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NCAA Response Does Not Address CNN Report

Sara Ganim of CNN published a report which called into question why athletes were being admitting to college, allowed to participate in collegiate athletics, and earning degrees when their test scores indicated an elementary school reading level. Not exactly breaking news, but the report tackled the issue with an unusual amount of data and framed it a novel way.

Today the NCAA responded, disputing the facts in Ganim’s report. The problem is, the response does not address the points raised by Ganim. The CNN investigation focused on verbal and reading scores, making the argument that a 400 SAT critical reading score or 16 ACT reading score meant a student was college literate and that many athletes fell short of that mark.

The NCAA focused instead on the entire standardized test. The one apples-to-apples comparison the NCAA made confirms part of Ganim’s report: that 30 revenue sport athletes were certified as eligible in 2012 with SAT scores below 700 or the ACT equivalent. The bullet about the correlation between high school GPA and test scores is even more out of place because GPA and the sliding scale are not even mentioned in Ganim’s report.

The NCAA does not require prospects to earn a minimum score on specific sections of the SAT and ACT. A prospect’s test score for initial eligibility purposes is also a “super score”. That is, the NCAA takes the best performance on each individual section from multiple tests to get the final score. Theoretically, it is possible to be outside of the range of very low SAT scores defined by the NCAA (under 700) but well within Ganim’s definition of college illiterate with an 550 on the math portion and a 200 on the critical reading portion.

To address CNN’s report head on, the NCAA must release at least composite data about SAT critical reading and ACT reading scores, not composite scores. Alternatively, the NCAA could use the data it has to demonstrate that the central claim of the CNN report (i.e. < 400 SAT/16 ACT reading score = not college literate = should not have been admitted/received a degree) is incorrect. But this response and the data presented by the NCAA does nothing to refute the conclusions Ganim asks us to draw.

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