Monday, August 6, 2012
Eligibility vs. academic preparedness
By Dana O'Neil
INDIANAPOLIS -- One is speaking plain English; the other feels lost in a bureaucratic town of Babel.
To one, it is so obvious.
To the other, inscrutable.
On one side sits a group of well-intentioned people in Indianapolis, folks who make rules and standards not to be exclusionary but to encourage academic success.
On the other side sit kids in classrooms -- some in high school, fretting about being allowed to play in college, and some in college, fretting about being able to play the next semester.
And in between is a chasm wider than a 7-footer's wingspan.
How high school athletes become eligible to play Division I sports and how they stay eligible in college is not exactly in lockstep with how the NCAA would like to see either of those two tasks accomplished.
And so the NCAA makes new rules and increased standards and the students and coaches question their fairness.
The latest changes in eligibility standards will apply to this fall's high school freshman class, but we won't know their full effect until 2016, when those students prepare to step foot on college campuses. They are already sending ripples through the college community because they are so drastic -- a jump in the required minimum GPA from 2.0 to 2.3 and, perhaps more challenging, a rule that now requires high school athletes to complete 10 of their 16 required core courses prior to their senior year of high school.
There is recourse for those who can meet the old standards but not the new ones. The NCAA is now calling it an academic redshirt, a sort of nuanced version of a partial-qualifier. Students may receive a scholarship and will be eligible to practice with their teams, but won't be able to compete. Provided they pass nine credit hours in their first college semester, they can compete the following season as a redshirt freshman.
The intent is simple: The NCAA and its Eligibility Center no longer want to see transcripts in which athletes essentially backload the better part of their academic curriculum at the end of their high school careers.
Instead of taking courses in order, kids desperate to earn an eligibility stamp collect classwork like stamps, taking geometry before algebra and English 4 simultaneously with English 3.