Citing the concerns of the University of Oklahoma's athletic director, a State Senate leader is calling for Governor Keating to withdraw his controversial proposal to ban the teaching of remedial courses at OU and Oklahoma State University. The legislation, HB 1710, is currently awaiting action in a Senate committee.
"If Governor Keating gets his way on this issue, we can forget about winning any more national championships at OU or OSU. Whether it was intended or not, the Governor's program would take away our competitive edge in recruiting and retaining high-quality student athletes without
improving academics in any way. I don't see that as a positive for the state of Oklahoma," said Senator Keith Leftwich, Majority Whip of the Oklahoma State Senate.
"At a time when OSU, OU and Tulsa University have all made us proud with their performances in the NCAA basketball tournament, this would be a real slap in the face. Fortunately for Tulsa, it's immune from the Governor's academic tampering, but OU and OSU are not."
The Senate leader cited comments made by OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione in a Tulsa World news story Saturday. Castiglione indicated that a ban on remedial courses would put OU and OSU at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting student athletes, noting that other Big 12 schools such as Texas offer remedial classes to students.
According to Castiglione, a remedial course ban would force many OU and OSU student athletes to take the courses at junior colleges, causing them NCAA eligibility problems and personal financial hardships.
The NCAA requires student athletes to take no less than 12 hours per semester at their home university and junior college courses cannot be counted toward that total. The courses cannot be financed by scholarship either, meaning student athletes would have to pay for them out of their own pockets.
"Everyone wants to improve academics, but all this proposal does is create chaos in the OU and OSU athletic programs. It would drive good student athletes away from Oklahoma without doing anything to improve academic quality. Either Governor Keating didn't do his homework on his proposal or he doesn't place a very high value on athletics at OU and OSU," said Senator Leftwich.
HB 1710 has been approved by the House and is awaiting action in the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senator Leftwich is calling on Governor Keating to withdraw his support of the legislation.
"If Governor Keating withdraws his support of the bill, it will guarantee its defeat, not just for this year, but for years to come. If he doesn't, this issue will come up again and again, sending the signal that Oklahoma may pull the rug out from under our student athletes someday in the future.
I don't think we want to have this hanging over our head when OU and OSU coaches hit the recruiting trail," said Senator Leftwich.
The proposed ban on remedial courses is part of Governor Keating's so-called "LearnPower" education program. The same initiative also contains a proposal that would prohibit public schools from allowing students to participate in athletics during the six-hour school day.
"I don't know if Governor Keating has something against Oklahoma's fine tradition of athletics, but his proposals certainly seem to be aimed in that direction. I think the Governor needs to recognize that both academics and athletics are beneficial to students and can co-exist without detracting from each other," said Senator Leftwich.
"I think a lot of people are fearful that after he's torn down athletics, Governor Keating will turn his attention to other extra-curricular activities like band, drama and music. That's something we need to avoid."