Jones' Journey

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The Dwight Jones situation has been a roller coaster ride through the academic admissions process for prospective student-athletes, leaving many observers wondering how the entire procedure works, and more importantly, where does this situation leave the talented wide receiver?

Because Jones is currently enrolled at Valdosta State, UNC officials cannot comment in-depth on the situation, simply saying that they are "working with the Eligibility Center and the NCAA to resolve the situation."

"I think the whole thing is all the paperwork is being done now," Burlington (N.C.) Cummings assistant coach and Jones confidant Jay Perdue told Inside Carolina on Tuesday night. "All the information that everybody's got has been turned into the NCAA."

Given the ups and downs and numerous letdowns of his qualifying process, Jones is not likely to make a decision on his final playing destination until the NCAA provides him with notice of complete eligibility. The paperwork involved for qualifying and then receiving a transfer with a release is extensive, so there's no clear-cut timetable on when he'll get word.

"I don't think it's gotten to the point [of making a decision] yet," said Perdue, who added that Jones practiced with Valdosta State on Tuesday. "It's one of those things that could break at any time."

But how did it get to this point?

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When a high school student decides to play collegiate athletics, that individual must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center (which has replaced the NCAA Clearinghouse), preferably during his/her junior year. That student must then meet certain academic requirements to become eligible to play for his/her college of choice.

Division I programs use a sliding scale involving a student's core GPA and a SAT/ACT standardized test score. For example, a prospective student-athlete could qualify with a score of 540 on his SAT (verbal and math only), as long as his core GPA was 3.2 or above. Conversely, a GPA of 2.0 would be eligible with a SAT score of 1010 or above. Division II does not use a sliding scale, requiring a minimum 2.0 GPA and a SAT score of 820 or an ACT score of 68.

"A prospect's initial eligibility is determined by the Eligibility Center, which works closely with the NCAA," said Amy Herman, UNC's assistant athletics director for compliance. "The Eligibility Center certifies a prospect as a qualifier able to participate at the Division I level, and then the admission office looks at a variety of things in determining whether or not to admit students."

The admissions office has the final word in any potential student's enrollment decision.

"Any individual who is admitted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is admitted by our office of admissions," said John P. Evans, UNC's Faculty Athletics Representative. "So whether the individual is somebody with a good voice or somebody that is good at drama or somebody who is just a good student or somebody that is a good athlete, if they apply here, they get admitted through the office of admissions."

Evans indicated that any student that is "competitively qualified" – or one that has a questionable academic standing – in any special talent categories (arts, sports, etc.), may potentially meet defined criteria that can cause his/her individual record to be reviewed by a faculty committee.

In the case of athletes, it's the Faculty Athletics Committee, a subcommittee of Faculty Advisory Committee of Undergraduate Admissions. The committee consists of six faculty members, and is chaired by Associate Provost Peter A. Coclanis. The committee does not make admissions decisions; rather, it just provides advice to the admissions office.

For athletic programs that are interested in having certain prospects reviewed by the committee, those individuals must meet certain guidelines, such as scoring below 900 combined on the reading and math portions of the SAT or scoring below 400 on any section of the SAT.

The athletic program must then put together a file that consists of a transcript, test scores, and a variety of other information, including absences, tardiness and letters of support, among other items, that will be submitted for review. The committee will then make a recommendation on a case-by-case basis, determining to what extent will the student-athlete rely on academic support, family situation, etc.


Feb. 7, 2007:
Jones signs his UNC Letter of Intent
It is assumed that Jones' case went to this committee during his initial attempt to enroll at UNC in 2007.

The UNC Athletic Department controls the number of cases that they allow to be submitted to the committee.

"They essentially set themselves a budget and say, 'We're not going to submit more than this number, no matter how many get admitted,'" Evans said. "I don't know what that number is. I don't control that number, and this committee doesn't control that number. The athletic department controls that."

Director of Undergraduate Admissions Stephen Farmer told the News & Observer in a Feb. '07 article that he expected the committee to see 18 or 19 cases in the 2007-2008 academic year. Farmer did not return multiple phone calls to his office on Tuesday.

Jones failed to qualify for Division I football through the NCAA – and thus, for UNC – after graduating from Burlington (N.C.) Cummings High School in the spring of 2007. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound wide receiver only needed to improve his SAT score to qualify through the sliding-scale system in place, and went to prep school at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia.

Jones took online courses this spring to help his chances to qualify, but Inside Carolina learned last month that the Burlington, N.C. native had not met the necessary marks and would enroll at a Division II Valdosta State.

And that's when things got interesting. Perdue told Inside Carolina that Jones was informed by a member of the Valdosta State coaching staff last week that UNC learned a mix-up had occurred and that he was now eligible for Division I football after receiving a high enough mark on an ACT that he took in April.

Perdue also indicated that UNC Director of Football Operations Joe Haydon served as Jones' primary contact with North Carolina during the 14 months since his high school graduation.

The NCAA changed the required number of core classes from 14 to 16 between the 2007 and 2008 recruiting classes. With Jones graduating high school in 2007, he should have only been required to have 14 core classes, but instead was evaluated with having to need 16 core classes.

Perdue said the error was caught while UNC was going over freshman Zach Brown's transcripts, who also graduated high school in 2007 and was a teammate of Jones' at Hargrave.

Evans said that the Faculty Athletics Committee does not keep tabs on prospective student-athletes while they are at a prep school or a junior college.

"While that student is in that prep school, we're not tracking them actively," Evans said. "But if the coach remains interested in that individual, then they would update the file and that would include getting the transcript information on how they're doing in that post-high school work so that the committee gets updated information."

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Despite the whole ordeal, Jones seems to be enjoying what he does the best -- playing football.

"When i talked to him today I just called to see how he was doing," Perdue said. "He said he had a real good practice [on Tuesday] and caught a lot of balls. He said, 'Man, it's hot in Georgia.'"

Don Callahan contributed to this report.

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