One argument some presidents of NCAA schools use to defend their minimum standardized test score requirements for freshmen is that athletes who perform poorly on these tests probably won't do well as college students.
There are exceptions, of course.
Rasheed Brokenborough is an exception.
As a basketball star at an inner-city Philadelphia high school, Brokenborough took the Scholastic Assessment Test twice during the 1995-96 school year. He needed an 820 SAT score (and 2.5 grade-point average) to qualify for an athletic scholarship at an NCAA Division I school. Both times, he fell short -- scoring 790 and 800, he said.
"I didn't know which answers on the test were right and which were wrong," Brokenborough said in a recent interview. "You can't answer too much if you don't know too much.
"My ninth and 10th grades, I didn't attend school on a regular basis when the basketball season was over. I had never taken an SAT prep course. My school didn't offer one. You know, in my neighborhood, that's not really your goal, to go to college."
Under NCAA rules, student-athletes who do not meet the association's academic eligibility standards can attend Division I schools as freshmen only if they pay their own way or receive financial aid unrelated to their athletic talent. While these students cannot play sports as freshmen, their schools can apply to the NCAA's administrative review subcommittee to have their fourth season of eligibility restored. "Extraordinary circumstances" must be proven, an NCAA spokesperson said.
Brokenborough enrolled at Temple University -- a Division I school, not far from his home -- and used personal loans and federal need-based grants to pay for his school-related expenses as a freshman, according to Darryl Pope, Temple's NCAA compliance director.
"School was difficult," Brokenborough said recently, recalling his freshman year. "But [Temple] provided tutoring for me. And I got the hang of it."
Brokenborough played basketball for three seasons at Temple, where he averaged 13 points per game and helped the Owls reach three consecutive NCAA tournaments.
Last December, as Brokenborough was beginning his third season, Temple applied to the NCAA's administrative review subcommittee for a waiver, seeking a fourth year of eligibility.
"We told the subcommittee: Here's a student who bucked the odds," Pope said. "He came in as a nonqualifier [under NCAA rules] because he was a victim of a lousy school system. And instead of succumbing to whatever statistics would say that he should not succeed, he did. Rasheed will graduate ahead of the average college student, not just not the average college athlete."
On Feb. 8, the subcommittee ruled that Brokenborough was not entitled to a fourth season of eligibility.
"The subcommittee didn't give us a reason," Pope said.
Nevertheless, Brokenborough said his primary mission at Temple soon will be accomplished. In August, he will graduate with a degree in social administration, according to Pope.
"I'm the first person in my family -- including aunts, uncles and cousins -- to ever graduate from high school," Brokenborough said. "And now I'll be the first person in my family to graduate from college. I think I've shown that a student with low test scores can make it if he's given a chance."