New NCAA Academic Eligibility Standards for the Class of 2016
By Tom Kovic
Periodically, the NCAA amends and updates recruiting rules and regulations to keep prospects and families on the cutting edge of information as it pertains to college recruiting. Below is a snapshot of important legislation that was recently passed that will directly affect freshman college eligibility.
If you are a rising high school freshman, the NCAA has passed legislation that stiffens academic standards and requirements for NCAA student-athletes. Under current NCAA standards, incoming collegiate freshman must graduate high school with 16 core courses passed and a minimum 2.0 GPA matched with a comparative ACT or SAT score. Come 2016 that will all change.
The new eligibility legislation that will go into effect for those prospects entering a college institution in 2016 establishes tougher academic standards. The aim is to place an emphasis on the “student” in student-athlete, but it also gives our kids plenty of time to get their ducks in a row as they schedule their high school academic coursework. Below are some key components to the new legislation:
- Complete 16 core classes (10 must be completed before the end of the junior year) and 7 of the classes must be in English, Math or Science.
- The minimum GPA in the core classes required has been modified from 2.0 to 2.3
- The minimum GPA for a junior college transfer is now 2.5.
Currently, Division 2 student-athletes are required to successfully complete 14 core courses. Students enrolling in a Division II institution on or after August 1, 2013, will be required to demonstrate a 2.0 grade point average in 16 core courses and a minimum SAT score of 820 or an ACT sum score of 68.
The aim here in establishing a stricter academic eligibility model is twofold. First the NCAA is attempting to continually drive proactive planning as a cornerstone in the college search for athletes. Secondly, the NCAA wants to help boost college graduation rates, while safeguarding US colleges and universities.
For high school prospects who are current freshmen, this simply means they will need to maintain satisfactory progress in 16 core courses and for prospects looking at D-1 programs, 10 of those 16 courses must be successfully completed by the start of the student-athlete’s senior year of high school.
Core courses are defined as a “recognized academic courses” that qualify for high-school graduation. In addition, a prospect will only receive eligibility credit in if the coursework is completed in the following disciplines: English, mathematics, natural/physical science, social science, foreign language, computer science, or non-doctrinal religion/philosophy.
In addition, the course must be considered college preparatory by the high school, which is defined as any course that prepares a student academically to enter a four-year collegiate institution upon graduation from high school.
Whether you are a high school freshman or a senior, your best strategy is to schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor or college advisor during the fall. Let your advisor know you have every desire to play as part of a college athletics program and that you need his assistance in registration with the NCAA Eligibility Center. That aside, make it crystal clear that you will be a willing participant in staying on target with all aspects of meeting and exceeding the initial eligibility requirements.
The good news is that current high school freshmen have time to get their ducks in a row in planning their coursework over the next 4 years. Here is an example of the flipside: If the new eligibility standards were implemented last year, 40% of all freshman football players in the nation would not have been eligible to play. Therefore it is critical for freshmen high school athletes to meet with their guidance counselors in an effort to understand and meet the goal of successfully completing 10 core classes before the start of the senior year.
Under the new Division 1 eligibility standards, an academic redshirt is a student-athlete, who, as of August 2016, meets the old eligibility standards, but falls below the new standards. In this case, the student-athlete would be eligible to receive an athletic scholarship, but he would not qualify to participate in regular season games. In this case an academic redshirt athlete does not lose a year of eligibility.
To summarize the new legislation:
1. Academic core course requirements have increased. Class of 2016 and beyond D1 students must have a minimum 2.3 core grade point average (increased from 2.0) along with the corresponding SAT/ACT score.
2. The new sliding scale for the SAT/ACT can be reviewed at: http://fs.ncaa.org/Docs/eligibility_center/Quick_Reference_Sheet.pdf.
3. Ten of the 16 core requirements must be completed by the end of the junior year of high school.
4. If a student-athlete graduates with a 2.0-2.29 core GPA with the appropriate standardized test sliding scale, he or she can still receive a scholarship and participate in practice but cannot participate in game action his or her freshman year.
The NCAA continually revises and improves legislation as it applies to recruitment, eligibility and financial aid and “academic excellence” continues to be the mantra that drives college athletics from the top. Minimum academic eligibility standards have become more rigorous for the Class of 2016, but well within reach for the prospect who takes a pre-emptive approach to plan ahead and work collaboratively with his guidance counselor in organizing academic planning.