Tulane committee seeks academic reforms in sports program

Eighteen months after a point-shaving scandal shook up the quiet campus of Tulane University, a special athletic committee has produced recommendations that will keep the school in Division I-A athletics, but may make it harder for students to win sports scholarships. ``This has been a very difficult time for Tulane,'' said history professor Lawrence N. Powell, who headed up the select committee on intercollegiate athletics. ``But we've tried to come to grips with our problems.''

Contending that undereducated football- and basketball-playing students are taken advantage of in an institution of higher learning, the committee proposes a minimum standard for future athletic admissions of 850 on the Scholastic Achievement Test. Present minimums for freshmen eligibility are set at 700.

A second recommendation suggests that athletic schedules be coordinated to avoid conflict with study and final exam periods.

``Many unviversities are reaching a crossroads,'' said Powell. ``They are having great problems with their sports programs, but they're not sure what to do about it. We are beginning to see reexaminations of why certain programs exist, and finding it essential to review policies regarding sports recruitment.''

When news of the point-shaving scandal broke, resulting in the arrest of three Tulane basketball players, including star center John (Hot Rod) Williams, the university's president, Eamon Kelly, called for the immediate suspension of the basketball program.

Williams was acquitted of game-fixing charges. But testimony at his trial presenting the athlete as an undereducated student who barely passed entrance standards corresponded with the committee's findings.

Attorney Michael Green, who represented Williams, said his client was poorly educated and had nothing in common with ``98 percent of his fellow students.''

Asked Green: ``What brought a young black athlete to a university called the `Harvard of the South'? What brings a young man from Sorrengo, La., to a university that is known for its excellent students, high grades, and Mercedes-Benz automobiles?''

Powell hopes the recommendations of his committee, which focused on sports at Tulane in general, will help to answer that question in terms of both basketball players and other athletes.

``Our problems here are only aggravated by the fact that Tulane is in a part of the country where educational standards are poor,'' said Powell. ``But with the emergence of the black athlete as a product, the problem has become nationalized.''

Although most of the committee's findings are presently under study by Tulane's board of directors, one recommendation calling for the elimination of Tulane's bachelor of physical education degree has drawn fire. Athletic recruiters at the university feel that the PE degree is a valuable selling point in winning promising athletes. But the intercollegiate committee has other thoughts.

``I've seen it on a firsthand basis,'' said Powell. ``After some of my classes, PE majors have come up to me and admitted they didn't know what I was talking about. We're depriving them of the proper tools needed for an educational life.''

University officials expect a full committee recommendation to be voted on and implemented by early 1987.

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