Academic change is coming to college sports. And if you ask me, it's the good kind of change.
Starting in 2016, the toughest initial-eligibility requirements ever for student-athletes will be hitting a college campus near you, ESPN's Mitch Sherman writes. Under the 2016 mandate, incoming freshmen will have to graduate from high school with 16 core classes passed, 10 of which must be completed by the start of their senior year. They must pass those core classes within four years and their minimum GPA must by 2.3.
The current mandate requires incoming freshmen to pass the 16 core classes, but 10 don't have to be completed before their senior year and the 16 don't have to be finished within four years. The minimum GPA is also 2.0 matched with an ACT or SAT score on a sliding scale.
A survey conducted by the NCAA indicated that approximately 40 percent of all freshmen football players that enrolled at Division I schools last fall would have failed to meet the 2016 requirements. Under the new rule, that 40 percent would receive an academic redshirt, which means those players would still receive their scholarships and could practice with their teams, but they wouldn't be able to play in games during the season.
Academic redshirt players wouldn't lose a year of eligibility.
Some might think that this new rule could be asking too much from high schools and it could put a limit on recruiting for college coaches, but that's just silly. This rule is being put in place to make sure that student-athletes are better prepared academically for college. Asking kids to hit the books harder and study a little longer is far from a crime and chances are the higher standards will encourage schools to take the academic side of high school sports life more seriously.
This isn't the first time we've heard of upping the academic requirements for incoming student-athletes. At last summer's SEC media days, SEC commissioner Mike Slive discussed increasing the GPA requirements for incoming freshmen from 2.0 to 2.5 in 16 core classes and the restoration of partial qualifiers. Like the new mandate, athletes who meet the old criteria but fall short of the new standards would keep their scholarships and practice, but couldn't play during their first year. Partial qualifiers lose a year of eligibility.
Would this require students and schools to work harder? Absolutely. Is it worth it? Absolutely, because it really isn't too much to ask of anyone involved. It's merely helping the educational process.
There are too many instances of players arriving on campus unprepared for the academic side of college athletics. Although football might be the first reason someone is at a university, we often forget that these individuals are students first, even though that part of "student-athlete" gets lost more and more these days.
This obviously won't come without some struggle on the part of many aspiring high school athletes, but it's certainly worth the fight.