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NCAA Gives Athletes Right To Work

NCAA athletes on Wednesday won the right to hold part-time jobs, a ruling that might signal a new relationship between big-time college programs and the players who generate millions of dollars for them.

Many coaches and administrators worry that the decision will encourage booster groups and possibly bring a a new wave of cheating -- athletes being paid for work they never did.

But others, including Bridgit Niland, head of the NCAA's student-athlete advisory committee, lauded the move by the college presidents, who hold power under the NCAA's new structure.

"They really did consider the welfare of the student-athlete instead of just saying they were," Niland told The Associated Press.

Final approval for the measure, adopted during the NCAA's 1997 convention but suspended for a year, was made by the NCAA's board of directors, a group of college presidents, meeting in Indianapolis.

Starting this August, Division I athletes who have been enrolled for one year will be able to earn up to $2,000 a year. They can work while their sport is in season, and the jobs can be arranged by the athletic department or boosters.

Significantly, the jobs also can be with the school's recreation department, provided its budget is separate from the athletic department's budget.

Niland said she doubts most athletes will seek jobs.

"There are too many time demands on these kids," she said."The only time the abuse is going to happen is when it's facilitated by a coach or an athletic director."

Another concern is that highly sought recruits will expect coaches to guarantee jobs. And still another is that athletes may spend time working instead of studying, and let their grades slump.

"It's going to be a disaster," Kansas State basketball coach Tom Asbury said.

David Berst, head of the NCAA's enforcement department, said he was not bracing for a repeat of the widespread cheating that occurred before boosters were barred from recruiting.

"Boosters are willing to follow the instructions of coaches," he said. "And the abuses that we all remember were often the result of the coaches and others who winked at the notion that the boosters should avoid violations."

Many coaches resent not being represented on the committee that worked with the NCAA's management council and board of directors in making the decision.

Niland, a committee member, said the proposal was recommended
"only reluctantly" last week by the athletic administrators who make up the management council.

"Division I athletics has become so much of a business and there's so much money at stake, the coaches and athletic directors can't look at them as student-athletes -- the presidents can," Niland said.

"This philosophically sounds good to the presidents, but it's the coaches who will get fired," a basketball coach who asked not to be identified told a recent meeting of the National Assocition of Basketball Coaches.

Syracuse president Kenneth Shaw, the board chairman, made good on the promise he made last year when the board suspended the rule.

"We are delighted to give student-athletes the opportunity to work in this way," he said."... We said we were going to do this, and we're doing it. It's a good first step."

In other action, the board did away with the five-year rule on restricted earnings for coaches, which is the subject of current litigation, and said the NCAA will no longer be required to accommodate schools that do not wish to play on Sunday.

This was known as the "BYU Rule." Since Brigham Young, a Mormon school, did not want to play NCAA tournament games on Sunday, the Cougars were always put in brackets that called for Thursday-Saturday games during the NCAA basketball tournament.

"The board is sensitive to the interests of those schools," Shaw said. "However, to single out Sunday as the only day of accommodation ignores the interests of other schools and places a difficult burden on the management of championships competition and the academic best interests of other student-athletes."

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