Court Shoots an Air Ball on NCAA Academic Standards


By Michael King



A New Visions Commentary paper published April 1999 by The National Center
for Public Policy Research, 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, DC 20002, 202/543-4110, Fax 202-543-5975, E-Mail [email protected], Web
http://www.nationalcenter.org. Reprints permitted provided source
is credited.


When a federal court recently threw out the NCAA's academic standards for freshman college athletes because the standardized tests they were based on were thought to be culturally biased against blacks, it effectively set up yet another barrier for groups of our black youth entering the workforce.

We have a responsibility to teach our youth the materials covered on college entrance exams. If our young men and women are not capable of doing well on standardized tests like the ACT and SAT, then WE as parents and WE as educators are the ones who have failed. It is not the responsibility of collegiate institutions to lower their standards to accommodate such individuals.

Parents and teachers can yell and scream for change and administrators and school boards can modify curricula to suit a political agenda of social "gimmees." Those same bodies, however, cannot adjust coursework and still adequately prepare students for a test that we know asks what is necessary to move into post-secondary education - no matter how academically or athletically gifted the student.

Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter said standardized tests discriminate against black students because of cultural differences not accounted for within the body of the tests. He ruled that the NCAA could not use these test scores for their academic requirements for freshman athletic eligibility. The two students who campaigned against the NCAA's use of its Proposition 16 guidelines insisted that, because of these cultural differences, it was no wonder that black students could not move forward into college. Never mind that the tests have been given to everyone, and created a yardstick that each and every student athlete must live up to in order to qualify for collegiate athletics. Never mind that, without these minimum standards, schools can more arbitrarily choose who to admit and who not to admit.

Nope. Never mind that students of color will now be looked at in such a way that prospective employers will say, "Oh, you got in because of people whining." Never mind that at all.

For years, cultural bias has been used as a crutch by so-called black leaders who insisted our "divergent culture" has been a reason for not excelling in mainstream business and academics. In their opinion, our problem has had nothing to do with the lack of foresight on the part of instructors in the elementary and secondary schools of this country. "Let's blame it all on someone else," they have collectively said.

I would imagine that Coach Jerry Tarkanian of Fresno State University is salivating at the thought of the possibilities of this ruling. Tarkanian got in trouble coaching basketball at UNLV in the 1980s when he tried to push student athletes without any regard for their intellectual stimulation. But according to the whiners in black society, that's OK. College athletics is a way for these "otherwise underprivileged" students to get ahead. Excuse me, but the last time I checked the primary purpose for college was to get an education, not to act as a farm system for the NBA.

Oh yes, the NBA does deserve some blame here. The NBA takes athletes straight out of high school and who leave college early. NBA team owners have no problem forking over millions of dollars to entice those students to leave school early while promoting a multi-million dollar "stay in school" public relations campaign. The NBA commissioner also turns a blind ear and eye to the problem of student athletes forgoing their educations for a big-bucks career as well as the problems those same athletes face when they wash out of the league or retire penniless while lacking the education necessary to make a living after their six to ten year career in the league is completed.

As long as the NBA allows youngsters to join the league before finishing their educational commitments, and as long as it allows children to enter the league directly out of high school, the NBA will be a contributing factor to the decline of the post-secondary educational system for black youth in this country.

Judge Buckwalter's ruling against the NCAA's academic standards scores one more victory for the so-called black leadership in this country, who would rather continue a legacy of justifying sub-standard performance than demanding excellence. I suppose this makes it easier for them to sleep at night.

As a parent, I expect these alleged black leaders would want me to thank them. Well, thank you for making my job as a parent harder. I now have to justify to my school-age children why they have to work even harder to succeed, when a judge just told them and the rest of black America that they don't. And guess what... you just made my argument shrink a bit in comparison to the law of the land.


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(Michael King is a member of Project 21 and an Internet and radio broadcaster in Atlanta, Georgia.)


Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.


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