NCAA Adopts Minor Prop. 16 Reforms

University Testing

When the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) held its annual convention in Nashville this January, Proposition 16 was again the subject of fierce debate. Strong student-athlete support helped persuade NCAA Division I delegates to approve, by a vote of 173-145, a limited proposal to give back a fourth year of athletic eligibility to some partial qualifiers.


However, delegates rejected -- for the second year in a row -- another amendment that would have broadened the definition of partial qualifier and allowed more student-athletes access to athletic aid.


Under Proposition 16, the NCAA's initial eligibility rule, incoming Division I student-athletes who exceed the NCAA's grade-point average requirement but score below the SAT or ACT cutoff are deemed partial qualifiers. Before the new proposal, partial qualifiers were allowed to practice and receive athletic aid during their freshman year but were only allowed to compete in their next three undergraduate years.


By voting for Proposal 68, Division I delegates rejected the argument of the NCAA Academic Requirements Committee that the measure would send the wrong message about the importance of high school academics. Student-athletes at the Convention countered that they should not be penalized in college simply because of a score on a standardized test taken during high school.


Under Proposal 68, only partial qualifiers who have earned their baccalaureate degrees gain a fourth year of eligibility. It is not clear how many student-athletes will be willing to remain at school to participate in athletics after they have already completed their degree requirements. Moreover, for financial and other reasons, minority and lower-income student-athletes have historically taken longer to earn undergraduate degrees and will therefore be less likely to reap the benefit of this rule change.


This year's Convention did represent a small step toward expanding student-athletes rights. However, Proposal 68 does nothing to change the fact that Proposition 16 s test score requirements violate civil rights laws by discriminating against African American and other minority student-athletes (see accompanying story).