Susan and Warren Ganden realized early in their son Chad's swimming career at Naperville North High in suburban Chicago that his learning disability might jeopardize his chances of meeting NCAA college eligibility standards. So in May 1994 they began writing to the NCAA to explain why Chad (below right), now a senior—who won the 100-yard freestyle at last year's state meet—might need relief from the organization's exacting rules. The NCAA says it tried to communicate with the Gandens. Susan says, "It was like talking to robots. They were absolutely unmovable."
The NCAA might now be forced to move. Acting on a complaint from the Gandens, the U.S. Department of Justice is investigating whether NCAA rules violate sections of either the Federal Rehabilitation Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act, both of which, among other things, require colleges to accommodate people with learning disabilities.
Last month Chad, who has an average IQ but whose problems decoding written words qualify him as learning disabled, was denied the opportunity to accept school-paid recruiting visits to Arizona State and Michigan State because he had taken only six college preparatory courses (known as core courses) instead of the NCAA-mandated seven. There is a good reason for this: The Gandens had insisted that Chad proceed cautiously in his freshman and sophomore years, choosing basic courses to pick up the academic fundamentals that would enable him to overcome his handicap, rather than risk his becoming frustrated in more advanced classes and failing.
Chad's eligibility problems don't end there. Because he got only the minimum passing score of 17 on the ACT (like all learning disabled students, he was permitted to take the test untimed), his grade point average of 2.1 in core courses is below NCAA requirements for a student with that ACT score. Yet there's reason to believe Chad can succeed at the next academic level. Thousands of learning disabled students are doing adequate work in college as long as they are given untimed tests and other accommodations. "An athlete like Chad, who has a reason to want to succeed and who has worked hard to get this far," says Jane Jarrow, executive director of the Association on Higher Education and Disability in Columbus, Ohio, "is an excellent bet to be successful in college."
That's what the Gandens stressed to the NCAA when they began their letter writing during Chad's sophomore year. But the replies never got beyond a them's-the-rules mind-set that frustrated the Gandens. The NCAA cannot be faulted for having academic eligibility standards. But it can be faulted for not recognizing, as Naperville principal Dr. Bruce Cameron says, "a whole new variable at work: youngsters like Chad who are caught in the middle." If the NCAA is going to hold such terrible power over student-athletes, then it had better be ready to realize that special situations call for special solutions.
Solving a Grave Problem
Mired in a 2-7-1 tailspin after languishing near the bottom of the American Hockey League's Atlantic Division for much of the season, the Fredericton Canadiens last week recalled center Keli Corpse from the East Coast Hockey League. The Canadiens must have figured they could use all the bodies they could get.
Four months after a report alleging that he had viciously attacked his wife (SI, July 31), veteran NBA player Robert Parish broke his silence on the issue of spousal abuse. In an interview published in the Nov. 23 Boston Globe, Parish disputed Nancy Saad's account of a beating at his hands in a Los Angeles hotel in June 1989 (the couple divorced in '90). "I didn't kick her," Parish told the Globe. "I didn't hit her. I didn't slap her. I pushed her away from the door." Parish also said, "To me, assault is kicking someone's ass, and that definitely did not happen." Parish said he didn't talk about the incident earlier because "the only thing that was going to come out of the article was what Nancy said and what Robert said."
Not quite. Parish waited four months to talk and then did so in cursory fashion, even as a stack of court records remain sealed at his request. (Parish, now playing for the Charlotte Hornets, denied SI an interview last week.) Saad supported what she told SI with witnesses and included medical records showing that she spent seven days in a hospital, including a stay in intensive care, after the alleged beating.
Asked by the Globe why Saad would need to be hospitalized if he only pushed her, Parish said, "That's a good question. Nothing she says or does surprises me."