|3rd Circuit OKs NCAA's Use of SAT Scores
"A federal appeals court yesterday overturned a lower court ruling in favor of
minority student-athletes who claim the National Collegiate Athletic Association
discriminates against them by using SAT scores to decide eligibility for freshman year
"It's a total victory for the NCAA's lawyers, David P. Bruton and Michael W. McTigue
Jr. of Drinker Biddle & Reath who said yesterday that they were ``gratified'' that the
court adopted some of the arguments they've been making all along.
"... a three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled, over a
partial dissent, that the case must be dismissed because the NCAA is not a ``direct''
recipient of federal funds.
"... As a statute, Title VI prohibits only ``intentional'' discrimination claims. The
Cureton suit was filed under regulations that allow claims of disparate impact -- ones in
which a race-neutral practice is found to have an impact on a racial minority group."
One of the fine points on which the plaintiff's case hinged was the fact that the NCAA
operates the National Youth Sports Program (NYSP) as a separate entity which does receive
federal funds. Thus, the plaintiffs alleged that NCAA was the indirect recipient of
federal funds which subjected the organization to the "disparate impact"
provisions of Title VI recipients of such funds.
"But U.S. Circuit Judge Morton I. Greenberg said that because such disparate impact
claims are brought under the regulations instead of the statute, they are ``program
specific.'' As a result, Greenberg said, the NCAA can't be sued based solely on its
connection to the NYSP for conduct that has nothing to do with the NYSP."
The plaintiffs also argued that the NCAA is liable for "disparate impact" under
the provision of Title IX since NCAA member schools receive restricted federal
funds. Judge Greenberg also rejected that argument. Greenberg cited the U.S.
Supreme Court in NCAA v. Smith in which the high court ruled that NCAA is not subject to
Title IX "disparate impact" restrictions merely because it receives funds from
member schools who do receive federal funds.
"Greenberg, who was joined by Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Walter K. Stapleton, also
rejected the argument that the NCAA can be held liable based on the federal funding its
member colleges receive. In a partial dissent, U.S. Circuit Judge Theodore A.
McKee said he agreed that the liability could not be established by looking to the NYSP
funds. But McKee said he would have remanded the case to Buckwalter for further
exploration of two theories the plaintiffs advanced for basing NCAA liability on the
federal funds that its member schools receive.
"...NCAA general counsel Elsa Cole had a technical comment for a ruling that turned
on a technicality. ``We can't violate a law we're not subject to,'' Cole said. But
she added that the NCAA regularly reviews and modifies its eligibility rules in order to
ensure they are fair.
"The NCAA rule was challenged by four black athletes in Philadelphia who contended
they were denied athletic scholarships or sports eligibility because they did not score
the minimum on the Scholastic Assessment Test or American College Test.
"Dubbed Proposition 16, the rule dictates minimum eligibility guidelines for freshmen
in the 302 schools that comprise the NCAA's Division I. They include minimum scores of 820
on the SAT or 16 on the ACT, a core group of high school courses and a minimum grade-point
average in that core. " (Associated Press 12/23/99, via statelaw.com, by
Shannon P. Duffy, U.S. Courthouse Correspondent)
Court allows NCAA to keep Prop
16 intact (12/23/99)
"The NCAA on Wednesday won a
significant court victory that will allow its controversial freshman-eligibility rules to
remain in place.
"The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, in a 2-1 decision,
ruled that the NCAA is not a direct recipient of federal funds and thus cannot be sued
under civil rights laws. The NCAA last March had its rules known as Proposition 16 thrown
out because U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Buckwalter ruled they have "an
unjustified disparate impact against African-Americans."
"Wednesday's decision, however, reverses that ruling. For now the rules requiring
incoming students to meet a minimum score on a standardized test and a minimum grade-point
average will remain. Elsa Cole, NCAA general counsel, called it "a very
important decision for the Association." Graham Spanier, chair of the NCAA Board of
Directors and president of Penn State University added that "we are pleased to obtain
this ruling from the court, but as we have said all along, we will continue to review
initial-eligibility rules, including the test-score cutoff."
[The plaintiffs, Cureton et al, are threatening to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme
Court if necessary to ensure that NCAA is subjected to the Clinton Administration's
"disparate impact" rule. Editor.]
"The appeals court decision focused on federal funds given to the National Youth
Sports Program which is administered by the NCAA. The plaintiffs argued that since that
program which gives sports instruction opportunities on college campuses to
economically disadvantaged youth receives federal money, the entire NCAA was subject
to civil rights laws.
"But the court's decision said that only the specific National Youth Sports Program
which receives the funds could be sued, not the entire NCAA." (Scripps Howard
News Service, via bouldernews.com, by Thomas O'Toole 12/23/99)
Equality of Results
"Racial discrimination is
wrong," explained attorney Andre Dennis to a reporter from the Legal Times. Such a
claim is scarcely controversial in principle. What is more so is how Dennis and others are
attempting to define when racial discrimination occurs. Dennis is the plaintiff's lead
counsel in a class action lawsuit brought last year against the National Collegiate
Athletic Association. The suit charges that the minimum SAT scores the NCAA mandates of
all freshman Division I athletes unlawfully discriminates against black players."
The disputed NCAA eligibility standards are known as Proposition 16, and require
first-year collegiate athletes to meet minimum SAT, ACT and GPA cutoffs.
"The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is currently hearing oral arguments
in the case, Cureton v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, filed on behalf of Tai
Kwan Cureton, and three other plaintiffs denied freshman athletic eligibility under Prop
16. A District Court Judge ruled last March  that the NCAA's Prop 16
eligibility requirements were indeed discriminatory on the grounds they had a
"disparate impact" on black athletes.
"[To complicate matters further, in May 1999 Clinton's] Department of Education's
Office of Civil Rights released a set of draft guidelines called "Non-Discrimination
in High-Stakes Testing: A Resource Guide" (see page 6). The Education Department's
report employed the logic of "disparate impact" to assert that any test with
different results among ethinicities is de facto discrimination and illegal as a primary
admissions criterion for any institution that receives federal funds. With the
"disparate impact" of the SAT well-documented and almost all private colleges
the recipients of at least some government money, the Education Department is, in effect,
declaring the SAT illegitimate as a basis for admissions."
"The Ed Department's campaign against the SAT is unlikely to succeed. Even most
supporters of affirmative action recoil from a college admissions process subject to
continual head-counting by race. At the very least, however, it is an indication of
how far opponents of standardized testing will take their position. (Dartmouth Review
Excellent Background and Analysis
NCAA Forced to Drop Academic
Standards as 'Racist'; Doesn't Care About Education (03/26/99)
In Philadelphia this week, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter has ruled that
the NCAA's minimum academic standards for freshmen athletes has a "disparate impact
on minority students". The NCAA's freshman eligibility standards are known as
The case was brought by high school seniors deemed ineligible for collegiate track and
field competition because their standardized test scores were below the NCAA
minimum. Judge Buckwalter said using such test scores had an "unjustified"
effect on black students. The students' lawyers argued that the use of scores for
determining athletic eligibility constituted racial discrimination.
"Excuse me," said one dissenting black activist, "but the last time I
checked, the primary purpose of college was to get an education, not to act as a farm
system for the NBA." (By Project 21, a leading voice of the African-American
community since 1992.)
3rd Circuit Court Stays Ruling; Grades
OK - For Now (03/31/99) (no link)
The NCAA will be allowed to continue using academic performance as a measure of college
freshmen's eligibility for collegiate sports. For now, anyway.
3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, 3/30/99, stayed the earlier boneheaded order
by U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter which would have prohibited the NCAA from
disqualifying would-be collegiate freshmen athletes with poor academic scores.
The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to stay Buckwalter's order. For the
time being, then, grades ARE important and academic performance IS important to athletes
embarking on their freshman year in college. What a novel concept!
RELATED: Court Shoots an Air Ball on NCAA
Academic Standards (Apr. 1999)
"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." (Project 21 /
National Center, by Michael King)
RELATED: Each school
now in charge of athletes' academic qualifications (03/23/99 - dead link)
"Question: Are major-college sports about education or entertainment? The
leadership of higher education is facing an age-old question: Are major-college sports
about education or entertainment?
"College athletics are at a crossroads because of a stunning ruling by a judge who
recently struck down the NCAA's standards for athletic eligibility of incoming freshmen.
"The decision has suddenly left each school in charge of determining the initial
eligibility of its own players -- a radical thought among NCAA power brokers, because it
does away with the so-called level playing field and opens the door for some schools to
adopt much easier standards than others for their athletes.
"Specifically, U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Buckwalter's action declared the NCAA
violated the civil rights of black athletes by using standardized test scores to determine
whether freshmen are eligible for competition and for athletic scholarships."
(San Jose Mercury News, 03/23/99, by Tom Witosky of the Des Moines Register)
RELATED: Academics must
come first (03/21/99 editorial - dead link)
"One aspect that has long been difficult to understand is why anyone would support
placing the bar so low that it diminishes the primary purpose of attending school or
college -- to learn. If the academic entrance requirements to college are too low, what is
the incentive for an athlete to better his or her grades?
"... Judge Ronald Buckwalter now has thrown the entire issue of eligibility into
confusion by ruling that SAT and ACT minimum test score requirement has an
"unjustified disparate impact against African-Americans." He says improved
graduation rates can be achieved by other means than setting test scores. While some argue
that the tests may have a cultural bias, the basic point is not the tests but whether
there should be one standard all students must meet before they can enter
college." (Toledo Blade, 03/21/99 editorial)
RELATED: Black Jocks Are Dumb, Says Judge!
(03/18/99 by Larry Elder)
"WHEN CHARLES MURRAY appeared on the "Today Show,"then co-host Bryant
Gumbel practically ripped his head off. In his controversial book "The Bell
Curve," Murray argued that blacks score lower than whites on standardized tests
because of their inherently inferior intelligence.
"Critics called Murray a racist and attacked his findings, research and methodology.
Well, a Philadelphia federal district judge just sided with Murray. Four black athletes
sued the National Collegiate Athletic Association, challenging its requirement of a
minimum 820 SAT score in order to play college ball. Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter struck
down the minimum test measure, called Proposition 16, stating it "has an unjustified
disparate impact against African Americans." What, no "black leader"
calling this Bush appointee a bigot? Let's be blunt. The judge found black student
athletes too stupid, too incapable, too oppressed, too disadvantaged to expect minimum
performance." (Jewish World Review, 03/18/99, by Larry Elder)
RELATED: NCAA Academic
Standards Lowered ... (03/10/99) (no link)
"If U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter's ruling that Proposition 16 'has an
unjustified disparate impact against African-Americans' is upheld, NCAA schools will no
longer be subject to rules designed to improve athletes' graduation rates and prevent the
type of academic scandals that embarrassed a number of NCAA men's basketball and football
teams in the early 1980s.
"Until the court's ruling, the NCAA, which governs college athletics, required all
potential student-athletes entering Division I schools to meet, on a sliding scale,
minimum grade point averages and scores on the SAT or ACT. If prospective student-athletes
did not meet those minimum standards, they were required to sit out of sports teams for a
year out and improve their academics.
The plaintiffs in the case are Leatrice Shaw and Tae Kwan, two black seniors at
Philadelphia's Simon Gratz High School in 1996. Their race discrimination suit
argued that the minimum test score requirement violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act
of 1964, which prohibits race discrimination by educational institutions that receive
federal funds. The court said the use of the SAT and ACT violated the act, primarily
because black students score disproportionately lower on the tests." (University of
Maryland "The Diamondback" 03/10/99, by Jayson Blair. No link.)
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