is operated by the 501(c)3 Recruiting Education Foundation, Inc. Its mission is to educate high school student-athletes and their families on every aspect of athletic recruiting, collegiate academic eligibility, and social responsibility, thereby inspiring increased academic awareness and empowering them to make informed decisions that lead to excellence at the college level, in both sport and the classroom.

NCAA Freshman Eligibility Varies by Division

When it comes to athletics, there is no mistaking a DI school from a DII school.  I am sure you can readily pick them out in this list:

•    University of Southern California
•    Adelphi University
•    Penn State University
•    Hillsdale College
•    Florida State University
•    Shepherd University

But, what most athletes and parents don’t realize is that name recognition isn’t the only noticeable difference between the two divisions.  The academic standards for freshman eligibility are different as well. 

Confusing, right?  DI and DII are both under the NCAA umbrella, so what’s the difference?

The NCAA Eligibility Center must certify all DI and DII freshman athletes based on the academic standards set by each division. And, not only are the standards different, but they have changed several times the past few years, including again last month.


In January, at the NCAA convention in San Diego, DII delegates approved raising their academic initial-eligibility standards beginning with the class of 2018. This may sound familiar, since DI raised and adjusted their academic standards several times in the past few years for the class of 2016. However, DII didn’t copy the new DI standards. Instead, they came up with their own.

When DI increased their minimum core gpa, it went from a 2.00 to a 2.30. Meanwhile, DII chose an increase from 2.00 to 2.20. Next, DII voted to replace their static minimum test scores (820 SAT, 68 ACT sum) with sliding scales. This sounds good, since DI has already been using sliding scales. But, not surprisingly, the result is two DII sliding scales (partial/full qualifiers) that will not match the single sliding scale used by DI.

What all of this means is that “NCAA eligibility” is a generic, and meaningless, term. High school student-athletes must be fully aware of different standards set by each division and understand that being eligible for one division does not guarantee eligibility for the other.

Tracking academic progress towards meeting NCAA initial-eligibility standards should begin with the first semester of high school, and that requires knowing and understanding all of the standards.

NCAA Continues to Remodel 2016 Academic Standards

Have you ever decided to remodel a room in your home? The process is time consuming. The research with your spouse is endless. What paint color, which fixtures and what type of cabinets will provide the desired results?

The NCAA has essentially been doing the same thing with its initial-eligibility academic standards for Division I. And, as is frequently the case with homeowners, when the work is done, the conceptual ideas behind the selected paint, fixtures and cabinets do not always match the anticipated results.

So, a year and a half into this process, here we go again.  


October 2011 – The NCAA approves sweeping legislative changes for DI initial-eligibility standards for the class of 2015. Included are a higher minimum GPA of 2.30, plus 10 core classes required to be completed prior to senior year with seven of those classes coming from the English, math, and science subsections. In addition, the grades earned in the 10 core classes are “locked in” and may not be retaken during the senior year.

February 2012 – The NCAA announces its new SAT/ACT DI sliding scale. The minimum score increases by 180 points for the SAT, and a range of 14-17 points (sum score) for the ACT. The NCAA also announces a new term – Academic Redshirt. NCAA data reveals that 43% of basketball recruits and 35% of football recruits from the graduating class of 2009-10 would not have met these new academic standards.

April 2012 – Fearing that there is not enough notification time to educate high school coaches, counselors, parents and student-athletes about the higher academic standards, the NCAA delays the new academic requirements by one year. They will now begin with the class of 2016 instead of the class of 2015.

May 2013 – The NCAA Division I Board votes to drop the increased SAT/ACT sliding scale for the class of 2016 and will instead keep the current sliding scale in place. All other higher academic standards (2.30 GPA, 10 core courses prior to senior year, etc.) will remain in effect.

Here is the issue. When you and I decide to do some remodeling, the world isn’t going to know or care if we initially selected the wrong paint and then decided to tweak our new look. The NCAA, on the other hand, is a very large, public entity with more cabinets than Martha Stewart’s mansion. Constant changes to the NCAA’s published standards negatively impact millions of high school athletes, parents, coaches and counselors, who are often confused by the NCAA’s initial-eligibility process.

These changes were not made on a whim. They were discussed, researched, and further discussed by our some of our nation’s most influential and respected university presidents. So, why the most recent reversal on the sliding scale? Why now? The desired results haven’t even had time to play out.

It appears that once again the decision makers (college presidents) and those directly impacted by the changes (college coaches and athletic directors) were not on the same page. The often conflicting goals of higher academic standards vs. athletic opportunity collided, bringing us to this latest round of new paint.

Let’s just hope this latest step in the renovation is the last. For the sake of the millions impacted, it’s time to put down the tools and brushes and let the new color soak in. 


Recruiting Lessons from Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o

So right now you’re thinking “this oughta be good” or “where’s he going with this?”

Hear me out.


The lies of Lance Armstrong and the bizarre fictional girlfriend of Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o have captivated the nation’s attention. Debates have raged with both incredible stories. How could Lance continuously lie like that? Why is he coming clean now? How could a young man fall in love with someone he has never met?  How could he not be in on the hoax?  Is he somehow starved for more attention?

From these tangled questions come clear lessons which every young student-athlete can learn from.

Case Study #1 - Lance Armstrong

After years of denials and steadfast rebukes, Lance finally admitted to what many accused him of being - a cheater and a liar.  As a former friend of mine once told me, “liars begin to believe their own lies.”

Without getting into the details of my story, that statement rings very true.  It turned out my former friend knew of this because he was living a lie himself, and it certainly seems Lance would find some truth in that statement as well.

What’s the lesson for student-athletes? A reminder that all lies eventually unravel. Always be honest with yourself and coaches during the recruiting process. Be truthful about your physical abilities, academic record and athletic accolades. If you are 5’10’’, tell the recruiter you are 5’10’’, not 6’1’’ (hoping for a growth spurt).  If you run a 4.90 forty, tell the recruiter you run a 4.90 forty, not a 4.50. And, if you are a “C” student, tell the recruiter you are a “C” student, not a “B” student (hoping you ace your final exams). Eventually, no matter how long it takes (and in Lance’s case it took a while), the truth will come out. And, any recruiting opportunities based on false premises will immediately disappear.

Case Study #2 - Manti Te’o

This story is a sign of the times. A time when keystrokes, tweets, posts and text messages often create a false reality. It’s very easy to create a fake or anonymous identity online, and Manti took the cyber bait hook, line and sinker.

What’s the lesson here? The internet is a powerful tool which helps connect the world, but it’s not a substitute for real human interaction. True relationships can only be formed through face-to-face contact. So, yes, use the internet to initiate contact with college coaches. With plenty of free online college search tools (such as bigfuture), free video hosting sites (such as YouTube and Vimeo) and readily available coach contact information on college websites, it has never been easier for student-athletes to self-promote their skills. But, ultimately, you still need to get in the car and visit the campus and meet the coaches in person. There is no substitute for that tangible experience. Just as viewing pictures of a campus is not the same as walking on it, emails and phone calls aren’t the same as a handshake. Plus, unlike official visits, there are no limitations to how many “unofficial visits” a student-athlete can take or when they can be taken (just avoid a "dead period" if seeking to meet the coach). So, don’t forget to put down the smartphone, back away from the keyboard, and enjoy some authentic human interaction.

Lance Armstrong and Manti Te’o. Two troubling stories, but two valuable lessons.

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