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College Athletics Lacking Integrity, According to Poll

<i> Associated Press </i>

Americans widely doubt the integrity of the nation’s major sports colleges, believing they commonly give secret payments and inflated grades to student athletes, a Media General-Associated Press poll has found.

A majority of respondents in the national survey also suspected athletic booster clubs of making secret payments to players. And two-thirds said the colleges overemphasize sports and neglect academic standards for athletes.

As college sports this week staged one of its most celebrated annual events, the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. basketball championship, the survey revealed broad concern about the focus of Division I colleges, those with the biggest sports programs.

A solid majority, 76%, said the colleges should not be permitted to pay money to their student athletes. Yet more than 55% believed schools and booster clubs commonly make such payments under the table.

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Concern was undiminished among the 54% of respondents who called themselves college sports fans.

The poll, conducted by telephone among a random sample of 1,108 adults March 6-15, had a three-point margin of sampling error.

An overwhelming majority of respondents--more than eight in 10--favored the provisions of the NCAA’s Proposition 42, which would prevent schools for giving athletic scholarships to freshman who fail to meet NCAA academic requirements.

Georgetown basketball Coach John Thompson staged a two-game, one-man protest strike in January, arguing that it would disproportionately disqualify poor black athletes who attend inferior public schools and thus score lower on tests.

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But 81% of the blacks polled favored the rule, as high a level of support as among whites.


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