The NCAA wants to begin testing athletes for performance-enhancing and street drugs at some championship events and bowl games by early next year, John Toner, former NCAA president and chairman of the group's drug-testing committee, said today.
The committee, meeting here on the eve of a special convention on issues of institutional integrity, is finalizing recommendations for the NCAA Council to consider at its August meeting. After that, a Council-sponsored proposal for drug testing would be placed on the agenda for a vote by the membership at the annual convention in January.
"We want to get the testing rolling as soon as possible after the convention," Toner said.
According to Toner and Bill Bradford, dean of the medical school at Duke University and a member of the committee, testing initially would be conducted in selected championships. For team sports such as basketball and football, the tests would be conducted in advance of the competition. Athletes who tested positive would be ruled ineligible, Bradford said.
A proposal for drug testing was withdrawn at the convention last January because it had some defects. That proposal did not include street drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and heroin. But the climate apparently has changed since the point-shaving scandal at Tulane, and Toner said today, "We have the responsibility to regulate the safety of the student-athlete and the integrity of the sports. I'm scared to death about the combination of gambling and drugs."
In another development, the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University announced formation of a pilot program of 11 universities -- including Georgetown -- that will assist former athletes in getting degrees. Its Outreach Program would focus on sending athletes who have degrees to junior and senior high schools to stress academics to athletes.
"The concept of the consortium and the degree-completion program, as well as the Outreach Program, is really an exciting opportunity for American higher education to make a statement about correcting some of the mistakes that have been made in American higher education the past 10 years," said Frank Rienzo, Georgetown's athletic director.
"It says two very important things. Academic institutions realize they have a responsibility not only to the students at their own institution, but to society in general. Then those athletes will be asked to give something back to the community in an effort to help break the cycle. We've had a cycle on noneducation going on, of kids setting up athletics as their priority, not education as their priority."
Other charter members of the consortium are Temple, San Francisco, Cal-Berkeley, St. John's, NYU, Seton Hall, William Paterson, Denver and Long Beach State. Richard Lapchick, director of Northeastern's program, said the initial goal was to start the program in areas where there are pro sports franchises.
Northeastern started the program last year with 15 members of the New England Patriots, and its program has expanded to include 45 athletes from the Patriots, NHL Bruins and baseball's Red Sox. Lapchick said each school in the consortium initially will fund its own program, but he has applied to NHL, NBA and NFL charities for funding.
These developments in drug testing and academics come when the image of college sports is low because of academic and recruiting abuses, drug use and point-shaving.
Today, NCAA President Jack Davis, faculty representative from Oregon State, said he was confident that all the measures to be considered in roll call votes Friday will be passed. He said there might be one or two amendments that he considered more procedural than an effort to water down a proposal.
Davis said the NCAA adminstrative committeee would ask the NCAA Council to sponsor an amendment that would delegate the responsibility for determining minor violations to the Committee on Infractions and not the assistant executive director for enforcement, so that the investigative staff also does not act as judge.
Davis predicted that attempts to make amendments to water down proposals would be defeated because "the attitude of the presidents is one of high resolve."