NCAA Academic Eligibility Standards Change

NCAA Academic Eligibility Standards Change

By Tom Kovic

Periodically, the NCAA amends and updates 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 high school prospect, the NCAA has passed legislation that stiffens academic standards and requirements for prospective student-athletes. Under past NCAA standards, incoming collegiate freshman needed to graduate high school with 16 core courses passed and a minimum 2.0 GPA matched with a comparative ACT or SAT score.

The new eligibility legislation now 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 for Division 1:

  • 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.

To put this in layman’s terms, a prospect who now presents a 1000 (Critical Reading/Math) aggregate SAT score will need a corresponding 2.5 Core GPA to practice and compete at the D-1 college level.

The aim in establishing a stricter academic eligibility model is twofold. First the NCAA is attempting to continually drive proactive academic planning as a cornerstone in the college search for athletes. Secondly, the NCAA wants to help boost college athlete graduation rates.

For high school prospects, this simply means the need to maintain satisfactory progress in 16 core courses and for athletes 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 Course
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.

These courses 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. 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. 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.

To summarize the new legislation:

  1. Academic core course requirements have increased. Beginning with the Class of 2016 and beyond, D1 prospects 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:
  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 an athletic scholarship and participate in practice but cannot participate in competition 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, 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.

Tom Kovic is a former Division I college coach and current President of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he provides individual advisement for families on college recruiting. For further information visit:

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