Standardized testing is unfair to many student-athletes. The NCAA should drop it

·3 min read

Critics of the NCAA have long held that the way it governs collegiate sports is an archaic model in need of reform. From its nonsensical rules on amateurism to its old-fashioned way of conducting business, the NCAA — a billion-dollar per year industry — has been slow to level the playing field for the very athletes responsible for lining the organization’s pockets through lucrative television rights deals and other revenue-generating avenues.

But relief could be on the way for prospective college student-athletes across the nation, including low-income and minority children competing on fields and courts in Kansas and Missouri.

A barrier that has cost countless young people the opportunity to attend college for free or at a reduced rate might soon be dismantled.The NCAA Standardized Test Score Task Force wants to drop testing standards for high school students preparing to play Division I or II sports.

And it’s about time. Nostalgia and tradition aside, true amateurism in college sports hasn’t existed for some time.

We’re not fully convinced the NCAA will survive in its current form. But the latest news, announced last week, is a positive step that committees for NCAA DI and DII athletics should adopt at their next meetings in February.

Lower-income and minority student-athletes with lower test scores have the most to gain. A college education can increase someone’s lifetime earning potential twofold. The NCAA had been slow to adapt to a changing business structure until several states passed recent legislation that allowed student athletes to make money off their name, image and likeness.

Thank goodness, the powers that be in college sports realized that a student-athlete has a right to earn a buck for what had been unpaid labor.

Yes, scholarships at the Division I and II levels cover the cost of tuition, room and board, books and food — and other perks such as the use of tutors and other academic support services.

But standardized testing limits the chances that poor and minority student-athletes to attend the college of their choice. And test scores are not the best indicator of future success.

Administrators at Mizzou, KU and K-State must use the coming months to reevaluate their admissions policies and consider dropping test score requirements for nonathletes as well. Other schools have waived testing requirements for first-year students.

Mizzou has a temporary test-optional policy for incoming freshmen that should become permanent. Admission for new or incoming freshmen at K-State is test-optional, although some programs have more stringent requirements. KU uses a test-optional approach but also admits some students based on test scores combined with their grade averages.

Even if the NCAA approves the recommendation, and test scores for college entry are waived, K-12 teachers and administrators must continue to think about their responsibility to educate students from all walks of life.

“You can’t measure what’s in a kid’s heart to be successful,” said UMKC Vice Chancellor and Athletic Director Brandon Martin, one of highest ranking minorities in a leadership role at UMKC. “You can’t measure his drive, his motivation for his will to succeed. There’s no measure for that. We have to look at the non-cognitive variables.”

Any hurdle that excludes access to higher education for student-athletes should be brought down.

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