NCAA Rules Encourage Easy Majors?

A recent USA Today report identified that the NCAA does have a problem with athletes “clustering” into the easiest academic programs in order to maintain their eligibility. (See last week’s post here.)

But the NCAA’s own policies may be at fault. Several academic policies implemented in the past five years may be creating a context that encourages clustering.

  1. The NCAA has new rules that make it easier for athletes to be eligible in their freshmen year. Incoming freshmen used to need an 820 SAT score or a 68 ACT sum score. Now athletes can be eligible in Div 1 as long as they have a 2.5 GPA in a set of core academic high school classes.

  2. The 40-60-80 Rule. As of August 1, 2003, athletes must complete 40% of their degree by the end of their second year, 60% by the end of their third year and 80% by the end of their fourth. (Previously it had been 25-50-75.)

Add these to the national trend of academic departments raising the requirements for certain majors, and it all adds up to weaker students trying to meet higher demands.

In addition, under NCAA rules, schools with too many athletes who fail to graduate or who become academically ineligible could be penalized with losing scholarship spots or even becoming ineligible for playoffs.

USA Today admits they haven’t determined if clustering has increased in recent years since these rule implementations, but most commentators agree that it sure isn’t helping.

How will the Canadian schools seeking entrance to the NCAA avoid these same pressures to cluster?