Many like to criticize the NCAA, but it made a smart move Thursday. The move? Keeping the current qualifying standards, and not implementing the harsh 2016 changes that were scheduled to take place.
The standards, if kept in place, would have resulted in numerous athletes being denied the chance to play college football or basketball, at least during their freshman year of college.
While the NCAA had good intentions, the rule, requiring a higher GPA and a greater proportion of core courses to be completed before the prospect's senior year, was pretty much doomed from the outset. Many students, as the NCAA's Board of Directors noted, would be at an extreme hardship in attempting to meet them.
Here is the release from the NCAA:
The Division I Board of Directors on Thursday maintained its support for higher grades and a core course progression for prospective student athletes, but adopted legislation that would keep for the foreseeable future the test score/grade-point average sliding scale at the current level for student-athlete access to financial aid, practice and competition in the first year.
In October 2011, the presidents on the Board decided that to compete in the first year of enrollment, prospects must 1) meet a higher sliding scale, 2) achieve an increased grade-point average requirement of 2.3 (from 2.0) and 3) complete a core-course progression that requires prospects to finish and "lock in" 10 of the 16 required core courses before the beginning of their senior year.
The Board has determined that requiring prospects to meet a more stringent sliding scale starting in 2016 would have yielded a number of unintended consequences. Those consequences led the Board to its decision to retain the current sliding scale standard.
The rationale for Thursday's action included the following considerations:
Taken as a whole, the academic reform changes already underway or adopted are likely to result in improved graduation performance of student-athletes.
The increase to a 930 Academic Progress Rate requirement for access to postseason competition, which begins with this fall's data collection, is predicted to have a significant impact that will encourage institutions to make admissions decisions that ensure student-athlete academic success.
The impact of a more stringent scale on access to higher education, especially for certain socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, could be significant. The goal of academic reform from the outset has been to improve the academic performance of student-athletes, including increasing graduation rates, while minimizing disparate impact on ethnic minorities.
Membership expressed concerns about the sliding-scale increase, including that it might not have the intended impact, should be implemented on a slower timeline or that coaches would decline to offer scholarships to players who could not compete in their first year for academic reasons.
Committee on Academic Performance chair Walter Harrison, president of the University of Hartford, said the enormity of the impact on minorities, the numerous other academic changes set to take place soon and the positive trends in Academic Progress Rates all were factors in his support of the sliding-scale re-examination.
"APRs are improving, and I believe they will continue to improve," Harrison said. "I'm concerned about minority students who would be affected by the dramatic change to the sliding scale. The new 930 APR benchmark required for postseason competition is impacting coaches' recruiting decisions. These changes and the action the Board took today to strengthen the high school core GPA calculation will make the positive effects even more dramatic."
The Board committed to examining the impact of the GPA floor and core-course progression requirements soon after the changes are implemented in 2016. After that review, the presidents will determine whether the changes have had the intended impact or if a sliding scale increase is warranted.
At the recommendation of the Committee on Academic Performance, Board members also adopted a change to the way the core-course GPA is calculated, allowing only the 16 best grades meeting the required distribution of math, science, English and other courses, to count toward the final GPA. Current practice allows as many core courses as a prospective student-athlete takes within the time limitation to count toward the final GPA. This change, which also is expected to improve college preparedness, will be effective Aug. 1, 2016.
Even without changing the sliding scale, the academic requirement enhancements are expected to have the most impact in the sports of football and men's basketball, the two sports that consistently lag behind others in academic performance. Harrison, who discussed initial eligibility with Board members, said that while those sports have improved as the Academic Performance Program was implemented, a "measurable gap" still exists between those and other sports in both the Academic Progress Rate and the Graduation Success Rate.
Changing the minimum GPA for competition, the core-course progression and core-course GPA calculation is expected to enhance graduation rates in those sports while still providing access to college.