A Senate leader has decided to kill a controversial proposal by Governor Keating that could have crippled athletic programs at the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University.
The proposal in question, HB 1710, would have banned the teaching of remedial courses at the state's two comprehensive universities - an action that athletic officials claim would have put them at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting and retaining student athletes.
Citing objections raised by college athletic officials, Senator Cal Hobson, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Education, said his subcommittee would not hear HB 1710. The proposal was part of Governor Keating's "LearnPower" program.
"The people in the know tell us that this legislation would have a devastating impact on the OU and OSU athletic programs. I don't think anyone is in favor of punishing college athletics or student athletes in Oklahoma, especially since this proposal doesn't really do anything to improve academics at the universities. It doesn't reduce remedial course offerings or the need for them; it just makes students take them at a different location," said Senator Hobson.
In a letter to the Senate leadership, OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione raised serious concerns about a proposed ban on remedial courses, saying "implications of the legislation are significant." Castiglione wrote:
"Current NCAA rules prohibit the use of athletic related financial aid to cover the cost of any coursework at other institutions. Further, student-athletes needing remediation would be required to take a fulltime 12 hour credit load in addition to the remedial course(s) taken at a community college. The additional course load is often detrimental for first year high-risk students"
"A large number of our football and men's basketball freshmen are special admissions by University standards and many require remedial education. To require these student athletes to pay for these courses and possibly take them off-campus would create a disadvantage for OU and OSU over other Big 12 institutions such as the University of Texas, which offers their own remedial courses and approximates OU's current system. The proposed bill offers an impractical means of meeting curricular deficiencies and an unnecessary hardship on students. It will certainly create a recruiting advantage for our competitors," wrote Castiglione.
The OU athletic director also noted that the legislation would be especially damaging during the current recruiting season because prospective recruits would not have to time to modify their high school coursework accordingly.
"In light of the points raised by Mr. Castiglione, I don't think there's any compelling reason to advance the Governor's proposal. I doubt Governor Keating would be able to muster much support for crippling the OU and OSU athletic programs," said Senator Hobson.
Although Senator Hobson's decision not to hear the bill in subcommittee technically kills HB 1710, Governor Keating could attempt to revive the proposal in negotiations later this legislative session.
"I hope Governor Keating will let this idea die the death it deserves, but there's certainly nothing stopping him from raising the issue again. Before he does, I would caution him to do a more thorough job of researching his proposals before he puts them into legislation. When you deal in bumper sticker solutions that haven't been thoroughly researched, there's a very wide margin of error. I think we've seen that illustrated in this case," said Senator Hobson.