Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What About Academics?


I was talking to a friend the other day about academics and how so many of our young people tend to concentrate more on athletics than they do their grades, and how websites like the Buckeye Prep Report and many others tend to concentrate more on basketball than they do getting the word out about the importance of school. To this end, and as somewhat of a public service announcement, we at Buckeye Prep want to say to all of our readers, including kids, parents and coaches alike; ACADEMICS ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN BASKETBALL!

As many of us know, each year there are thousands of kids who are talented enough to play college basketball at some level, but because they neglected their academics, they are unable to qualify for a division I, II, or III program. Let’s be clear, although there are a number of programs that will accept players who meet the minimum standards set by the NCAA, there are many schools that have their own academic standards which are much higher. Consequently, there are a number of schools that will look past a player because of grades, thus reducing the pool of opportunities for your child/player. Far too often college coaches shy away from more talented kids with sub-standard grades and eventually sign less talented student-athletes who were wise enough to take care of business in the class room.

What Does the NCAA Require?

The minimum NCAA requirements to play D-I college basketball require something like a 2.5 grade point average (GPA) and an ACT score of about 17. The actual numbers work on a sliding scale, where the higher the ACT/SAT score, the lower the GPA can be, and vice versa (i.e., 2.3/18 , 2.2/19, 2.1/20, 2.0/21). There are a number of factors that go into the equation, so I suggest that parents meet with their child’s guidance counselor for more specific information. Also, it is important to note that the GPA requirement is for “core” courses only (i.e., math, Chemistry, science, English, history, foreign language, government, etc), as opposed to electives (i.e., physical education, home economics, choir). According to NCAA statistics, more student-athletes fail to qualify to participate in NCAA sports because of a lack of appropriate course work than for lower scores. Your child could have a 3.0 overall GPA, but a core GPA of 1.9 and be in serious trouble! Also, for Division II program, there is no sliding scale; the minimum core GPA is a 2.0 and the minimum SAT is 820 and the minimum ACT is a 17 (see article).

Can a Student-Athlete Recover?

From my experience, much of the academic damage is done during a student’s freshman year in high school when the transition from middle school to high school is most difficult. At this stage, kids and parents often fail to pay attention to course work requirements and grades, while being lulled into a false since of security because their child is able to maintain eligibility to play school ball. What’s important to know, it’s very hard to raise a GPA significantly after only a couple of years of neglect.

Making it even more difficult for student-athletes to recover from a low GPA is the fact that traditionally, the NCAA has allowed students to take correspondence and on-line type courses to help a student catch up and raise his or her GPA; however, because of wide spread fraud and abuse and so called “diploma mills,” over the past several years, the NCAA has greatly reduced the number of programs they allow. If you have a child in this kind of situation right now, the Keystone School is one of the few remaining programs the NCAA still recognizes. Your child/player may be able obtain core credits though this program that will count towards the minimum requirements.

Also, one of the strategies employed by guidance counselors to repair damaged GPAs is to have the student to re-take core courses where he or she received C, D, and Fs, and replace them with the higher grade. In addition, most often, rather than coast out of their last year of high school, students who enter their senior year without qualifying scores must scramble and load their schedules with core courses in an effort to raise GPAs. Finally, there are a number of ACT/SAT prep programs available to help students increase their scores. Although many of these programs are a bit pricey, lower cost programs can be found with a little work. Look in local newspapers and go on-line to find affordable programs in your area.

What Else Should You Do?

To you parents, I would suggest that you pay close attention to your child’s course work and grades from day one, and don’t be satisfied with a 2.0 GPA. One bad semester and your child can quickly slip below that mark. A common misperception is that a C average is ok; don’t believe it; your child should at least shoot for at least a B in core courses. As a suggestion, routinely take a look at your son/daughter’s most recent interim and/or final grade cards, and if he or she is under a 2.0 GPA, you need to be very concerned! Also, make sure your child’s curriculum has a sufficient number core courses (the NCAA requires 16). Contact your school’s guidance counselors and ask questions. Ask the guidance counselor to calculate the “core GPA,” it may be much lower than you realize. Get the phone numbers for your child’s teachers and talk to them on a regular basis in order to get updates of his or her performance. I know for a fact that teachers love it when parents are involved in their child’s education and are very receptive to calls and notes. Additionally, many schools now allow parents to check their child’s grades on-line and get up to the minute progress.

In addition, have your child begin taking the ACT or SAT as soon and as often as possible, so you have a gauge of where they need to be. Your child can take the test as often as he or she likes and the NCAA will use the highest composite score from those tests. Also, don’t fall into the trap of thinking because your child has a learning disability and/or is participating in Individual Education Programs (IEP), that the minimum standards will be lowered. In fact, other than some allowances for additional time and oral presentation of test material, the same standards apply to all student athletes.

Of course I know many of the kids playing basketball are not fortunate enough to have a parent(s) who will read this piece and who will be willing take affirmative action; therefore, coaches, mentors and other caring adults need to stand up and help. To you coaches who pick kids up from school on Fridays to travel out of town for tournaments; next spring take a few minutes to go inside the school first to talk to the player’s guidance counselor( with parental permission of course), ask questions and then convey that information to the kid’s parent(s) or guardians. We all know “It Takes a Village” to raise our young people. We also know that a very small percentage of players will go on to have careers and make money in this game. Only a quality education and a college degree/occupation will ensure financial security for your child and their future families.

In closing, I don’t mean to preach, but sometimes things need to be said. Moreover, I understand players, parents, coaches and fans log onto to this website to read event reports, search for rankings, and to view the pictures, but as a parent, coach and fan myself, I thought it was important that I send a different message this time around in hopes that at least one person will take heed before it is too late, and take action before a kid misses out on an opportunity of a lifetime! Below are lists of links to some very important information:

Resources (click on hyper-link)
ACT Test Registration
NCAA Eligibility Information
NCAA Clearing House Information
Questions and Answers

2 comments:

  1. Great article Rob. Thanks. I tell kids all the time that they won't have to compete for scholarships with the kids that don't meet the grade and score requirements. Also a coach may choose one player over a similar player with lower grades and scores. Lets hope more kids pay attention to your spot on message.

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  2. This a tremendous public announcement. This is something that I intend to print off and distribute to all student/athletes and their parents that I come in contact with. You do the public a great service with these types of posts! Thank you!

    Coach Vic

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