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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

May 16, 2014 at 12:59 PM

NCAA eligibility changes: A looming crisis for prep athletes


If you are a sophomore in high school and are not aware of the 2016 changes coming from the NCAA and their “don’t get benched” or “2.3 or take a knee” requirement, your chance (or dream) of getting a college scholarship may already be over. Some estimate that 25 to 30 percent of current and future student-athletes would be ineligible.

As a local high-school football coach, most recently head coach at Garfield High School in Seattle, I have experienced academic shortcoming with the kids I’ve coached. It is hard to get the academically eligible students to the prestigious colleges that many Garfield students garner, let alone a Proposition 48 student trying to gain admission to a smaller university.

The present academic requirement for NCAA Division I schools is 16 core classes, a 2.0 cumulative grade-point average or higher, with a 2.5, 820 sliding scale on the SAT and graduation from high school. The SAT sliding scale will remain the same, but there are two changes in 2016. First, you must have a 2.3 GPA in core classes. Second, you must complete all 10 core classes before your senior year. There no longer will be an opportunity for you to get better grades or recover lost core classes, as there have been before.

Changes are also coming to the NCAA Division II level, where there are 16 core classes but with different classes for eligibility. In Division I, you will need four years of English and three years of Math, while in Division II, you will need three years of English and two years of Math. The fill-in courses will be different, but you must still meet the 16 core classes needed. I recently talked with a head coach from a Division II school whose athletes are pre-engineering students but are coming up short on core classes.

The NCAA is holding colleges and their coaches accountable for graduation rates. Recently, the UNLV football team was banned from bowl eligibility next season due to academic requirements, and the NCAA champion Connecticut men’s basketball team was under that same ban in 2012-13. These changes from the NCAA are making a statement that colleges need to have higher academic standards, to ensure academic success.

So what does this mean to you?

If you (or your son or daughter) are not on a strict plan to reach these new standards for the next four years, you are probably already academically ineligible per NCAA standards. The NCAA has also closed the loophole for student-athletes going to junior colleges to make up all of the requirements, with higher GPA standards, to transfer in to Division I schools.

The NCAA’s website shows how you can become an “academic redshirt” and become a part of the academic eligible program, but coaches must be willing to take a risk. If they can find other student-athletes comparable to your skills and abilities who are already eligible, who do you think coaches will offer a scholarship to?

The student-athlete now must have a game plan starting in the eighth grade. During the summer, stop by your local high school and discuss your aspirations of receiving a college athletic scholarship. But know, as shown in a recent Seattle Times article by reporter Claudia Rowe, that counselors at the high-school level have a very full plate and may have yet to learn about the recent changes to NCAA eligibility.

If you, or your son or daughter, comes from a school that does not have many kids getting scholarships, then the counselors may not be versed on the changes coming. If you will be an eighth- or ninth-grader next year, go see your counselor and verify that you will be on track to have the 10 core classes completed. Make sure your counselor is certain these are the compliant classes your high school has given to the NCAA eligibility center.

Counselors have very difficult jobs. Most do great work despite heavy loads, with an average of 400 students.  They must monitor NCAA requirements that are constantly changing, not to mention colleges with different standards of eligibility for athletic scholars.

Make sure you have your 48H form (found on the NCAA website) with you when you meet with your counselor to ensure you are taking the right courses, approved by the NCAA Eligibility Center. The Eligibility Center process takes place your junior and senior years and aligns your classes with GPA and SAT or ACT scores.  So the GPA is a constant activity, while the SAT and/or ACT is at the end of your high-school career.

Bottom line: Have a plan because there is no wiggle room.

Many parents are struggling to save money for themselves and their retirement, let alone for their children’s college. Too many parents count on their sons or daughters’ athletic talents to land them a scholarship. Yet only 1 percent of high-school student-athletes receive a Division I college scholarship. Recently, I came across a contract from a local recruiting service charging a family $4,000 for their services. This student-athlete was probably an NAIA level player. So, parents, save your money. You likely will need it to pay for that smaller college when your son or daughter doesn’t land a Division I scholarship. Average student debt is $25,000, with $6,000 credit-card debt by graduation time.

My goal is to be the Paul Revere for local and statewide counselors, coaches, administrators and parents. Don’t let your son or daughter be a victim of these changes.

Scott Laigo is a coach who founded Academic Sports Development (ASD) two years ago to help solve some of the problems associated with academic requirements for NCAA scholarships. For more information, go to, follow Academic Sports Development on Facebook, or contact

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at or Not all submissions can be published. Opinions expressed are those of authors, and The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.



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