New Rule Could Affect Transfer Eligibility at CU

The NCAA's academic reform package that went into effect for Division IA schools last year could make it more difficult for student-athletes to transfer to CU and retain immediate eligibility, according to athletic department officials. Head football coach Gary Barnett said the measure could also render some players ineligible at programs across the country beginning next fall.

Student-athletes at NCAA Division I schools are now required to successfully complete 40 percent of coursework toward their degree after their second academic year; 60 percent after their third year; 80 percent after their fourth year, according to academic reform that went into effect last year. The rule applies to student-athletes who entered school as true freshmen at the beginning of the 2003-04 academic year — the class that will be finishing its second academic year in May 2005 – and all classes that follow.

If a student-athlete fails to meet the requirements, he or she will lose eligibility until the required credit hours are completed.

In CU's School of Arts and Sciences 120 credits are required for graduation. Most degrees require 33 to 36 credit hours in a specific major, plus 75 credit hours of "core requirement" classes — courses chosen from a pool of general education classes.

The 40/60/80 percent includes the core requirement classes.

CU's assistant athletic director for academic support services Mark Nelson said the new requirements didn't prompt his staff to make any changes in the way they do things, other than to diligently explain the new academic mandate to coaches.

"I don't think we've done anything differently," he said. "We've had a good system in place already."

The reform will affect eligibility in different sports differently. For example, a football player could fall short of the 40/60/80 percent after the spring semester, but make up the coursework over the summer in order to remain eligible to play in the fall, according to an NCAA spokesperson. A spring sport athlete would have the summer and fall to catch up if necessary.

While the new requirements are designed to push student-athletes toward getting a college degree, CU football coach Gary Barnett thinks the changes could have the opposite effect, in some cases.

"My guess is you're going to see a number of guys (at schools across the country) all of a sudden come up ineligible," he said. "I don't know where that will all lead, but certainly it will push some guys out of college, and get them thinking about going to the NFL earlier.

"At a time when we're trying to keep them in (college), we're making it harder to keep them in, and encouraging them, with this sort of difficulty, to leave."

Another academic disadvantage the requirement poses to student-athletes, according to CU Provost Phil DiStefano, is that it limits academic freedom. Unlike the rest of the student body, student-athletes are forced to determine a major early in their college career in order to fulfill the requirement.

"We'll want student-athletes to choose a major early on," DiStefano said. "It doesn't give the student-athlete as much flexibility as the non-student athlete in changing majors. Some of our students on campus change majors three or four times. And that will be very difficult for student-athletes to do.

"It also narrows the number of majors that a student-athlete will choose."

If a student-athlete changes majors, he or she will still be under the same 40/60/80 requirement.

With CU's academic support system firmly in place, the chance of CU players in any sport losing eligibility due to the new mandate is slim. However, the ruling will likely make CU's ability to accept transfer student-athletes — from both junior colleges and four-year schools — even more difficult than it is, according to Barnett.

That's because transfers are now under the same 40/60/80 requirement. If a player transfers to a Division I A program after two years at a Juco, he will need to have completed 40 percent of coursework that will count toward a major in the school where he's transferring, in order to be eligible to play the next fall.

That can be difficult at Colorado because the school doesn't offer a physical education degree like so many junior colleges and four-year universities. If a player transfers in with a lot of P.E. credits on his transcripts, he or she will have a lot of catching up to do.

"The schools that have physical education have a tremendous advantage in recruiting junior college players because a large number of junior colleges have P.E. classes," Barnett said. "If they transfer in to an institution that doesn't have P.E., they're not going to be eligible; they'll have to sit out a year. If they transfer into a school that does have physical education, then they'll probably be able to play."

Colorado has three known verbal commitments from junior college players in its current recruiting class. DT Chris Todd and WR Alvin Barnett are both from NE Oklahoma A&M. CB Terry Washington is at Garden City CC. Should they sign LOI's, Todd and Barnett will be eligible to play next fall, as they will be second-year students. Both will have until the end of spring 2006 to complete 40 percent of their coursework toward a CU degree.

Washington will enter as a third-year academic student-athlete, and will need to have completed the 40 percent by fall 2005 to be eligible, according to the new NCAA mandate.

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