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NCAA For one player, test changes are too late



Published: Thu, February 13, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



There's been a shift of emphasis from a single-test score to overall grades. Now, it covers the whole picture.

KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- Midway through his semester at Hargrave Military Academy last fall, Ahmad Brooks discovered that the NCAA didn't think he needed to be there. Brooks was one of the nation's top prep linebackers, but the NCAA's decision came too late to keep him from three months of military life.

He is one of many high school student-athletes who will be affected by new NCAA academic reforms. NCAA officials hope the changes will assist high school student-athletes who perform well in class, but may not score as well on standardized tests. They hope the changes will help people like Brooks.

His story

Brooks graduated from C.D. Hylton High in Woodbridge, Va., last spring with a 3.0 grade point average in his core courses, but with an SAT score of 760, not high enough for Brooks to qualify.

So instead of going to the University of Virginia, he went to Hargrave for a semester to improve his score. But under new NCAA academic reforms that will begin in August, Brooks' fall could've been different.

"If he would've gotten the SAT score next year that he had last year, he wouldn't have had to go to prep school," said Robert Prunty, Brooks' coach at Hargrave Military Academy. "That's crazy, but it's true."

Last November, the NCAA's Board of Directors approved academic reforms designed to help student-athletes. The goals were to improve graduation rates and minorities' SAT scores. Beginning Aug. 1, eligibility for freshmen will be weighed more toward their core GPA, and less toward their SAT scores.

Though an SAT score of 820 is the minimum standard now, the new reforms will allow high school student-athletes with core GPA's higher than 2.5 to score lower on the SAT. For example, a student with a 3.0 GPA, like Brooks, will need a 620 SAT score. A student-athlete with a 2.75 GPA will need a 720. If a student-athlete has a 3.55 GPA or higher, a 400 SAT score is required.

Core courses increase

The NCAA, with the belief that completing more core courses in high school better prepares students for college, will also raise the minimum number of core courses needed from 13 to 14.

Brooks is African-American. His experience is an important reason why the NCAA has taken the focus off the SAT when evaluating high school student-athletes.

The NCAA asserts one of the reasons for the reforms was to make GPA a stronger factor in freshman eligibility. However, lawsuits in the last decade have been filed against the NCAA, claiming that its use of the SAT in determining freshman eligibility constituted racial discrimination.

"The concerns voiced through lawsuits were that because the SAT was biased, and the NCAA used a hard cut, the eligibility standards adversely impacted minorities," said David Storm, the director of compliance at the University of Virginia. "I think the expanded sliding scale addresses that."

All Brooks knows is he spent three months somewhere he shouldn't have been. He got the qualifying score he needed -- this time by taking the ACT and enrolled in January at U.Va. He doesn't regret his time spent at Hargrave, but he's glad change has come.

"I don't think it's fair because one test doesn't judge how a person really is in class," Brooks said. "It does test some of the things, but it doesn't get the whole picture."

The NCAA points to its recent graduation rates as proof of the success of their past reforms. The college freshman class of the 1995-96 school year was the first to be required to complete 13 core courses in high school.




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