Billy Tubbs, the basketball coach at the University of Oklahoma, says he could sign as many as six players today when Division I colleges and universities are given one week to sign high school seniors. All of them might not be able to play -- or even to practice -- next season.
Tubbs doesn't know, nor do many of his colleagues in similar situations. But he doesn't think it will change recruiting much.
"We're going to have a lot of people who don't know what their test scores are," Tubbs said earlier this week. "You might sign six people, and none of them may make it under the new rules. But that's the chance you have to take."
The uncertainty is being caused by Proposition 48, and any modifications that may come along. The new rule for freshmen to be eligible was passed in 1983 and is due to become effective for next year's freshmen. It requires a 2.0 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale in a core curriculum of 11 academic courses. It also requires a 700 (out of 1,600) on the Scholastic Aptitude Test or 15 (out of 36) on the American College Test.
Currently, an athlete is eligible for a scholarship and to play as a freshman if he has a 2.0 average in all his high school courses, including gym and vocational subjects. An athlete with a 2.0 still will be eligible to get a scholarship, but he will not be allowed to play or practice and will lose a year's eligibility.
The NCAA convention in January will consider slight modification of Proposition 48. There has been talk of restoring the year's eligibility and of allowing those who don't qualify to practice but not play.
But the NCAA Council, which wanted to allow the athletes to practice, and the President's Commission, which wanted to restore the year's eligibility, decided to study the rule for another year before proposing a change.
As a result, confusion reigns.
"All of the players are very well aware of what they need. All the recruiters have made them aware of that," Tubbs said. "But there's a definite misunderstanding of what can be done if you don't qualify and go to a Division I school."
Tubbs is well aware of the rule. Other coaches are not so well informed, according to Digger Phelps of Notre Dame.
"A lot of coaches don't know it's in," Phelps said. "They're recruiting and hoping there's an 11th-hour reprieve. Some of the coaches are going to be shocked, and some of the kids are going to be shocked, too."
Tubbs says his recruits, all of whom he says are comfortably above the 2.0 minimum in the core curriculum, took entrance exams earlier this month, and the test results are not in yet. Phelps says some players won't take the college boards until July, so it may be August before coaches know how many active players they will have next season.
"If they want to sign early, you've got to sign them (or lose them to somebody who will)," Tubbs said. "You might sign five guys, and none of them is eligible."
Still, proponents of tougher academic standards for athletes contend that athletes will now buckle down and apply themselves to meet the requirements.
"They'll get it pointed out to them earlier in school," said Coach Gary Williams of Boston College. "Now, many are in such a hole by their junior year that they can't get their reading level up to where they can get 700 and 2.0 in the core courses. They shouldn't put themselves down. Most kids are smart enough to get 700 and 2.0 if they work at it."
Many coaches are unsure what the impact of Proposition 48 will be in recruiting, although most say it will affect basketball more than football because most of the football powerhouses redshirt almost all their freshmen.
At some schools that do not give the maximum scholarships (95 in Division I-A and 75 in I-AA), there may be a problem in numbers for practice.
"In most situations, you'll still take the kid," Phelps predicted. "In essence, you'll see a lot of kids not playing, which is a step toward freshman ineligibility. The other thing is the satisfactory progress toward a degree each year."
That rule provides the check-and-balance for the loophole that allows an athlete to receive a scholarship and sit out a year. The latest satisfactory progress rule prevents athletes from staying eligible by shopping around for easy courses. At its special convention in June, the NCAA passed a rule requiring all Division I schools to file annual reports on athletes' progress or risk being ineligible for NCAA championships.
Other coaches think it is generally true that the same players still will be recruited. But decisions are likely to be made in individual cases, and some fringe players are likely to be adversely affected.
Maryland Coach Charles G. Driesell said if he needed a guard to play right away and was recruiting one player who qualified under the new rules and one who didn't, he likely would sign the one who qualified academically, even though the other might be a better player.
"It will not eliminate kids but make it harder on marginal players and guards," said Ed Tapscott of American University.
"Let's say you take a kid who has a 2.0 average overall. He has to sit out a year. It's palatable for a coach to wait a year for a 6-7, 6-8 kid. But will he wait for a point guard unless he's outstanding?"
A few college administrators think that athletes will opt to attend either junior college or Division II schools. If Guy Owens, a Forestville High School senior who is one of Maryland's top basketball players, is any barometer, athletes will opt to sit out a year and hit the books.
"Because it's Division I," Owens said.