Plan could help athletes graduate

Updated: July 28, 2004, 5:09 PM ET
Associated Press

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The Atlantic Coast Conference has proposed making football players eligible to compete for five years, saying the extra season might allow some students to get their degrees rather than leave school early.

The NCAA will vote on the proposal no earlier than April 2005, said Shane Lyons, the ACC's associate commissioner.

"Many students who have exhausted eligibility have to make a decision about whether they pursue their professional or athletic career without getting their education," Lyons said in a phone interview Tuesday. "We believe it's more likely that student athletes will return if they still have that eligibility."

The ACC, which proposed the rule to the NCAA earlier this month, suggested that the NCAA eliminate redshirt seasons, when players are on the team but don't play. A redshirt season does not count toward eligibility.

About 70 percent of college football players are redshirted, Lyons said.

The proposal shouldn't increase costs because the scholarship limit will remain at 85, he said. "The pool of athletes may be around a year longer than they are now," he said.

The average student, not just one who plays sports, takes 4.8 years to graduate, said Lyons, citing an NCAA study. In addition, the NCAA's new academic standards are based on five years for a degree, he said.

The National Association of Basketball Coaches has proposed similar legislation for men's and women's basketball players. The American Football Coaches Association has supported the legislation for several years, Lyons said.


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press