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Not all coaches are on board with new eligibility standards set to begin in 2016

John Thompson III

John Thompson III


In 2012 the NCAA announced that there will be new eligibility standards, beginning with those who will be entering college during the 2016-17 academic year. One of the reasons for the announcement then was the fact that those student-athletes would be high school freshmen in the fall of 2012, thus giving them a full four years to know the new standards and adjust their courses accordingly.

“We want to give young people a fair chance to meet the new standards by taking core academic courses early in their high school education,” USF President and Division I Board of Directors Chair Judy Genshaft said at the time. “The presidents have every confidence that future student-athletes will do the work necessary to be academically successful in college.”

Among the changes are the increase in minimum grade-point average from 2.0 to 2.3, and the need for prospective athletes to have completed ten of their 16 core courses in their first three years of high school. And unlike in the past, a core course cannot be retaken in an attempt to improve the grade.

Friday members of the recently formed National Association For Coaching Equity and Development (NAFCED), which is led by Texas Tech head coach Tubby Smith, Georgetown head coach John Thompson III and former Division I head coach Paul Hewitt, issued a statement of opposition to these changes. Their concern is that students who get off to a slow start academically, as well as those who may be attending school in systems that lack the resources needed to ensure academic success.

“If there’s anything we can do to provide a more prepared student as they come to a college campus, we’re all in favor of that,” Hewitt said according to the Associated Press. “This is not about reducing standards. This is about, this isn’t fair. Why are you telling a kid after his junior year of high school that you are less desirable to get a college scholarship? Or if the light comes on late, why can’t I go to prep school?”

While it will certainly be argued that these new rules have been in place for four years there should be no surprises, issues in many school systems have been around far longer than that. The NCAA’s work to ensure that student-athletes arrive on campus better prepared for the academic part of the equation is important, but there’s more at play in this than the governing body raising its standards.

If young athletes are in school systems that don’t have the resources needed to prepare them for college, they’re already at a disadvantage. The members of NAFCED are arguing that the new standards don’t help those students make up the ground, and it makes doing so later in their high school careers tougher as well.

Will anything change between now and 2016? That remains to be seen, but there should be some room for discussion.