NCAA Qualification Changes to Have Major Impact

Last week the NCAA made a major change in entrance qualification rules for NCAA Division 1-A athletes. The changes greatly diminishes the standardized test portion of the entrance requirements. We discussed the rule change with former assistant recruiting coordinator Mark Ouimet The questions of course are: does the change effect Michigan? And does it help the Wolverines, or hurt? Mark thinks the change will have a substantial impact, and opines, "It is not a good rule ..."

Currently high school seniors intending to play Div. 1-A college football have to meet a sliding scale combination of GPA in 12 'core courses' and standardized test score in order to be 'fully qualified' and have freshman eligibility (as follows):

2.5 GPA and above: 820 Sat or 17 ACT
2.4 GPA: 860/18
2.3 GPA: 900/19
2.2 GPA: 940/20
2.1 GPA: 980/21
2.0 GPA: 1020/22

First of all we asked Mark to tell us about the rule change.

Right off the bat I want to say, I don't agree with it, and I don't like it ... and I think it hurts Michigan more than it helps them. It is not a good rule. The new rule basically says, "We're going to make it easy to get into college, then bust your chops more than ever once you get there."

The new measure is designed to place greater emphasis on GPA and core classes and less on test score ... under the old system it'd turned that there was more emphasis on the test score.

Now, first off, instead of 12, there are 14 core classes ... but the new system also extends the sliding scale 'the other way', allowing for a lower test score if the 'core GPA' is above 2.5. From what I understand, here is the scale extension:

2.6 GPA: 780 SAT
2.7 GPA: 740 SAT
2.8 GPA: 700 SAT
2.9 GPA: 660 SAT
3.0 GPA: 620 SAT
3.1 GPA: 580 SAT
3.2 GPA: 540 SAT
3.3 GPA: 500 SAT
4.0 GPA: 400 (no correct answers!)

So it will be easier for prospective scholarship athletes to get into college. However, once in, the student-athlete will be required to make faster progress toward a degree, and also fewer college credits will be allowed in remedial courses than currently permitted.

So Mark, what are the effects of the changes?

#1. For one thing, the new system will be letting kids in easier to get into college, then making it harder credit-wise in college, and allowing less help as well. Making it easier to get in, then making it harder in college ... what do you think will happen?

Right now the kids without passing test scores ('partial qualifiers') are at least kept off the field for a year to get acclimated to school (more or less, since they are allowed to practice). Now, they will be able to come right in and play, and with more academic pressure on them. So you are liable to see more kids flunking out of college early.

#2. Secondly, pretty much the sole high school criteria now will be GPA. If a kid can get a 3.0+ in his core courses in high school, it's won't really matter how he does on the test. So what do you think will happen to the pressure already brought to bear in some high schools on teachers to give good grades to their athletes? You may see teachers pressured by high school coaches and counselors to give A's to their top athletes. IN the extreme case, if a kid has a 4.0 in his core courses, all he'll have to do is show up for the test and sign his name. So it could be a bit of a free-for-all in high schools -- and there will be schools that 'take advantage'.

Who will the change help and who will it hurt?

#1. It will help Michigan a little. It takes effect immediately, for the 2002/03 class, so it probably makes Greg Cooper and Quinton McCoy qualified, since both had over a 2.5 GPA. And it will help Michigan once in a while for the 'Charles Rogers' of the world -- superstars who Michigan would love to sign but who did not quite make it academically before. So it might help Michigan with a kid here and there. But do you think Michigan can get a 3.3/500 kid through academically? What program could they possibly admit him in, adding in faster progress toward graduation and less academic help? They won't be able to do that. Neither will Northwestern, Virginia, Notre Dame, Stanford -- the top academic schools.

#2. The schools it helps the most are the programs like MSU. MSU took six 'prop kids' this year, and under the new rule all would've probably been qualifiers -- they'd be on the field playing as freshmen. So MSU and schools like it are probably happier than heck about the new rule.

Bottom line: I think it is not a good change, not for Michigan. It will force Michigan into some tough decisions on academically risky kids, in order to stay competitive.

In my opinion, what the NCAA should've done is just gone back to the old rule -- just moved the minimum SAT score back to a 700 for all scholarship athletes. The national mean on the SAT is around 1000 of course (that's how the test is designed) -- and I just read that only 4% of those taking the SAT score less than 700.

Why was the change recommended, and adopted?

Why did they do it? Even Percy Bates from Michigan was on the committee that recommended the change. Why did they do it? It had little to do with football. The rule was changed mainly for basketball -- to try to keep high school kids from jumping directly into the NBA. The rule was changed to entice those few top basketball kids to go to college not the pros ...

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