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.

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