Hundreds of men's college basketball prospects will converge on Hampton this weekend. Scores of women's prospects did the same last weekend. Most, if not all, envision themselves on college scholarship.
Moving forward, earning that Division I grant-in-aid will involve far more than impressing
Starting in 2015, the
Higher grades and standardized test scores. No mulligans.
Like much of what the NCAA does, the new minimums are well-intended yet confusing. But if you're a parent, teacher, coach, counselor or athlete who's unaware of the NCAA's plans, please bear with me.
"This is huge," said
Williams does not overstate.
Since most of the players competing in the EYBL are class of 2013 and '14, they are not affected. But as you'll see, the time to shout this development from the mountaintop is now.
Presently, in order to qualify for an athletics grant-in-aid and be eligible as a freshman, a prospect must have at least a 2.0 grade-point average in 16 core courses with a 1,010 SAT or 86 ACT.
The higher your GPA, the lower the required test score. For example, a recruit with a 2.5 GPA needs either an 820 SAT or 68 ACT. Hence the term "sliding scale."
In 2015, the minimum GPA and test scores increase to 2.3 and 1,080 SAT or 93 ACT. A 2.5 GPA will require a 1,000 SAT or 85 ACT.
Those are significant bumps but only half the story.
The most jarring change is this: Ten of the 16 core courses must be completed before a prospect's senior year. Moreover, those 10 grades are, in the NCAA's words, "locked in for the purpose of GPA calculation."
Translation: Say goodbye to retaking courses as a senior and/or attending senior-year summer school to compensate for past shortcomings.
"You get too far behind," Williams said, "you'll have no chance."
Williams believes that provision will prompt a flurry of transfers and reclassifications. If a high school athlete is a poor student as a freshman and sophomore, Williams said, he or she will be inclined to change schools and reclassify as a ninth grader.
Say hello to a new wave of high school freshmen driving themselves to school.
Williams' fear may prove correct. But the NCAA is giving plenty of advance notice, and the new standards should motivate a new generation of athletes to place greater emphasis and value on academics.
"We're trying to balance being tough with being fair,"
Some who fall below a 2.3 GPA and/or 1080 SAT could be eligible for an "academic redshirt" that allows them to practice and receive a grant-in-aid, but not play. The minimums there are a 2.0 GPA and 1,020 SAT or 86 ACT.
Since many football players redshirt anyway, the higher standards figure to have the greatest impact on men's basketball.
Again, the numbers and scales can be difficult to navigate. That's why it's so important for AAU coaches such as Williams, high school coaches and counselors, and parents to educate themselves and our young people.
A great resource is the NCAA's online Eligibility Center: http://www.eligibilitycenter.org. Or, you can call 1-877-262-1492.
Sorry for turning a column into a public-service announcement, but as Williams said, "This isn't getting the kind of attention it deserves."