Posted on January 10, 2012

NCAA’s Eligibility Standards Miss the Mark, Researcher Says

Brad Wolverton, Chronicle of Higher Education, January 9, 2012

While many Division I members have balked at new rules allowing multiyear scholarships and extra money for athletes, several substantive academic changes have gone through with relatively little resistance. Chief among them are policies keeping low-performing men’s basketball teams out of the NCAA tournament and stiffened initial-eligibility and transfer requirements.

In October, the NCAA passed a measure requiring incoming athletes to have a minimum 2.3 grade-point average to be eligible to play their first year (they previously needed a 2.0). NCAA leaders see the new rule as a “game-changer,” according to Todd Petr, the association’s managing director of research, and Todd Paskus, its principal research scientist. They will lead a discussion at this year’s NCAA Scholarly Colloquium on Tuesday looking at the effects of academic reform on college sports. “This policy ramps up academic expectations both on teams and individuals,” Mr. Petr says.

If the new rules were applied to the current class, some 15 percent of all athletes would have had to take an academic “redshirt” year. The policy would have an even more profound effect in football and men’s basketball: Thirty-five percent of football players and 43 percent of men’s basketball players in this year’s class would have had to sit out their first year of competition, if the rules were applied to them.

Although the NCAA raised the minimum grade-point average required for first-year competition, it kept in place its sliding scale for admissions. That allows students with extremely low standardized-test scores to be admitted, so long as their high-school grade-point averages are correspondingly much higher. {snip}