University of Maryland Athletic Director Dick Dull said yesterday he expects the decision in favor of assistant professor Jan Kemp in her lawsuit against the University of Georgia to have wide-ranging effects.
"A lot of institutions will now have to reanalyze their own policies regarding the admission of athletes, some of whom may not have the credentials," Dull said yesterday in the wake of Wednesday's decision in Atlanta.
Although Dull and some officials at other area universities said Kemp's successful lawsuit -- which focused on her speaking out against preferential treatment for Georgia athletes -- almost certainly will force closer scrutiny on the relationship between Division I athletes and academics, they also said the schools here are not guilty of the kind of abuses found at Georgia.
A U.S. District Court jury ruled Wednesday that Kemp was wrongly fired by the university after she complained about relaxed academic requirements for scholarship athletes at that school, and it awarded her $2.5 million in damages. Although Kemp's freedom of speech was on trial, so were, in effect, the priorities of colleges and universities with big-time athletic programs.
"I think it will definitely have an impact," said George Washington Athletic Director Steve Bielsky. "It's part of the growing sentiment that athletes shouldn't be treated differently."
A.B. Williamson, the basketball coach at Howard University, said he thinks the Kemp decision will lead to "astounding changes."
Jack Kvancz, a former Division I basketball coach and now athletic director at George Mason University, said, "I thought she'd lose the case, but it would wake everybody up. Now that's she won, I think it'll wake people up very quickly."
Georgetown Coach John Thompson said he wasn't as concerned about the Kemp decision, specifically, as he was the public perception that athletics are the primary problem.
"Of course, there are things wrong with athletics and they should be questioned. But if you want to look at the real scandal, look at the entire educational system," he said. "What about all these kids who can't read who aren't playing basketball and football?
"I'm not as concerned with the particulars of the Kemp case as I am with all these intellectuals, with their glasses on the edge of their noses, acting as if coaches are entirely to blame for the education of these kids.
"Kids don't learn to read in college, or the 11th and 12th grades when they're being recruited. Why aren't they learning to read from grades one through six? More scandalous than the fact that he can't read now is the fact that he was allowed to reach a level where he could get to college.
"All these educators are running around now, saying, 'Look how we've been tainted by athletics.' They've been tainted by the inability to educate these kids before the 11th and 12th grades."
The basis of the verdict in the Kemp case, by five women and one man, was that Kemp's constitutional rights were violated. But much of the six-week trial focused on whether athletes received special academic treatment. Witnesses testified that "special academic and admissions treatment" included some players being admitted despite having the minimum score of 400 on SAT exams, and being promoted out of remedial courses without being able to meet minimum college academic standards.
Although the school officials contacted in Washington agreed such abuses do exist nationwide, all interviewed yesterday said their schools are not guilty of such preferential treatment beyond the established tutorial and assistance programs. And all denounced any further abuses.
Dull said the court decision "will not affect Maryland in any way." Bielsky said: "Here at GW, we like to see athletes treated as closely to other students as possible . . . that kids are going through college and getting degrees taking easy courses, I think that is a disgrace." American University Athletic Director Bob Frailey said: "If it exists [at his school] it is extremely minimal. We don't bring that type of student here; he couldn't make it."
University of Virginia Athletic Director Dick Schultz said: "When we recruit kids, we don't tell them we are going to get them through school [with easy courses and favoritism]."
Georgetown Athletic Director Frank Rienzo declined to comment.
Kvancz said he hopes the court decision will at least force coaches and athletic department officials to ask themselves, "Does this kid have the credentials? Despite the fact that I like this young man or young woman, and despite the fact that he or she is a great basketball player, am I kidding myself about this kid's chance to graduate?"
Dull said the larger question that must be asked during the recruitment and admission stages is, "Are we doing what's right? Are we doing the right thing in admitting this person?"
Proposition 48, recently adopted by the NCAA, is designed to encourage tougher admissions standards. "Proposition 48 modifies the situation somewhat, but it will not remedy the situation totally," Dull said.
As several school officials pointed out, Proposition 48 addresses, primarily, admitting students. It does not speak to many of the other abuses brought to light in the Kemp trial. "It's still up to administrators," Kvancz said, "to realize that each kid we bring into a school should have a chance to graduate. This [decision] emphasizes that it's time for us to live up to what we're preaching." CAPTION: Picture, Former University of Georgia professor Jan Kemp leaves court after being awarded $2.5 million in damages Wednesday in suit against the school. UPI