July 24, 2011

Could Slive's academic reforms fly?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college football coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in college football.

TODAY'S QUESTION: At the SEC Media Days event last week, league commissioner Mike Slive said he would like to see initial eligibility requirements raised for incoming athletes, from a 2.0 grade-point average to 2.5 in 16 core classes in high school. He also would like to restore the so-called "partial qualifiers:" Athletes who fall short academically would be able to enroll on scholarship and practice but not compete during their first year. Your thoughts?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
Perhaps it's a good idea to demand greater academic accomplishments from athletes. That way, some may be more focused on the books in high school. Those who don't make it will have a year to concentrate more on academics before taking on the extra work load of athletics. But I don't think that proposal will gain much support. Heck, many coaches in Slive's own conference seemed to question it.

David Fox's answer:
Slive's proposals seem like a reasonable compromise   initial eligibility is a bit tougher for kids coming out of high school but the colleges get a little leeway when it comes to admitting partial qualifiers. In practice, though, it's going to be difficult. Based on the SEC coaches' initial reactions, Slive is bound to meet some resistance. I never thought partial qualifiers were a bad idea: A prospect meets some of the academic requirements but not all, he gets a scholarship anyway and has a chance to improve his academics before becoming a full-fledged member of the team. If I were in that position, I would prefer the partial qualifier route rather than the junior college path. The initial eligibility reforms also would be difficult to navigate, essentially forcing all prospects to realize first that they are prospects, and second that they need to meet certain requirements when they're only freshmen. The requirements would put more pressure on high schools for what is essentially a college athletics issue. Slive's heart is in the right place with the proposals for reform, but he'll meet challenges in getting them all adopted and implemented.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I have no problem with tougher academic requirements. In a way, Slive is just following the lead set by the late Myles Brand, who made academic reform his No. 1 priority when he was NCAA president. Slive and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany are the most powerful men in college athletics, so I wonder if Delany will tackle this topic at next week's Big Ten Media Days event. If he agrees with Slive, I think the "movement" will gain a lot of traction. SEC coaches didn't necessarily seem to be on board with Slive's proposal, but here's some news for those guys: Slive wields more power than the coaches. Plus, I think it's getting mighty old to hear college coaches whine about how a lot of the players they recruit are academically challenged. I think if you set a baseline, recruits will rise to the occasion. And if they can't? Well, does a kid who can't make a 2.5 GPA in high school belong in college just because he can run fast or drain 3-pointers? Slive's partial qualifier rule would be in place to make sure those prospects can do college-level work.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I like Slive's ideas, but I can't imagine they'd ever take effect. He's having a hard enough time finding supporters in his own conference. On the same day Slive made his recommendations, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier criticized the proposals. "For some reason, we seem to want to try to make it more and more difficult on some of these young men," Spurrier said at the SEC Media Days event. "They come from difficult backgrounds, difficult academic settings and so forth." To be fair, Mississippi State's Dan Mullen was much more supportive of Slive's ideas. That said, I'm guessing the vast majority of coaches across the country will take Spurrier's side on the issue. I'd love to see stricter academic requirements for student-athletes, but I don't expect Slive to garner much support for his proposals.



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