The Role of School Leaders in the NCAA Eligibility Process

Guest post by Nicholas Sproull:

There are over 400,000 NCAA student-athletes and almost all of them will go pro in something other than sports…” Sure, the tagline of the NCAA public service announcement is designed to be catchy, but the message is clear: College graduation matters. NCAA data show that the best predictor of college graduation is first-year success. So what is the best predictor of first-year success? And more to the point, what does this have to do with secondary school principals?

Since 1994, the NCAA has collected data for nearly 2 million prospective student-athletes, including individual course titles, course grades, course credits and SAT/ACT scores. Since 2003, the NCAA has collected college-level academic data from over 100,000 Division I student-athletes per year. Combined, this national sample provides the NCAA Research staff with a warehouse of data to follow the trajectories of students’ academic performance from the ninth grade through departure from a Division I or Division II college or university.

The NCAA academic initial-eligibility requirements for Divisions I and II exist to help ensure that prospective student-athletes are academically prepared for the rigors they will face when they become NCAA student-athletes.

The NCAA Eligibility Center is the division of the NCAA national office responsible for working with the nation’s 40,000 high schools to ensure that the annual academic certification process is as efficient and effective as possible for the nearly 100,000 students who will become Division I or Division II student-athletes. (Until November 2007, this process was managed by the NCAA Clearinghouse, run by ACT Inc.)

Additionally, the Eligibility Center staff is actively engaged in education and outreach efforts related to increased academic initial-eligibility requirements for Division I coming in 2016. Now more than ever, ninth grade academic performance is of paramount importance.

Because these changes will impact current high school sophomores and beyond, it is vitally important for school leaders to be equipped with an understanding of these new rules and have a plan in place for spreading the word. With the support of school leaders, the NCAA’s aim is to ensure that prospective student-athletes’ desire to participate in intercollegiate athletics is not imperiled by insufficient or inaccurate information.

Nick Sproull (@nsproull) serves as Associate Director of High School Review/Policy for the NCAA. He will be presenting NCAA Eligibility Center: Overview and Updates at Ignite ‘14 on Saturday February 8.

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