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In an effort to help freshman athletes balance academics and athletics, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is considering prohibiting first year college students from taking part in varsity sports.
If the Presidents Commission of the NCAA approves the measure at a special conference this summer, the association will be reversing a policy which has been in effect since the early seventies.
The measure was discussed at last week's annual meeting of NCAA members, said Patricia Miller, associate director of athletics, who attended the conference.
Many college athletic officers said they thought a reversal in policy would improve the academic performance of some freshman athletes who might otherwise spend too much time with the team and not do their schoolwork, Miller said.
However, Miller said she was not sure she liked the idea of forbidding freshman to play on varsity teams. "Students need something that first year," she said.
At its meeting last week, the NCAA decided to limit the amount of money and time that they can be spent on recruiting high school athletes. Although Miller said she supported the changes, she said, "It will take a few years to iron out the bugs." She cited the fact that the rule was amended because high school girls' basketball is played during the fall in some states.
College alumni may no longer contact students who are being recruited for athletics. These restrictions affect Ivy League schools in particular whose alumni interview all prospective freshman.
Two years ago the NCAA prohibited alumni from meeting with prospective athletes, but still allowed them to contact athletes through mail and by telephone.
The association also voted to limit the number of football scholarships offered in Division I schools. Although Harvard does not award athletic scholarships, Miller said she feels that the rule may have an effect on the university.
"In the long run," she said, "it will benefit institutions in the Ivy League and other sports." If less scholarship money were offered to students, more of them would consider other schools such as Harvard which do not offer athletic scholarships.
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