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Archive for Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Freshman eligibility, reforms debated

February 3, 2004

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— Former ACC coaches Terry Holland and Dean Smith expressed concern Monday over the state of college athletics and renewed their push to make freshmen ineligible.

Testifying before the Knight Commission, Holland said college sports remains beset by a "growing litany of irresponsible and outrageous behavior."

He proposed that shares of TV money be awarded to schools whose athletes meet the institution's academic profile. He also recommended an overhaul of schedules -- to play only local rivalry games on weeknights, for example -- so athletes would miss fewer classes.

"If we really want students to put academics first, then, by golly, make them go to class," said Holland, the former coach and athletic director at Virginia who now is a special assistant to the university's president.

NCAA President Myles Brand as well as faculty members and TV executives were among those at Monday's forum. The Knight Commission, formed 15 years ago in response to scandals in college sports, plans to make recommendations to the NCAA's board of directors before its April meeting.

Baylor, Georgia, St. John's, Fresno State, St. Bonaventure, Iowa State, Ohio State, Alabama, Washington and Colorado have had problems during the past 12 months.

"We've had a bad year," said commission chairman William Friday, president emeritus of North Carolina. "Everybody's acknowledged that. But I think that fact has caused a lot of the forward motion we see."

Smith, the longtime North Carolina coach, said freshman recruits should play for freshmen-only teams. He also suggested that junior-college transfers be forced to sit out a year.

"You have to show you're a student first before you have the privilege of playing intercollegiate basketball," Smith said.

Whether any of the proposals will go beyond the meeting room is uncertain. New standards for test scores, course requirements and degree progression soon will take effect. Brand said a final vote could come in April on a program of rewards and penalties for schools based on how athletes make progress toward their degrees. Scholarship cuts and postseason bans could be levied against the worst offenders.

Brand said the next issue to target should be finances. He said the notion that athletic programs can pay for themselves is an "ideal that very few can reach," and it could be causing schools to spend more in hopes of somehow getting a return.

"The way we financially support intercollegiate athletics needs to be re-examined," Brand said.

James Earl, a medieval literature professor at Oregon and co-chairman of a faculty group called the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, said the faculty at his school last month debated a censure motion against president Dave Frohnmayer.

The professors are upset, Earl said, because the school is considering borrowing $100 million to pay for a new basketball arena, even as the academic side of the school faces up to $6 million in budget cuts. He said the faculty first will try other measures to deal with the president.

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