By Michelle Brutlag Hosick
The Division I Board of Directors today voted to allow more time for high school students and those who guide them to become familiar with higher initial eligibility standards, which now will go into effect in 2016. The class entering college in 2016 is currently in eighth grade and now will have all four years in high school to work toward the new standard.
The Board adopted the increase in initial-eligibility expectations last October, with an effective date of 2015, to ensure prospects are more academically prepared for college coursework. Since then, some administrators, coaches associations and secondary school administrators expressed concern about the implementation schedule.
“We want to give young people a fair chance to meet the new standards by taking core academic courses early in their high school education,” said Board Chair Judy Genshaft, president at South Florida. “The presidents have every confidence that future student-athletes will do the work necessary to be academically successful in college.”
The new initial-eligibility requirements create a higher academic standard for freshman to play. That standard is higher than what will be needed to receive aid and practice, creating an academic redshirt year.
Student-athletes who achieve the current minimum initial-eligibility standard will continue to be eligible for athletically related financial aid during the first year of enrollment and practice during the first regular academic term of enrollment. Student-athletes could earn practice during the second term of enrollment by passing nine semester or eight quarter hours.
For immediate access to competition, prospective student-athletes must achieve at least a 2.3 GPA and an increased sliding scale. For example, an SAT score of 1,000 requires a 2.5 high school core-course GPA for competition and a 2.0 high school core-course GPA for aid and practice.
Prospects also must successfully complete 10 of the 16 total required core courses before the start of their senior year in high school. Seven of the 10 courses must be successfully completed in English, math and science.
The new requirements are intended to ensure prospective student-athletes are as prepared to succeed in the classroom as they are in their sport, a message NCAA President Mark Emmert underscored in his Final Four press conference.
“When a young person is growing up, everybody knows exactly what they have to do to be prepared to play college ball,” Emmert said. “People are constantly saying you have to work on this part of your game, you have to work on that part of your game.
“Academics are vitally important and demand just as much attention as athletics, especially in college.”
Emmert said he wants more people talking to prospects about academic preparation in the next year as the enhanced eligibility standards are broadly communicated. NCAA staff are fanning out to youth events starting this weekend to communicate directly about the increased academic standards.
Thursday’s action does not minimize the Board’s commitment to academic success, Genshaft said, but acknowledges a need to give prospective student-athletes time to meet the higher expectations.
NCAA research indicates student-athletes in football and men’s basketball will feel the most significant impact from the higher academic standards. Those sports regularly post the lowest Academic Progress Rates and Graduation Success Rates.
The impact is expected to decrease over time as prospective student-athletes adjust to the changes and improve their preparation.