NCAA reform will have big effect on Jucos

Editor’s Note: The beefing up of eligibility standards for junior college transfers is part of a larger academic reform the NCAA is putting in place over the next few years. For more on the changes to freshmen eligibility, click here.

A year ago, Pierre Jackson earned national junior college player of the year honors at Southern Idaho.

This year, the Baylor junior was named a finalist for the Bob Cousy Award.

Two years ago, Jae Crowder earned national junior college player of the year honors at Howard College.

This year, the Marquette senior was named Big East player of the year.

Bundled into the NCAA’s academic reform package is a mandate that as of the end of the 2013 academic year, junior college transfers must now have a 2.5 GPA in their transferable credits in order to be eligible for a four-year school.

That’s not only up from a 2.0, but also higher than is required for initial eligibility for freshmen (2.3 under the new NCAA rules) and significantly higher than virtually every university requires for continuing eligibility.

“It almost seems like they’re legislating it this way because they don’t want junior college kids anymore,’’ said Steve Forbes, a former Tennessee assistant who is now the head coach at Northwest Florida State, a team that made it all the way to the NJCAA title game this year. “To be honest, it’s outlandish.’’

And he is not alone in condemning the GPA change’s potential impact.

“I think what you’ll have is fewer guys who make it [to a four-year school],’’ Baylor coach Scott Drew said. “And also, after that freshman year, you might see more coaches shy away or not take a commitment because they aren’t as sure that they’ll get the grade.’’

Drew said he expects nothing less than a considerable shift in the junior college landscape from this, with schools that had been perennial powerhouses falling by the wayside if they fail to send their players to Division I schools.

It will come down, he said, to money. Those that have the funding to offer academic support and tutoring will flourish; others will not.

“Over time, I’m sure you’ll see different schools emerging because they have the resources,’’ Drew said.

Forbes considers himself one of the lucky ones. He has a part-time tutor exclusively devoted to basketball. Even so, he figures of the six players on his roster ready to transfer to four-year schools this year, maybe only half would have the 2.5 necessary in a year’s time.

“If you wanted to go to a 2.25, that’s fine,’’ he said. “But it’s like they fished 2.5 out of the air and it’s like, ‘OK, here you go, boom.’ If you’re a junior at Tennessee, you don’t need a 2.5. If you’re a one-and-done, you only need to pass six hours. I don’t know what we’re supposed to do, but the bottom line, we don’t really have a voice or a choice. We have to do what they tell us to do.’’