As most of you have undoubtedly heard by now that the NCAA recently implemented changes that will have a major impact on recruiting and college athletics. I’m sure you have heard about rule changes that effect “open periods” where college coaches can evaluate prospects at various AAU type of events and at various times during the spring and summer. In fact, we posted a short article detailing some of the changes associated with scholarship values and the possibility that schools can now offer multi-year scholarships as well as stipends of up to $2000 to cover the “full cost of attendance.”
What has been less publicized are the tough new academic standards now required to get through the NCAA Clearing House and to qualify for college scholarships. These new standards are going to make it much more difficult for high school athletes to realize their dream of playing Division I college athletics. Today, I received a call from a friend of mine who coaches basketball at a D-I mid-major level program in Ohio, asking that I help get the word out to players, parents, coaches and relatives of these young athletes so they understand what’s at stake if the student fails to make the grade.
One of the biggest changes involves minimum grade point averages (GPA). Prior to the new regulations, prospective student athletes were required to have a minimum of a 2.0 GPA to qualify. That minimum GPA is now a 2.3. In addition, although there is still a sliding scale in terms of the GPA and ACT/SAT score, the student must have a minimum of a 2.3 GPA. Let’s be specific here; if your child/player gets all Cs on his/her report card, they will still fall well short of the requirement. To achieve a 2.3 GPA, students must make at least some A's and B's. If your child is bringing home D's and F's it’s going to be VERY difficult to reach a 2.3 GPA.
Making it even worse, the strategy (dropping a failed class and taking it over to achieve a higher score) once used to help repair low GPAs has now been limited due to another change that now requires students to have at least 10 of their 16 required core courses completed by the end of the student’s junior year in high school. The consequences of this change is that students will no longer be able to take a “do over” for core curses which they have previously failed, in hopes of raising the grade in that course. This is very significant for students who get off to a slow start as freshmen and sophomores, because some of the traditional approaches employed get a student qualified are being dismantled.
In addition, the NCAA has not stopped there; according to the college coach I mentioned above, his school's compliance officer just told him that in the very near future the minimum GPA will be increased to a 2.5. If you think a 2.3 is difficult for some of these kids, there are going to be a lot of young kids who struggle with the higher standard. There may be ramifications in other areas as well. Remember, many of the country's most talented basketball players often leave inner-city type programs in order to enroll in more suburban school districts or religion-based schools, where the academic standards may be higher. Faced with higher academic standards by the new school and the NCAA, many of these kids are going to be hit with a harsh reality.
Allow me to cite an example of the potential impact of the new standards. The college coach I mentioned previously looked at the kids on his current roster, and speculated that at least one quarter of his current players would not have qualified for admission or a scholarship under the new standards. That would have meant 3 or 4 of his current players would not have realized their dreams of playing division one college basketball on scholarship after graduation.
As a consequence, the 3-4 players who would not have made the grade with the changes would have created opportunities for someone else to take those scholarships, and who do think that might be? That’s right, students who took care of business in the classroom. Those players who stand to benefit from the new standards may not run as fast, jump as high or be as athletic as others, but they were just talented enough and took care of their grades, so they get the opportunity to compete at the next level. Let me be clear, a college coach may still bring a student into the program if he/she has less than a 2.3 GPA, but the kid will have to sit out the first year, and will have to pay their own way through school. With that said, the problem with that scenario is that most programs can’t afford to bring in a kid in who cannot play the first year.
Oh, it does not stop there; once a kid actually arrives on a college campus the NCAA has increased the penalties on programs that fail to maintain an acceptable Academic Progress Rate (APR). Now, if a program fails to meet the new standards, the program may face scholarship reductions or actually be unable to participate in the NCAA tournament. How do you think that will play out? I'll tell you how; college coaches will now be much more selective about who they recruit and bring into their programs. Of course coaches may still take a risk on an all-American caliber player, but for players who are borderline D-I players, they may not risk post-season play, or their jobs for that matter. “The first thing you have to do is look at transcript. We will be forced to take less talented kids; bring in guys who can make it in our program academically,” said the coach I spoke with.
I wanted to post this story as a wake up call to players, parents, coaches or anybody who might be in a position to influence these kids. If you have contact with these kids and you are not educating them on the standards, and attempting to make them understand the consequences of poor grades; you are doing the kids a grave dis-service. As an AAU coach or parent/guardian, it may require sitting a kid out of games, not letting him/her travel to tournaments, taking away a cell phone or anything that helps get their attention. The consequences for not taking these, or other steps could be dire.
To you parents, as a suggestion, how about requiring your child/player to sit down for a moment and read this article, and ask him/her to process what it means and the potential ramifications of poor academics? If they can come to this site in search of rankings, pictures or praise, they can actually take a few minutes to read something that could have a more long-term effect on their future goals. Also, ask your child/player what their current GPA is. Review the grades on the transcript and report cards. Ask the school for a copy of transcript now, and actually review it with your child/player. Coaches, request that your players bring a copy of their transcript to tryouts, practices or other events, and employ some type of awards/punishment system designed to educate and motivate the child to achieve his/her academic goals. How about making a copy of this story and take a few minutes before or after a practice to review and discuss.
Moreover, parents, the next time a coach calls your house (or cell phone) in an attempt to recruit your child to play for them, ask them how they can assist your child academically. Require the coach/recruiter to articulate how they intend to encourage good academics if your child joins their program. Clearly, exposure is a great thing and we try to provide that through this website, however, don't allow your child's poor academics to get exposed when all of your friends and family wonder why your child is not on a college roster when they have been featured in the newspaper (and on Buckeye Prep's website) for years. The NCAA is not playing around people; they have an agenda, and they are making the kind of major changes the will alter the face of college athletics!
Recent ESPN Story
Prior Story about Academics Posted October 26, 2010