College Sports Under Fire

August 15, 1986

Report Outline
Winning Games, Flunking Grades
Schools Failing Education Test
Time to Change Rules of the Game?
Special Focus

Winning Games, Flunking Grades

Len Bias and Terry Mills never played on the same basketball team, and the events that befell each one this summer were very different. Yet the two gifted athletes, one at the end and the other at the beginning of his college sports career, symbolize the turmoil afflicting intercollegiate athletics—as well as, possibly, the hope for reform.

Bias' death from a cocaine overdose June 19, just two days after he signed a lucrative contract to play in the National Basketball Association, profoundly shook the college sports world. Coming as it did on the heels of a seemingly endless string of scandals and controversies—involving recruiting violations, illegal payments to players and “point-shaving” in connection with gambling—the tragedy prompted soul-searching at schools with major basketball and football programs. And when it was revealed that Bias, like many athletes, was far from receiving a college degree despite attending the University of Maryland for four years, the incident raised fundamental questions about whether there was any educational value left in big-time college sports.

Mills also has been caught up in the controversy over college sports and educational goals. In July, the University of Michigan announced that the high school All-American player who has been dubbed Michigan's “Mr. Basketball” won't be playing basketball at the university this winter because of academic problems. Mills is one of the first and most prominent players to be affected by a new National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) rule setting minimum entry levels of academic achievement, as measured by high-school grades and scores on standardized tests, for freshmen student athletes who compete in NCAA top-level play.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
College Sports
Apr. 24, 2020  Compensating College Athletes
Jun. 03, 2016  College Athletics
Jul. 11, 2014  Paying College Athletes
Nov. 18, 2011  College Football
Mar. 19, 2004  Reforming Big-Time College Sports
Mar. 23, 2001  Sportsmanship
Aug. 26, 1994  College Sports
Aug. 15, 1986  College Sports Under Fire
Apr. 15, 1983  Changing Environment in College Sports
Sep. 05, 1975  Future of Varsity Sports
Sep. 10, 1952  Commercialism in College Athletics
Sports and Recreation
Undergraduate and Graduate Education