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NCAA Convention : Educator Says Playoff Reform Is Discriminatory

Times Staff Writer

Plans to reform the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. basketball tournament will discriminate against historically black colleges, a delegate said Tuesday at the NCAA Convention.

“I’m convinced that they are fiscally, ethnically and morally discriminatory,” Chancellor Edward D. Fort of North Carolina A&T; said of guidelines established last month by the NCAA Executive Committee that give greater autonomy to the basketball committee to withhold automatic entrance into the NCAA tournament from champions of so-called lesser conferences.

Fort fears that champions of the predominantly black Mid-Eastern Athletic and Southwestern Athletic conferences might be excluded from the tournament. North Carolina A&T; is a member of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The Ivy League is another conference expected to be affected by the plan.

Beginning in 1991, the NCAA tournament will be limited to 30 automatic qualifiers, although Division I will include 32 conferences.

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When a resolution to overturn the Executive Committee’s ruling was defeated Tuesday, Fort warned that the issue was not dead.

“There was a loud and long and awesome hue that was picked up by this nation, if not the world, 20 years ago,” Fort said. “That was when a black athlete named John Carlos raised his clenched fist.

“It is my hope that the young people of today, particularly those on black campuses, won’t find themselves in a repeat of those kinds of demonstrations because they might conclude that this is the only way they can gain justice.”

Fort told convention delegates that limiting the number of automatic qualifiers would “do nothing more than promulgate the disequalization of athletic opportunity for black schools in Division I basketball play.”

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Commissioner Jim Shaffer of the Midwestern Collegiate Conference argued that “automatic qualification is not a birthright or membership service provided by the NCAA.

“The (tournament) is not a charitable trust fund. It is something which must be earned through innovative hard work and commitment to better yourself, and not through rhetorical excuses on why one cannot become stronger.”

North Carolina A&T; has won 7 consecutive conference championships, but has lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament each season.

It is difficult for the Aggies to schedule games against predominantly white schools, Fort said, because those schools have refused to play in North Carolina A&T;'s 7,500-seat arena in Greensboro, N.C.

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The NCAA’s much debated Proposition 48 remained unchanged as Division I delegates rejected two proposals that would have altered the controversial freshman eligibility rule.

“I think mostly it’s just an interest in some stability,” Steve Morgan, an associate executive director of the NCAA, said of the voting. “The legislation has been in place for 3 years, and I think there’s a lot of interest in just letting it settle and seeing where adjustments need to be made over time.”

Proposition 48, adopted in 1983 and implemented in the 1986-87 school year, established minimum academic requirements for freshman eligibility, mandating that those who failed to meet the standards would lose a year of eligibility while sitting out their freshman year without playing or practicing.

It is controversial because many educators believe that standardized entrance exams, which are among the criteria for determining freshman eligibility, are discriminatory.

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