NCAA considers $20,000 loans, other rules changes

Thursday, April 25th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Top college players could receive $20,000 in loans if a new rules package is approved by the NCAA.

The governing body's board of directors will consider a range of proposals Thursday as part of a plan to redefine ``amateur.''

One proposal would allow high school players to turn pro for a year and still retain college eligibility. Another would permit the NCAA to pay disability insurance for some top athletes.

``A lot of people argue that times are changing and we have to change with the times,'' said Ohio State president Brit Kirwan, the board chairman. ``So it is a difficult time for us.''

Some measures, such as the loan package, have been proposed before and tabled. That could happen again. Kirwan did not say which proposals he thought might pass but acknowledged some may be withdrawn.

The committee also will examine a measure that would let high school athletes enter a draft but still go to college without losing eligibility if they don't sign a contract with a team or an agent.

Another proposal would allow those in high school to head to the pros for a year, then sit out a year and enter college with three years of eligibility left.

``I think the most divisive elements are those associated with allowing athletes who have been paid for playing being able to play (in college),'' Kirwan said.

The catalyst for the suggested changes is the increase in the number of athletes leaving college early and high school athletes skipping college altogether.

In last weekend's NFL draft, 12 of the first 28 players selected were underclassmen. Half the top eight picks in last year's NBA draft were high schoolers; only one college senior was taken in that span.

``You could make a pretty compelling case on both sides of the argument,'' Kirwan said. ``People are ready to argue both sides eloquently and forcefully.''

At the top of the NCAA's agenda is a proposal to allow ``elite'' athletes to take one-time loans of up to $20,000, based on potential earnings.

These athletes would be determined by where they are projected to go in a pro league's draft, though the standards vary for the sports under discussion _ football, men's and women's basketball, hockey and baseball.

The NCAA executive committee also is scheduled to meet Friday to begin its search for a replacement to president Cedric Dempsey. He is retiring when his term ends Jan. 1.

Tulsa president Bob Lawless heads a four-member committee that will narrow the field of candidates. The other committee members are Kirwan; Patricia Cormier, president of Longwood College in Virginia and chairwoman of the Division II Presidents Council; and Bette Landman of Beaver College in Pennsylvania and chairwoman of the Division III Presidents Council.

Two or three finalists will be selected in September, and a final decision should come in October. No one has applied yet.

With a new president on the way and major rules changes under consideration, this week has the potential to dramatically alter the face of college sports.

``We're asking the NCAA to move away from one of its founding principles,'' Kirwan said. ``Given that fact, it's made it a really difficult issue.''