Changing Times

Athletic recruiting in the Big East conference has changed drastically with the implementation of a new policy that bars the admission of athletic non-qualifiers to league schools.

The policy, which was discussed as far back as the November 2004 presidents' meeting, means that member schools may not admit non-qualifiers to their athletic programs. Prospective athletes, who previously had to achieve a combined qualifying score based on a sliding scale of grade point averages and test scores in order to play as freshman, will now have to attain those benchmarks in order to enroll in member schools.

"The policy was adopted at the presidents' meeting in November [2005], and is in effect at this time," Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese told "We are cleaning up the language in the policy, and it will be in our policy manual for next year. We are just dotting the Is and crossing the Ts at this point."

The policy, which mirrors those of many other conferences, was the subject of spirited debate.

"There was a healthy discussion of the merits of the policy," Tranghese said of the discussions among the school presidents. "It was all on the academic merits of the policy. There was not any discussion of the athletic ramifications, although I certainly am aware of those issues."

With the Big East football conference still being viewed negatively by many, the implementation of such a policy might be views as hamstringing one of the competitive advantages some Big East schools enjoyed over their competitors. Schools such as West Virginia have a good track record in educating and graduating non-qualifiers. Current Mountaineer Brandon Myles is one of many such success stories. The Virginia native recently earned his fourth year of athletic eligibility by making all the required progress toward his degree. Under the new policy, however, players such as Myles would not be able to enroll at a Big East school until they either earned a qualifying test score/GPA by attending a prep school, or by graduating from a junior college. Other nonqualifiers who contributed to West Virginia's Sugar Bowl championship this year included wide receiver Darius Reynaud, linebacker Eric Wicks, defensive lineman Johnny Dingle and defensive backs Thandi Smith and Tyler Benoit. Others on the team include Eric Turner, Brandon Barrett, Ed Collington and Selvish Capers. The latter two are currently sitting out their year of ineligibility and will begin practicing this fall. The policy only affects players currently being recruited, and is not retroactive to any players already enrolled in member schools.

Tranghese, while acknowledging that he was "fully aware" of the implications of the policy on athletics, said that discussions on the impact on member athletic departments did not occur at the presidents' meetings.

"That subject did not come up," Tranghese said in describing the meetings. "It was all focused on the academic merits of the policy. The athletic directors were present during three different meetings, but there was no discussion of the football side of the policy."

While Tranghese declined to disclose the vote, sources close to the situation indicate that the balloting was 13-3 in favor of the policy.

In a related matter, Tranghese also confirmed that discussions have been held about the process of "grayshirting", wherein prospective student-athletes defer their enrollment for a semester or more.

"There have been talks about grayshirting, but I don't know whether or not a policy could be made there. It's a gray area," Tranghese said, perhaps unconscious of the pun. "You don't know whether those student athletes are going to qualify or not."

BlueGoldNews Top Stories