Chancellor John B. Slaughter wants the task force examining academic problems of University of Maryland athletes to complete its work by Sept. 30 so he can take the recommendations to the October meeting of the NCAA Presidents Commission, the task force chairman said yesterday.
Slaughter chairs the 2 1/2-year-old Presidents Commission that is leading the reform movement in college sports. The chancellor, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, has said he wants the final work of the task force to serve as a model for balancing academics with big-time athletic programs at the nation's public universities.
The task force was set up after the cocaine-induced death of basketball star Len Bias and revelations of academic shortcomings by him and his teammates.
Robert Dorfman, the task force chairman, kept reminding members of the urgency of the Sept. 30 deadline during yesterday's meeting. He also distributed a comprehensive 15-page list of more than 100 questions dealing with virtually every component of intercollegiate athletics.
Afterward, Dorfman, acting dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical and Physical Sciences, said Slaughter's desire to take some recommendations to the NCAA for discussion and "concern for student-athletes" were the primary reasons he was pushing to meet his committee's deadline.
"We would be doing them a disservice if we let this task force drag out long," Dorfman said. "We want to have things in place so we implement recommendations by the start of next semester."
To get any recommendations of national impact on the agenda at the NCAA convention in January, the Presidents Commission would have to propose them at its October meeting, because Oct. 25 is the deadline for submitting proposals to be considered at the convention.
Among the list of questions to be studied by five subcommittees was this one: "Are there viable alternatives to our current intercollegiate program, such as dropping some sports completely as Tulane and others have done, phasing down our participation in major sports programs, shortening the schedules, etc.?"
"You should take that in the spirit of academic open-mindedness -- simply that we have to consider all the alternatives . . . ," Dorfman said. "We have to know the reasons for the existence of the programs, and one way is to contemplate the possibility that they didn't exist. So, it's more a subject of intellectual understanding, perhaps, than any threat to any particular athletic program."
Asked if it was realistic to consider that Maryland might drop basketball, as Tulane did in 1985 after revelations of point-shaving, cocaine use and NCAA violations, Dorfman said: "It's hard for me to answer that. I want at least the working groups to be free to consider it as a way of sharpening focus. There are all kinds of questions you consider, even crazy ones, because it helps you sharpen the focus of the discussion."
Athletic Director Dick Dull, one of the 24 members of the committee, wanted the task force to examine the effect of won-lost records on the decision-making processes in budgeting, personnel and scheduling and whether Maryland should have more rigorous eligibility standards than the NCAA minimum.