- Robbi Pickeral, College Basketball
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In case you missed it Monday, ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil kicked off a week-long academic series with a fantastic story about the NCAA’s new eligibility standards for the high school class of 2016 -- and the good intentions but practical challenges that plague it.
She sums up the new rules:
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 objective of the new standards makes sense, on their face: To try to make sure athletes are more prepared for the academic rigors of college. If not, they redshirt their first season to prepare even more.
UNC coach Roy Williams, quoted near the end of the story, gets that. He emphasizes that he supports stronger standards. But he told ESPN.com last month he is concerned that this year's high school freshmen (and the players coming behind them) don’t know about the new academic changes, which could hurt their chances of meeting the standards later in their high school careers.
And that’s especially true because so many current players wouldn’t have met the new marks. According to the NCAA, 43.1 percent of men's basketball players, 35.2 percent of football players and 15.3 percent of all student-athletes who enrolled as freshmen in 2009-10 to play Division I sports would not have met the 2016 marks.
Here are Williams’ extended comments on the issue, some of which didn't make the story:
"I am not against high standards, period -- I am not against higher standards," he said. "I think the more we can encourage kids to do more, the more they do. But I think this is ill-conceived; I don’t think it has been planned properly. Several years ago, we went to increasing the number of core courses. There was a massive publication, a program to educate the high schools on what was going to happen. I haven’t seen any of that now; none of the high schools know what is going on. Then, in my opinion, there was massive educational process to tell them, ‘This is what’s going to have to be done.’ But right now, I haven’t seen that, No. 1.
"No. 2, we’re putting a load on the high school guidance counselor who has 250 students that they’re responsible for, and this is a whole different process than what they’ve done in the past. And it’s not a small little step; it’s a drastic leap. Again, I am not against improving and encouraging kids to do better academically. I am against such a drastic step when there hasn’t been enough educational process for the high schools; there hasn’t been enough time, there hasn’t been enough discussion, and the biggest thing is, one NCAA member told us that 40 percent of the [freshmen] players now at the Division I level would not be eligible to play, and I think what’s ridiculous is, they acted like that’s OK. It was just a very matter-of-fact statement, and that really bothers me. … And if you would take that [number] just for the BCS schools, there’s no telling what the numbers would be; if you take out Harvard and Dartmouth and the Naval Academy and the Army and those kids of places, then what would it be for everybody else?
"So to me, it’s a drastic measure, it bothers me. It bothers me because everyone says, ‘This is what the presidents want.’ But in my opinion -- emphasize, in my opinion -- all this kind of stuff is NCAA staff driven. ... As a group, I don’t think our presidents are even aware of what we’re doing. I really don’t."
Williams did not say whether he would ultimately sign a recruit who needed an academic redshirt: "I just hope to be alive when it comes out," he said.
And he's not the only one who expressed some worries about the new rules. Again, the story is worth a read.
Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.
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