High school athletes would be able to get around the test-score provisions of controversial Proposition 48 under a recommendation being made to the NCAA Council and President's Commission, it was learned.
Proposition 48, due to go into effect for the 1986-87 academic year, requires a 2.0 grade-point average in a core curriculum of 11 courses and a minimum test score (700 out of a potential 1,600 on the SAT or 15 out of a potential 36 on the ACT) to be eligible to participate in intercollegiate sports as a freshman.
But, according to an Eligibility Index Formula to be recommended by the committee that concluded a series of meetings here last week, an athlete who has a 2.75 grade-point average would need an SAT score of only 400, the minimum for signing one's name to the test. A 2.5 grade-point average would require an SAT score of 500.
The corresponding numbers for the ACT were unavailable.
"That flies in the face of the intent of the people who drafted and voted for Proposition 48," said Shelly Steinbach, general counsel for the American Council on Education, which led the fight for passage of Proposition 48 in 1983.
"It would seem it totally erodes the substance of Rule 48 if it is true," he said. "What is the difference between that and the present system? You have to have a 2.75, instead of a 2.0. Somehow, I think they'll find a way. The question is: Will that lead to more grade inflation for high-school athletes?"
The recommendations, which also propose a lowering of the ACT minimum requirement from 15 to 13, will be presented to the NCAA Council in two weeks and will be made public at that time. A proposal to be considered at the NCAA's January convention in New Orleans will not be drafted until the President's Commission meets in early October.
Bill Friday, president of the University of North Carolina system and a leading NCAA reformer, was unavailable for comment. But Art Padilla, assistant vice president for academic affairs for the UNC system, called the recommended Eligibility Index Formula too liberal and said it could lead to Division I-A schools pulling out of the NCAA if adopted.
"Proposition 48 is a rule that says all of us -- the colleges, universities, high schools and coaches -- everybody has to take academics seriously. There is no way around the rule," said James Wharton, chancellor at Louisiana State University. "Every president in Division I-A would be totally opposed to coming up with any criteria that circumvents the intent of Rule 48."
A poll of Division I presidents by The Washington Post two months ago showed 59 percent favored Proposition 48 without modification. And, after a special NCAA convention six weeks ago at which severe rules were passed to punish chronic cheaters, reformers are certain they have the votes to control how much Proposition 48 is weakened.
But they also face a dilemma, because a bitter, racially divisive fight over Proposition 48 and how to fine tune it at the January convention could wreck the reform movement.
NCAA President Jack Davis of Oregon State had said he did not expect the committee would make recommendations, only point out areas of concern, and that any Eligibility Index Formula would include a cutoff of 550-600 on the SAT. It is not immediately clear why the committee changed its mind.
In a survey commissioned by the NCAA, six out of every seven black male basketball players and three out of every four black football players in the entering freshman classes of 1977 and 1982 would not have qualified for first-year eligibility under Proposition 48. More than one out of every three white male basketball players and just under one out of every two white football players would not have qualified.