NCAA deems 7th-graders as prospects

OXON HILL, Md. -- Giving in to the young-and-younger
movement in college basketball recruiting, the NCAA has decreed
that seventh-graders are now officially classified as prospects.

The organization voted Thursday to change the definition of a
prospect from ninth grade to seventh grade - for men's basketball
only - to nip a trend in which some college coaches were working at
private, elite camps and clinics for seventh- and eighth-graders.
The NCAA couldn't regulate those camps because those youngsters
fell below the current cutoff.

"It's a little scary only because -- we talked about this --
where does it stop?" said Joe D'Antonio, chairman of the 31-member
Division I Legislative Council, which approved the change during a
two-day meeting at the NCAA Convention. "The fact that we've got
to this point is really just a sign of the times."

Schools had expressed concern that the younger-age elite camps
were giving participating coaches a recruiting advantage,
pressuring other coaches to start their own camps.

"The need to nip that in the bud was overwhelming," said Steve
Mallonee, the NCAA's managing director of academic and membership

While men's basketball is the only sport affected, D'Antonio
said he could envision future discussions on lowering the limit for
other sports, notably football.

In other moves, the council deferred decisions on the NBA draft
declaration window, the admission of women's beach volleyball as an
emerging sport, the admissibility of online courses and the length
of the baseball season. All will be submitted to the NCAA as a
whole during a comment period and will likely be put to a vote
again by the council in April.

The Atlantic Coast Conference proposed that underclassmen be
given a 10-day period to decide whether to remain committed to
entering the NBA draft. Currently, a player who declares for the
draft can take up to two months to mull over his decision, leaving
his team in limbo.

D'Antonio said the consensus seemed to be that 10 days was too
short of a span for a player to fully explore his draft prospects,
but that the current window was too long. A compromise time period
will probably be put to a vote in April.

"Is there somewhere in the middle that we can meet that would
make the majority of the membership pleased?" D'Antonio said. "It
appears we could be headed in that direction, but it's too early to

Beach volleyball, which is NCAA is calling "sand volleyball"
in the quest for more universal appeal, didn't get the two-thirds
approval necessary but looks certain to pass after the comment
period, when only 50 percent of the vote is needed. If passed, it
would be placed on the list of emerging sports for women in 2010.

The council gave four low-participation women's sports the ax
from the emerging list: archery, badminton, team handball and
synchronized swimming.

In an era in which students are taking many courses online, the
council wasn't ready to allow athletes to do the same. Proposals to
allow athletes to take online courses at other schools were
defeated, as was a proposal to allow athletes to take all of their
courses online at their own school. The council did leave open the
possibility of an April vote that would allow athletes to take up
to 50 percent of their courses online at their own school.

"There are perception concerns," D'Antonio said, "that if you
have an individual who is a high-profile student-athlete who's
taking nothing but nontraditional courses and never setting foot on
campus, how is that going to be looked at by the general public?"

The council defeated a proposal to increase the number of
scholarships for baseball, but left open for comment proposals that
would change the length of the season and reduce the number of

On Friday, the NCAA is scheduled to vote on whether to override
a new rule that would prohibit men's basketball coaches from
attending popular but unsanctioned April tournaments for

The NCAA also honored several award winners:

-Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright won the Theodore
Roosevelt Award, presented to a former college athlete who went on
to make a national impact. Albright competed in swimming, rowing
and field hockey at Wellesley.

-Tennis great Billie Jean King was honored with the Gerald R.
Ford Award, named after the former president. It recognizes King's
leadership and advocacy for intercollegiate athletics.

-Silver Awards, a 25th-years-later honor for athletes who
excelled in their chosen professions, went to Steve Young
(football), Deitre Collins-Parker (volleyball, basketball), Mark
Fusco (ice hockey), Earl "Butch" Graves Jr. (basketball), Darrell
Green (football) and Kathryn McMinn (gymnastics.)

-The Inspiration Award was given to Middlebury College skier
Kelly Brush, who was paralyzed in a fall during a competition in
2006. She graduated last year and has established the Kelly Brush
Foundation, dedicated to improving ski racing safety.

-Top VIII awards, which recognize athletic success, academic
accomplishments, community service and leadership, went to: Yael
Averbuch (North Carolina, soccer), Kirby Blackley (Findlay, track
and field), Dylan Carney (Stanford, gymnastics), Gregory Micheli
(Mount Union, football), Kristi Miller (Georgia Tech, tennis),
Louie Sakoda (Utah, football), Katy Tafler (Grand Valley State,
soccer) and Angela Tincher (Virginia Tech, softball).