Delegates to the NCAA convention today reaffirmed the use of standardized test scores in determining freshman eligibility in Division I. By a 2-to-1 margin, they adopted a very limited indexing plan by which higher test scores could be used to offset a lower grade-point average, and vice versa.
Leaders of the 15 predominantly black schools in the division, who lost two earlier lopsided votes today that would have eliminated test scores as a criteria for eligibility while retaining a core curriculum, said they had no plans to drop out of the NCAA or drop to a lower division.
Joseph Johnson, president of Grambling State University, said a legal action challenging Proposition 48 on constitutional grounds of denying blacks equal protection and equal opportunity remained an option. "We will exhaust every means we have to make sure justice is done in this organization," he said.
"If you vote for one man for governor and he loses, you don't move out of the state. You make an adjustment," said Grambling's Eddie Robinson, honored earlier today as football's all-time winningest coach.
"If you believe black students will be the only ones hurt, you don't watch the TV when the players run out of the chute or onto the basketball court. This isn't the first time we've had to make an adjustment."
On a day when Vice President George Bush accepted the NCAA's highest award and urged the organization to "keep up your battle against drugs in sports, keep up your battle for academic excellence," the vote to slightly modify the controversial rule passed in 1983 pleased neither its staunchest advocates nor its most vocal opponents.
Under the proposal adopted today by a vote of 206-94 with four abstentions, the full effect of Proposition 48 will be delayed for two years. For 1986-87, a 2.2 grade-point average in a core curriculum of 11 academic courses will offset a 660 SAT score; for 1987-88, the range is 2.1 and 680, moving to 700 and 2.0 in 1988-89.
"The jury is still out on test scores," said Dick Dull, athletic director at the University of Maryland. "There will have to be a reevaluation of it in the next two years."
Of the eight Division I schools in the Washington area, only Maryland and Georgetown voted for the modification. Maryland was the only ACC school to vote yes; John Slaughter, its chancellor, is the incoming chairman of the NCAA Presidents Commission, a cosponsor of the proposal.
Slaughter said test scores have an inherent bias against blacks and other minorities, but that the modification was better than Proposition 48, which was scheduled to take effect in August, a position strongly advocated by the Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conferences.
Howard voted against the modification, as did most of the other predominantly black schools. "If we voted for it, we voted for test scores, and we couldn't vote for that," Johnson said.
Georgetown was one of the leaders in supporting a proposal that would have used test scores for placement purposes only. "It's gone from an academic issue to a social issue," Georgetown Athletic Director Frank Rienzo said. "And how many people are willing to stand up for social justice?"
This proposal failed by almost a 4-to-1 margin, with such schools as St. John's, Boston College, Providence, Iowa, Iowa State, Illinois, Lehigh, Arkansas, Utah State and William and Mary joining with the black schools.
The vote failed, 233-66. A proposal that would have eliminated test scores entirely failed, 248-47.
"We're doing something wrong with 5-1-(j) as the rule is called in the NCAA Manual and we better take time to study it," said Peter Likins, president of Lehigh and the only member of the Presidents Commission to speak publicly in opposition to using test scores for determining eligibility.
The black leaders, using the NCAA's own statistics, built a case that the rule as passed in 1983 errs in disqualifying black athletes who would have graduated by a 2-to-1 ratio. They were vocal; their opponents were not. "Why should they?" said Johnson. "They had the votes."
Johnson, chairman of the athletic committee of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), told the delegates:
"All of the evidence gathered since 1983 shows that a travesty of justice will be perpetrated on thousands of young men and women. We believe in testing when it is used correctly. But, it is academic hypocrisy for any educator to stand before you and insult your intelligence by attempting to convince you that they are right in using ACT and SAT score as in 5-1-(j)."
He said the rule was backed by "misguided, misdirected elitists."
Later, Johnson concluded, "I know you're familiar with apartheid (South Africa's policy of racial separation). I ask the question: Will 5-1-(j) be the NCAA's apartheid?"
NCAA President Jack Davis of Oregon State denied that the NCAA was racist, saying that implementation of the rule would provide the impetus for rural and inner-city high schools to improve their curriculums.
Associated Press estimated that as many as 2,000 of the nation's top high school senior athletes may not be able to compete at Division I schools next year. The rule covers all sports, men and women, at Division I schools.
A comprehensive drug testing proposal for NCAA championships and bowl games is the major item on Tuesday's agenda. It is expected to pass. As Jack Friedenthal, faculty representative from Stanford, said, "I'm against it, but it's like voting against motherhood and apple pie."