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Original Issue

Parity Takes a Hit

Rescinded by the NCAA, with the near-unanimous support of
basketball coaches, the so-called 5/8 rule, which limited the
number of scholarships a school could award to five a year and
eight total over a two-year period. (The maximum number of
players a team may have under scholarship will remain 13.) The
rule, enacted in 1999, grew out of a concern that coaches were
forcing players to transfer in hopes of bringing in superior
talent, but coaches persuaded NCAA president Myles Brand that the
rule had outlived its usefulness. "At the coaches' meeting at the
Final Four some guys said that this was the worst rule ever put
in college basketball," Manhattan coach Bobby Gonzalez says.
"This will give more opportunities to players and coaches."

However, abolishing the rule will make life tougher for Gonzalez,
whose Jaspers upset Florida in the first round of the 2004 NCAA
tournament. With the limits eased, there will be less talent
available to mid-major schools. Approximately 200 scholarships
were not filled last year in Division I, largely because of the
5/8 rule. Georgia coach Dennis Felton, for instance, can now
offer nine scholarships to his high-profile SEC school this year.
"The pool of players is definitely going to be smaller now for
the mid-major schools," says College of Charleston coach Tom
Herrion, who nonetheless was happy to see the rule go. "I think
that rule is a major reason why we've seen so much parity the
last few years." The NCAA also voted last week to forbid schools
from replacing scholarship players who become academically
ineligible, a decision that has also been well-received. "Schools
should be penalized if they're not moving players toward
graduation," Herrion says. --Seth Davis

COLOR PHOTO: EZRA SHAW/GETTY IMAGES (MANHATTAN) NO SLIPPER Would-be Cinderellas like Manhattan could have less tocelebrate.