Representatives of the predominantly black colleges and universities are considering walking out of the 80th annual NCAA convention Monday to protest the expected loss of a vote concerning test-score requirements for first-year eligibility.
"I haven't been told that officially, but I've heard that is an option," said Samuel Meyers, executive director of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO).
The predominantly black schools object to the use of test scores in determining first-year eligibility, calling the tests racially biased. But they have been able to gain little support to vote down the test scores while keeping the required core curriculum.
Joseph Johnson, president of Grambling State University and chairman of NAFEO's athletic committee, was not available for comment today. But John R. Davis, president of the NCAA, predicted the issue "will be very hotly debated on Monday afternoon."
He said that Johnson had raised the issue "why should some of his institutions remain in Division I or even stay in the NCAA?"
There also is the possibility that the black schools could challenge the rule in the courts. Meyers said that was another of the options to be discussed by the black schools Sunday.
Monday, three proposals will be considered to modify Rule 48. Passed after an emotional floor fight at the 1983 convention, the rule requires a minimum score of 700 (out of 1,600) on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and a 2.0 grade-point average (out of 4.0) on a core curriculum of 11 academic courses to be eligible as a freshman.
Two of the proposals would eliminate the use of a test score in determining eligibility. But Meyers admitted defeat for those proposals today, saying, "I don't want to talk about a defeat before a defeat (occurs), but we've counted the votes and we have not been able to generate any enthusiasm for our position."
The third proposal, sponsored by both the NCAA President's Commission and NCAA Council, would allow a lower test score to be offset by a higher grade-point average for two years. Currently a 2.0 overall average is required in all high school courses.
Today, Davis, from Oregon State University, predicted that proposal would pass. But he said he would not be surprised if all three modifications were voted down, and Rule 48 takes effect in August as approved three years ago.
Art Padilla, a top aide to University of North Carolina President Bill Friday, questioned whether the modification sponsored by the Council and President's Commission sends the wrong message to athletes in these days of reform. "How can you tell the athlete that a D average is acceptable?" Padilla asked.
Under the proposal, an athlete with a 1.8 average in the core curriculum would be eligible with a 740 SAT score, and an athlete with a 660 SAT would be eligible if he had a 2.2 grade-point average. In two years, the range would be 680/2.1 and 720/1.9.
Although there are no new issues on reform to be decided here, more than 200 of the chief executive officers of the nation's colleges and universities have preregistered to attend this convention.
The American Council on Education, which led the fight for passage of Rule 48 three years ago, has mobilized this year to fight four proposals that restrict individual schools' options in the cases of lawsuits involving the NCAA. Opponents say the proposals deprive members of their rights and make them take sides against their own athletes in litigation with the NCAA.
Davis said the four proposals are needed because the NCAA spent $700,000 in fighting eligibility cases the past three years.
On other key proposals, Davis said:
*He anticipated no problems in passage of a proposal for drug testing at championship events and bowl games beginning this fall. Concerns voiced a year ago about the list of drugs, the rights of athletes and allowing medication prescribed by a physician have been addressed, he said.
*A proposal by six members of the Big Sky Conference to grant five years eligibility likely is too radical an idea to be passed at this convention, needing further study.
*A proposal to allow each division to decide the value of a scholarship will be tabled for a year because some schools could gain an unfair recruiting advantage as the proposal is worded because of a large variance in "commonly accepted educational costs, as determined by the U.S. Department of Education."
The convention is scheduled to adjourn Wednesday.