Gaming Athlete Admissions Standards

by Jay Schalin

According to Inside Higher Ed, a new study is being presented to the NCAA Board of Directors today that reveals the main mechanism used by universities to get athletes with junior-high academic skills through the admissions process. Currently, there is no minimum standardized-test score required to be freshman-eligible; athletes with extremely low SATs can make up for them by having high grades.

The authors of the study, Gerald Gurney and Carla Winters, question how students who do extremely poorly on their SATs or ACTs and also on the Wide Ranging Achievement Test (which measures very basic academic skills) can get good enough grades in high school to offset their poor scores. Their answer: grade inflation.

NCAA officials ignore facts and compare apples and oranges to explain away the study’s findings. One official says that “there just aren’t any students” who fit the authors’ description of academically unqualified, adding that only 81 of the 25,000 freshman athletes who met the eligibility rules in 2009–10 scored less than a combined 700 on the SAT math and reading sections. Problem is, Gurney and Winters used 820 as their minimum standard for competence — a more reasonable threshold.

The NCAA is considering raising the minimum high-school GPA for freshman eligibility from 2.0 to 2.3 on a 4.0 scale. If the Gurney and Winters are correct, and I strongly suspect they are, it won’t mean a darn thing: The NCAA way is to put tiny band-aids on giant sucking chest wounds, then perform amazing feats of hand-holding, smoke-screening, and wagon-circling to maintain a façade of good health. As a result, the entire academy gets corrupted.

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