Court rejects

The 302 schools in the National Collegiate Athletic Association now have no single guideline for freshman athlete eligibility.
A federal judge struck down a NCAA eligibility rule Monday on the grounds that it discriminates against black students.
The rule, called Proposition 16, bars athletes who scored less than 820 on the SAT test from playing on Division I teams regardless of the athlete’s grade point average in high school. University officials did not return phone calls Tuesday.
Officials from the NCAA said they will ask the court for a stay today, which will temporarily keep the requirement in place. The NCAA also announced that they will appeal the ruling.
But for now, a team could legally activate an athlete that was previously ineligible — even for games in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, which starts Thursday.
But any team would do so at its own risk; if the courts reverse the ruling, any victories involving that player could be forfeited.
“We must have initial eligibility requirements in place,” said Charles Wethington, NCAA executive committee chairman. “Our concern is that there is a chaotic environment right now without the initial eligibility requirements.”
Wethington, who is also president of the University of Kentucky, went on to say that he would not advocate any teams at his school use formerly ineligible players.
Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter, in the U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, ruled that the eligibility requirement “has an unjustified disparate impact against African-Americans.”
The NCAA argued that the goal of Proposition 16 was to strengthen student athlete graduation rates.
But Buckwalter concluded that “the radically adverse impact caused by the SAT cutoff score is not justified by any legitimate educational necessity.”
Two track and field athletes originally sued the NCAA in 1997 after being barred from competing as freshmen because of low SAT scores. They had graduated fifth and 27th out of a 305 member student body.
Students who lost a year of eligibility could be affected by the ruling, but the NCAA offered no specifics on that possibility.
The NCAA also announced its settlement of another lawsuit Tuesday involving restricted earnings for assistant coaches. The association will pay the plaintiffs $54.5 million in lost wages from a rule implemented in 1991 restricting the earnings of some assistant coaches.
Former Gopher Men’s Hockey coach Bill Butters recently filed suit to be included in the class action. His attorney, Priscilla Lord Faris, was unaware whether the settlement will affect his entry into the case.
Butters’ salary was reduced to $12,000 after the rule was approved, which, for Butters, constituted a “big hit,” Faris said.