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NCAA PRESIDENTS TO STICK WITH TEST SCORES

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The Black Coaches Association, which threatened to boycott college basketball games last winter, may be headed toward another confrontation with the NCAA Presidents Commission over academic requirements.

At the same time, whatever lingering hopes anybody had for an NCAA football playoff may have been dashed by the powerful commission, which ended its summer meetings Wednesday with a pair of bold announcements.The commission said it would stick with standardized test scores as a key element in setting freshman academic eligibility requirements, despite charges that some elements are racially discriminatory.

It also denied permission for a special football playoff committee to continue its work.

On Tuesday, a special academic committee had recommended that toughened freshman eligibility standards, Proposal 16, be relaxed. The committee predicted an additional 500 minority athletes would graduate under its new proposal greatly reducing the importance of the SAT and ACT standardized test scores, which many blacks label as racially discriminatory.

But the Presidents Commission, the most powerful group in the NCAA legislative process, said Wednesday it will insist on maintaining the importance of the entrance test scores while introducing a "partial qualifier" concept that it said could have the same effect as the committee's proposal.

Significantly, the commission also said it would enable partial qualifiers who sit out their freshman season to receive a fourth year of eligibility after meeting academic standards by the beginning of their fifth year in school. The partial qualifiers could also receive scholarships and practice, but not play in varsity games, as freshmen.

Currently, athletes who do not meet the standards cannot receive financial assistance or play or practice as freshmen, a concept many have criticized as unnecessarily punitive.

The commission declined to go along with the suggestion to delay for one year the effective date of Proposal 16 - also known as Proposition 16 - now scheduled for August 1995.

"Proposal 16 is the rule," Judith Albino, chairwoman of the Presidents Commission, said in a teleconference. "The bottom line is there was very little sentiment to change or delay the standards that were set forth in Proposal 16."

At the same time, Albino said the presidents recognized there was a disparate impact on minority students who score between about 600 and 700 on the combined SAT, or the equivalent 15 to 17 on the ACT.

The SAT cutoff of Proposal 16 will remain 700. But athletes scoring as low as 600 on the SAT or 15 on the ACT could become partial qualifiers by having a higher corresponding high school grade point average.

The Black Coaches Association, which threatened to boycott basketball games last winter over the issue of scholarship limits, has been a vocal opponent of standardized tests.

"We'll get together and study this and talk it over in detail," said Marian Washington, women's basketball coach at Kansas and a member of the BCA's executive committee.

"Everyone on the commission is persuaded that we've addressed the concerns," Albino said. "I would also say the members of the commission from historically black institutions were supportive of this approach."

Albino said she expected many schools would opt not to use the partial qualifier concept anyway.

"We want to send a message that what we're about is college athletics, not professional athletics," said Albino, president of the Colorado system. "To send that message, we need to make clear that students coming into our athletic programs can perform (their classwork)."

Albino said she was certain the Presidents Commission's position on Proposal 16 would not spark a renewed battle with the BCA.

The possibility of an NCAA football playoff was considered dim after a special committee declined to bring forth a plan earlier this month. But officials said then they would ask the presidents for permission to continue the study, and permission was widely expected.

Technically, the request was denied by the NCAA's Joint Policy Board, which meets in conjunction with the Presidents Commission.

"There is very little support at this time for the notion," Albino said. "Although there was a suggestion the committee continue to look further at this issue, that will not be the case."