received more public penalties -- Wichita State (seven) and Southern Methodist, Arizona and Florida State (five each).
In a survey by the NCAA Presidents' Commission, 71 percent of all member schools' chief executive officers cited boosters and alumni as a major problem in the management of intercollegiate athletics. At a university like N.C. State, the university must depend on a private foundation -- in State's instance, the Wolfpack Club -- to pay for scholarships and some sports facilities, because state funds are not allowed to be used for athletics.
"Trying to maintain an intercollegiate athletic program at an institution like this is an enormous task," Poulton said. "We field 26 different teams . . . (Being self-supporting) is a problem in the sense that it takes an enormous amount of money. Frankly, it's a lot easier for wealthier supporters to attempt to put leverage on a program if the program is totally dependent on wealthy supporters."
Institutional control is one of the major concerns of reform leaders. As Robert Atwell, president of the American Council on Education, noted, "The institutions that emphasize (athletics) the most put the least amount of their own dollars into it."
Perhaps that is one of the reasons Duke University, a highly selective private school in Durham, appears to have a model program, in which most athletes graduate in four years and redshirting is not allowed except in medical cases.
Although 75 percent of presidents polled say redshirting -- allowing a player to sit out while still on scholarship and save a year's eligibility for future use -- is either somewhat or very helpful to an athlete academically, Duke and Notre Dame, among others, do not permit it. They maintain that athletes should be treated as any other student. Yet, they were one-two in last year's College Football Association graduation statistics.
Duke has a $7.9 million annual budget, receives a $1.75 million annual subsidy from the university and, according to its athletic director, is the only Division I school that does not charge students for admission to athletic events. Alumni members of the school's athletic council are elected for one term only, "to keep one or two people from becoming entrenched in that position," said Terry Sanford, the university president.
"We've got a pretty good governance structure," said Sanford. "I don't think we could have anything like Tulane, simply because I have confidence in the athletic director (Tom Butters). He's alert to these things and he has confidence in the coaches, as I do too. (But) the president's got to be the keeper of academic quality. Nobody else is going to do it.
"We've done that in a very simple, straightforward way. We've assigned an assistant director of admissions to make all of the decisions about admissions, of which there is no appeal. A coach cannot come to me and say, 'Just give me an exception on this one 7-footer who we just happen to have.' That would be so inappropriate he might even get discharged. He certainly would get reprimanded and he certainly wouldn't get any attention here."
Andy Bryant, assistant admissions director in charge of athletics, declined to give the average college board score of Duke's football and basketball players. He says the school has accepted no athlete in the past eight years with a score less than 700, and rarely less than 800. "The bottom line is whether the athlete can graduate or not," he said, "And I'm correct in approximately 92 percent of the cases."
In 20 years, only one Duke basketball player who has finished his eligibility has not graduated. "That's Kenny Dennard, and he's so tired of hearing about it, he's coming back and getting his degree," Bryant said.
Duke does not offer scholarships in nonrevenue sports such as swimming, fencing and men's track and cross country. However, in the case of a world-class athlete, such as Olympic gold-medal swimmer Nancy Hogshead, Duke does give a full grant-in-aid.
In addition, Butters has dropped football games against Ohio State, Oklahoma and Arizona State in favor of prospectively more competitive games against regional opponents. It is a move saluted by such faculty members as Arnie Lewin, chairman of the school's academic council, who says of Duke's athletic policies, "It's one thing to have a policy. It's another thing to have it work, and Tom Butters has made it work. He just doesn't condone coaches who try to get exceptions for athletes."
Butters said: "Intercollegiate athletics is a viable part of a university, but no more viable than other parts. It just happens to be more visible. In this day and age, it is easy to let athletics, with the financial pressure and the greed to win, get out of perspective. And a university that allows that to occur is living on borrowed time."
Sanford, who is retiring next month after almost 15 years as Duke's president, has drawn up a 34-page policy paper on intercollegiate athletics. "I thought it would be helpful with a new president coming in if I put a lot of things in writing," he said.
"I go to all the games," he said, "and I'm an enthusiastic supporter -- but if I just got carried away with every little detail, I might find myself tempted to forget that this is n academic institution."
Down U.S. 15-501 in Chapel Hill, the University of North Carolina basketball team is known nationally both for its success on the court (seven Final Four appearances and one championship for Coach Dean Smith) and in the classroom (only one basketball player who completed his eligibility has not graduated).
Smith has a rule that a player must miss one game for every class he cuts. A few seasons back, one player had 28 cuts by the start of the season; he was benched the entire season, according to Smith. Also, pressure on North Carolina coaches to win is eased because they have the next-best thing to tenure: long-term contracts.
Smith tries to keep as secret as possible the identity of players he is recruiting, "to cut down on boosters." Smith remembers the time a booster tried to give one of his players some money coming out of the locker room. "He (the player) told me who it was and that stopped that," Smith said. "They know better. People are afraid . . . So I think the coach does know and can control any illegal payments."
In addition, Smith has had a car registration program for his team for the last decade. Every player with an automobile has to let the coaching staff know the make, model and year. He believes that discourages athletes from looking for deals from unscrupulous boosters, and keeps those same boosters away from his program. "You know how players are living and you know how their family background is," he said.
According to Smith, North Carolina admits 36 athletic exceptions annually for all sports. He declined to break down the number for basketball.
Smith believes schools that allow athletic exceptions would be better served by "a rule that the lower 2 percent of your entering freshmen cannot be athletes. Then you can take anybody that you wish, using class rank, grade-point average and SAT scores, because -- and I believe this -- that at every school, including Ivys, most of your lowest students entering will be Division I football and basketball problems."
Back in Raleigh, Reed doesn't have the time for such philosophical matters. With an academic file four times as big as his weightlifting performance file, he is trying to establish the proper balance between athletics and academics. "Three and eight, three and eight. Some people think I'm a bum," Reed said.
And there are rumors that he is in trouble, even though he has a five-year contract.
"There's only one group of people that count. That's the players," Reed said. "Everything else will fall into place. If it doesn't, that's okay . . . Will they give me enough time? If they don't, we're in a sorry, sorry state."
Next: Some solutions