The Day After Signing Day

On the first Thursday of February, reality starts to sink in for some student-athletes.  National signing day is over.  The player ranking lists no longer appear in the paper.  The reporters are gone.  No more calls from college coaches promising fame and fortune.

Now is the time when student-athletes make their last push to meet the NCAA initial eligibility requirements to receive the scholarship they’ve signed for.  Some of them won’t make it.

To meet the NCAA initial eligibility requirements to receive a division I scholarship, student-athletes must graduate from high school, earn 16 credits in NCAA approved core courses, earn a qualifying score on a college entrance exam (SAT or ACT), and be certified as an amateur athlete.

Most college coaches will agree that the reason many student-athletes don’t meet these requirements is because they didn’t know the academic requirements existed until it was too late.  The academic requirements for eligibility begin in the 9th grade, however, most student-athletes don’t find out about the requirements until they receive interest from a college coach which, more than likely, will be in their junior or senior year.  By then, at least half of their high school career is gone and their GPA in the NCAA approved core courses is pretty much set.

This GPA is important because the NCAA uses a sliding scale to determine the SAT or ACT score that a student-athlete must earn in order to qualify.  The lower the core GPA, the higher the required test score.

In the past, student-athletes that were found to be in jeopardy of not qualifying had a number of remedies such as taking on-line courses or receiving individualized instruction to earn the required credits and increase their core GPA (as documented in the movie The Blind Side starring Sandra Bullock).

This loophole has been closed.  The requirements for non-traditional courses have been modified so it is much more difficult to receive credit for courses not taken in the classroom.

Each year, approximately 7% of the 150,000 certifications that are processed by the NCAA Eligibility Center are deemed academic non-qualifiers.  The sad part is that many of these athletes bet their future on their athletic ability and if that opportunity doesn’t happen, they have no backup plan.

Sure they can try going to junior college, but statistics show that half of all inner city youth that enter junior college, drop out in the first year.  It’s ludicrous to think that these student-athletes are going to suddenly place the necessary focus on education when they haven’t done so in the past.

This summer, when the NCAA Eligibility Center makes the final determination on the eligibility status of student-athletes, more people will wish they would have heard about this process much earlier in their high school career.

So, as you read about your favorite college’s stellar recruits, be aware that some of them may not be there when the fall season starts…and now you know why.