The academic answer the NCAA is looking for will be found not at the high school level but at the colleges themselves, Lawrence High football coach Dick Purdy says.
In its continued effort to reform academics as they relate to college athletics, the Presidents Commission has toughened the standards incoming freshmen must meet to qualify for an athletic scholarship.
To qualify, they now must pass 13 high school courses in math, English or science, up from 11, and meet the standards of a sliding scale that, with ACT and SAT minimums remaining equal, raises the required grade point average from 2.0 to 2.5.
Purdy said that was the wrong tack.
"WHAT A scholarship gives you is room, books, board, tuition and tutoring," Purdy said. "If an athletic department spends its money on tutoring, that shows it's interested in academics, and I don't see how 2.5 coming out of high school is going to help."
Purdy also took exception to the change on other grounds.
"I don't see why an athlete has to be better than average in his core classes just to get an athletic scholarship," he said. "Why can't he be average at 2.0? They're taking away opportunities for a hell of a lot more kids. There are a lot of people who fall between 2.0 and 2.5."
That is where tougher requirements could exacerbate the problem the NCAA is trying to correct, he said.
"Thirdly, look now at what is going to happen to a large group of athletes," he said. "They go to a junior college, they red-shirt one year and play two. Then they look at an NFL career or terminate their education because nobody is going to push them toward a four-year degree."
A LONG-TIME high school coach, Purdy also has coached at the college level. He was KU's recruiting coordinator for two seasons under Don Fambrough.
Having seen both sides of the fence, Purdy even offered an alternative.
"My plan would be some variation of this theme," he said. "A college is free to sign anybody it wants to. Then, until that signee has graduated or six years have elapsed, you don't replace that scholarship.
"If they cheat to get their kids through school, they're going to continue to cheat, anyway. If a school is honest, the kid is going to get an education."
The NCAA's action seemed aimed primarily at big-time football and basketball programs. Many minor sports do not face an academic problem.
"Our varsity averages a 3.6, so it's not a problem with us," said LHS volleyball coach Joan Wells, who has sent numerous players on to the college level. "With some schools, like Notre Dame or Washington University, we deal with requirements that are really a lot higher than the minimums anyway."