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USC Football Heavy With Special Admits

6:08 PM, Aug 7, 2007   |    comments
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COLUMBIA -- While coach Steve Spurrier has complained about the process, the University of South Carolina's special admissions committee has given the football coach's recruits a lot of consideration and approved a large number of them in his three years at the school. "That'd be accurate,'" Provost Mark Becker said Monday. Spurrier's first three recruiting classes include 63 special admits -- 84 percent of the players admitted -- according to figures supplied by the athletic department. NCAA rules allow Division I programs to bring in 25 players each year. Spurrier's first class featured 23 special admits. There were 22 in 2006-07 and 18 in 2007-08. The latter number could go up if any players enroll in January, said Val Sheley, senior associate athletic director. Overall, USC has approved 65 students for special admits this year, with several cases pending, spokesman Russ McKinney said. There were a total of 74 special admit applications in a freshmen class of 3,650 to 3,700. Under a policy set by the faculty senate, the number of special admits is capped at 100 each year, McKinney said. He said about half of the special admits annually are athletes. Special admits are students not accepted under the regular admission guidelines but who possess "a special performance talent" in athletics as well as music or dance, Becker said. In a telephone interview, Becker went over USC's admissions procedure in detail while saying he could not discuss any specific student because of federal privacy laws. Becker declined to talk about Spurrier's comments Sunday in which he raised the possibility of leaving if the process wasn't changed. "Anything between the coach and I, the coach and I will deal with between the two of us," Becker said. The admission department deals with most applications. Anyone denied admission can appeal to the special admissions committee, which consists of four faculty members. If that committee denies the appeal, a student can make one final appeal to the provost. "The buck stops with me," Becker said. Becker said the special admissions committee acts within two to three weeks on any applicant and that he tries to decide on appeals "within a matter of days whenever possible." In all cases, the appeals go through the department the student is seeking to join, such as athletics for an incoming recruit. But the process isn't always quick or easy, Becker said, which is the component that concerned Spurrier. The admissions department cannot make its decision until USC has received an athlete's official transcript and official SAT or ACT score. The school cannot accept faxed transcripts, Becker said. That, Becker said, isn't always easy. There can be problems getting the information from high schools, prep schools or junior colleges. There can also be problems with the SAT or ACT. If an athlete takes it in the summer, that delays the process, Becker said. There is also a litany of other issues that can slow the special admissions committee's work. Becker said that can include such things as an athlete who changed high schools with "some frequency," enrolled in a "large number" of correspondence courses, has taken the SAT or ACT several times or has had "wide swings" in scores. In the latter case, the testing company can take six to eight weeks to investigate the matter, Becker said. The special admissions committee meets frequently, setting its schedule at least two months before football's national signing period begins in February. Spurrier complained that he didn't know how the process "drug into the first week of August." The special admits committee denied the application of football recruit Arkee Smith in late July, and his appeal of that denial was rejected late last week just before USC began preseason practice Saturday. "This is not an adversarial process," Becker said "All I can tell you is the committee considers every file when they receive the complete and full information." Becker said the process "generally works well," but that he and athletic director Eric Hyman have been working for several months to refine it. Becker said they have examined what other schools do to see if there are ways to make sure the admissions department receives all the information as early as possible from the athletes or their schools. Becker said he wasn't sure how quickly any changes would be implemented. "All I can tell you is we hope to have them done before the next recruiting season," he said. "We've got meetings scheduled between athletics and my office. We're going to try to do it as well as we can in a timely manner." Rick Scoppe The Greenville News

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