Report of the McIntosh Commission on Fair
Play in Student-Athlete Admissions
The members of the McIntosh Commission for Fair Play
in Student-Athlete Admissions (see end of document for names and
affiliations) strongly endorse a system of athletic eligibility
rules which simultaneously supports academic excellence and equitable
access to higher education.
Based on a thorough analysis of more than a decade
of research by independent investigators and the NCAA itself,
we conclude that the NCAA's Initial Eligibility Requirement, commonly
known as Proposition 48, has undermined the Association's self-professed
goals of high-performance standards, a level playing field, and
Prop. 48, Prop. 42, Prop. 16 and all similar
proposals are flawed by their unethical reliance upon arbitrary
test score cut-offs instead of genuine measures of capacity to
do college work. Simply put, higher test scores are not the same
as higher academic standards.
Rather than increasing standards, Proposition
48 has increased discrimination by excluding large numbers of
otherwise-qualified African American athletes (and, based on test
score distributions, Latinos, females and low-income Whites as
well) who would have gone on to graduate. Proposition 16 would
make this situation worse by locking out even more students who
would have been successful if they had been allowed to enroll.
Proposition 48 and current proposals to make
it even more restrictive, such as Proposition 16, are based on
a series of faulty premises and erroneous conclusions. Particularly
troublesome is the fact that NCAA leaders have ignored data from
their own research - including the current Academic Performance
Study - which clearly demonstrate that requiring higher test scores
is not the same as admitting better qualified students who are
more likely to graduate.
The adoption of such fundamentally flawed proposals
does not promote, but actually interferes with, the educational
progress of thousands of student athletes. As an alternative,
we recommend a system which will truly address both academic excellence
and equitable access.
Our findings are grouped into three areas: academic
integrity and ethical concerns; personal and social cost-benefit
considerations; and data analysis issues. They are followed by
ACADEMIC INTEGRITY AND ETHICAL ISSUES
The NCAA's own research shows that prior to Proposition
48 the overall graduation rate for student-athletes was similar
to nonathletes. On this measure, athletes were already satisfying
the academic standards of their respective colleges and universities
without NCAA intervention.
Because the NCAA entrance requirements shift
the decisions for eligibility from the educational record to as
few as one or two questions on a test, the NCAA procedures act
to degrade the importance of college performance and thus lower
the genuine academic standards.
The use of cut-off scores on any measure is a
questionable practice, exaggerating the importance of small score
differences (a 10 point gap on the SAT, for example, may result
from only one additional item answered correctly. This is a particular
problem for a test like the SAT which has a margin of error between
60 and 70 points.
The NCAA's procedures preempt the authority of
academic officials, boards of trustees, and state legislatures
to set individual institutional policies on student access to
funds and resources.
Imposing a "one-size-fits-all" eligibility Policy
for the wide range of institutions within the NCAA is not supported
by the data. NCAA policies contradict and undermine the mandates
of many member institutions.
According to the NCAA's own research, Proposition
48 has eliminated a substantial number of students who would have
graduated had they been allowed to enroll. Forty-five percent
of otherwise-qualified African American students were eliminated
compared with 6% of White students.
As early as January, 1983, just after Proposition
48 was first adopted, the NCAA was informed of the rule's disparate
impact on African Americans and women via a letter from Gregory
Anzig, president of the Educational Testing Service (ETS). This
was confirmed by a NCAA research report in 1984. Despite these
findings, the rule was continued.
Proposition 16 would increase this discrimination.
An even higher percentage of qualified students would be eliminated
by the new rule, and the disproportionate impact on African American
students would increase. Though minorities would experience a
disparate impact, between two-thirds and three-fourths of the
students newly disqualified by Proposition 16 will be White.
The NCAA's Academic Performance Study (APS) recognizes
that a conjunctive rule (i.e. requiring both GPA and test score
minimum) has no demonstrated empirical basis for use, and there
is no literature documenting its validity. Yet, the NCAA has adopted
just such a rule.
Proposition 48's grade point average (GPA) cut-off
of 2.0 is proportionately much lower (when compared with the average
GPA) than is the test-score cut-off of SAT 700/ACT 17 relative
to average SAT and ACT scores. Thus, with a conjunctive rule in
place, students are much more likely to be eliminated by the test
score requirement before GPAs are even taken into account. For
many students, the test score alone becomes the defacto
The NCAA's own researchers found that the "use
of a fixed minimum on any single indicator is not psychometrically
sound," but this conclusion was ignored in Propositions 48 and
A National Academy of Sciences report warns,
". . . the undoubted effect of imperfect prediction when social
groups have different average test scores is to place the burden
of prediction error on the shoulders of the lower scoring group.
Is this fair? In the final analysis, we think not."
It is a mathematical fact that "raising standards"
on a predictor variable such as a test score is not the same as
raising standards on a criterion such as graduation rates.
While the development of more stringent eligibility
criteria for athletes might raise graduation rates by excluding
students with more educational disadvantages, the attainment of
this goal by such means is morally questionable since a significant
percentage of excluded students would have graduated had they
been allowed to enroll.
The NCAA President's Commission and Council unaccountably
rejected the recommendations of their own Academic Requirements
Committee which proposed adopting a true sliding scale which would
allow students with higher grades to be eligible for athletics
and scholarships with test scores lower than SAT 700 or ACT 17.
There is no evidence to support the assumption held
by many supporters of Proposition 48 and Proposition 16 that the
long-term benefits from the rules outweigh the short-term harm they
Recent U.S. Census Bureau findings from the current
population survey demonstrate that being denied an opportunity
to obtain a four year degree reduces an individual's lifetime
income by about half a million dollars, even for those graduates
with modest academic skills.
Analyses of the same data indicate that each
year of post-secondary schooling beyond high school has a positive
impact on earnings. Thus, even students who do not graduate gain
from the college experience.
Proposals to tighten academic eligibility requirements
even further, without accompanying policies to improve high school
preparation of prospective athletes, will further curtail access
to college, especially for underrepresented groups.
DATA ANALYSIS ISSUES
Flaws in the Data Analysis Working Group (DAWG) research
and inconsistencies with other studies on college admissions tests
may understate the negative impacts of Proposition 48 and 16. For
There is a substantial problem with missing data.
In these cases the DAWG filled in or extrapolated from existing
data. This may skew their results and weaken their conclusions.
The relatively high level of SAT-score prediction
of graduation found by the DAWG contradicts a well-established
body of research, including the test-maker's (M) own studies,
demonstrating that only a very small percentage of the difference
in graduation rates can be explained by test scores.
The DAWG fails to note that their own data indicate
that adding the test score component, while not appreciably increasing
the quality of graduation prediction, dramatically increases the
number of otherwise qualified African American students ruled
ineligible and increases the number of unqualified Whites declared
The DAWGs reports recognize disparate impact
on females from Proposition 16 and 48, but inexplicably fail to
provide data regarding the magnitude of that impact,
The impact of Proposition 48 and Proposition
16 on other groups including Latinos and low-income students from
all racial backgrounds was ignored by the DAWG. However, based
on well-established research about test score distributions. the
negative consequences for these groups are likely to be similar
to those for African Americans.
Some members of the McIntosh Commission are concerned
that, although no data manipulation is evident in their reports,
the apparent ties of several DAWG researchers to "Beyondism" raises
serious issues about the NCAA's judgment in selecting such a team
'Beyondism" is a philosophy and organization which, despite the
lack of scientific evidence, believes that certain population
groups are inherently less intellectually able than others.
Rescind Proposition 16 because it is not supported
by the NCAA's own data, violates the recommendations of the Association's
own researchers, and excludes a far greater proportion of qualified
minorities than qualified whites.
Oppose "partial qualifier" provisions that still
depend on test score cut-offs.
Stop using a test score requirement to eliminate
students from eligibility for scholarships and varsity competition
since no test has been validated for this purpose.
Restore the practice of barring all first year
students from varsity eligibility, if underpreparation and exploitation
of entering athletes is indeed a valid issue.
Encourage member schools to invest in getting
all students, including athletes, up to speed through high-school-to-college
transition programs and mentoring.
Continue monitoring the academic performance
of student athletes with regard to retention, grade point averages,
course work completion, and graduation rates.
Allow individual institutions, not the NCAA.
to determine their own academic standards consistent with their
individual ethical and academic aims.
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MEMBERS OF THE McINTOSH COMMISSION
FOR FAIR PLAY IN STUDENT-ATHLETE ADMISSIONS
Dr. Marshall Banks, Howard University
Coach David Cooks. Darien High School
Dr. Russell Gough, Pepperdine University
Dr. Gordon Harrington, University of Northern Iowa
Dr. William. M. Harris, Sr., University of Virginia
Dr. Jerry Hirsh, University of Illinois
Dr. Duane Jackson, Morehouse College
Dr. Barry Mehler, Ferris State University
Dr. Frederick A. Rogers, University of Illinois
Robert A. Schaeffer, National Center for Fair & Open Testing
Dr. Peter Schdnemann, Purdue University
Dr. Andrew Sum, Northeastern University
Dr. Howard Taylor, Princeton University
Dr. William Thompson, University of Virginia
Dr. Parnela Zappardino, National Center for Fair & Open Testing
* Affiliations are listed for identification
"Report of the McIntosh Commission of Fair Play in student-athlete admissions." Dec 1994.