Freshman Proposal Is Defeated


The NCAA voted overwhelmingly to reorganize its bureaucracy Monday but the most passionate debate centered on freshman eligibility requirements, a topic that was not expected to generate much interest.

USC President Steven Sample led a persuasive argument against a proposal to relax the academic standards of partial qualifiers and helped defeat the bill before Division I delegates at the annual NCAA convention in Dallas.

The proposal lost by three votes, with nine abstaining. But when it came before the delegates for reconsideration a few hours later, Sample was not in attendance because he had left for Los Angeles.


The bill was defeated a second time by two votes, and was one of the many positions supported by athletes that were rejected during Monday’s busy day of legislation.

A partial qualifier is an athlete who has reached the minimum requirements in either a college entrance exam or high school grade-point average but not both. A combination of the two is used to determine freshman eligibility.

Such athletes used to be known as Proposition 48 students. They had to sit out a year before competing, or attend a community college.

With last year’s tougher academic standards going into effect this summer, many delegates wanted to relax the partial qualifier definition to placate the Black Coaches Assn. and leaders of traditionally black colleges. Minority educators and most coaches complain that the strict standards will reduce the opportunity for poor athletes who want to go to college.

Under the new system, each school will be allowed to accept four partial qualifiers--two men and two women--a year, but no more than one in a sport. The partial qualifiers cannot play as freshmen.

Sample rejected the argument of opportunity, calling the proposal a retreat from last year’s legislation.


“I live and work in the county of Los Angeles,” Sample said. “In a county of 10 million people. We have so many minorities in the county of Los Angeles we no longer have an ethnic group that is a minority. There is nothing in the current standards that prevent any student from becoming a partial qualifier. There is nothing in the current standards that cannot be readily met by every student in our schools today--black, white, Hispanic, Asian.

“For us to retreat from those standards now shortchanges and cheats the young people of the United States.”

Khalid Channel, formerly a UC Irvine basketball forward and member of the NCAA student-advisory committee, was unimpressed.

“Does he live in L.A. or does he live in Brentwood?” Channel asked.

Channel, 22, a Stanford medical student, said the NCAA legislators do not understand the pressures of coming from impoverished neighborhoods, as he did in South-Central.

“Eight people got killed on my block while I was growing up,” he said. “When you live in those circumstances, it is hard to stay away from it, the gangs and drugs. It is ludicrous to say it doesn’t have some effect on a kid’s [academics]. So why not take the risk and give them a chance?”

Sample is taking a strong stance even though three Trojan football players in 1994 were accused of cheating on their entrance examinations. Two of the players, DeLeon Washington and Kenny Haslip, were exonerated.


“It shows we’re not as unscrupulous as some people think we are,” Athletic Director Mike Garrett said of Sample’s speech.

The convention’s big issue of restructuring failed to inspire heartfelt discussion as Divisions I, II and III agreed to split into a “federated” group with more autonomy for each category. After about an hour’s debate, the delegates voted to reorganize, 777-79.

The immediate effects are difficult to ascertain, although NCAA leaders are championing the move as historic. It will no doubt give college presidents and chancellors more control over the legislative process, which could affect the athletes and games in varied ways.

Two bills passed Monday with far-ranging implications involve community college transfer credits.

Transfers in football and men’s basketball who were not high school qualifiers will need at least 35% of the course requirements toward their specific degrees before attending a Division I school. Second, nonqualifiers cannot earn more than nine semesters or 12 quarter hours of transferable degree credit during summer sessions.

Dennis Ferrell, Big West Conference commissioner, said some athletes earn as many as 30 hours of credit over the summer, which questions the credibility of the process.


Judith Albino of Colorado, chairwomen of the Presidents Commission, said NCAA leaders want more scrutiny to ensure athletes attending two-year schools are academically prepared when transferring.


NCAA Notes

Talbot D’Alemberte, Florida State president, urged the NFL Players Assn. to discipline agents who break NCAA rules while recruiting college players. “The only way we can get control is if the players’ associations take away their licenses and threaten to put people out of business,” D’Alemberte said. “There’s no other way to take care of them. We’ve done just about all we can do. We’ve gone to the state attorney and got them to prosecute, got some convictions, but these people continue being in this business.” . . . A provision to allow athletes to work at jobs during the off-season was defeated.