Last updated: July 22. 2014 9:33PM - 582 Views
By - sstinson@civitasmedia.com

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ROCKINGHAM — It’s like an earthquake in the middle of the ocean.

Everyone knows the tsunami is coming, but they are helpless to do anything to combat it.

This is similar to how college coaches had to feel when the NCAA decided to increase its academic eligibility standards.

There was a small bit of good news — these new rules won’t be applied until the high school class of 2016 graduates.

Even though the years in between can be called the quiet before the storm, high school student-athletes have to be prepared for the upcoming changes.

Currently, a student-athlete needs to have a 2.0 grade-point average and a minimum SAT score of 1010 or an ACT score of 86 (sum of all four scores) to earn a Division I athletic scholarship. In addition, a student-athlete must have completed 14 core courses — four years of English, two years of math (Algebra I or higher), two years of science (physical and natural; one must be a lab), one year of additional English, math or science, two years of social science and three years of additional core courses.

On the Division II level, the requirements are lower, a 2.0 GPA and a minimum SAT score of 820 or an ACT score of 68 (sum of all four scores).

When the new rule kicks in, the “student” role in a student-athlete’s life will take new meaning.

A Division I hopeful must have a 2.3 GPA and compete 16 core courses— four years of English, three years of math, two years of science (physical and natural; one must be a lab), one year of additional English, math or science, two years of social science, four years of additional core courses.) Then 10 of these core courses have to completed before their senior year if they want to be a full qualifier.

Unlike in recent years when if student-athletes didn’t qualify academically, they were unable to receive financial assistance or were forced to attend a junior college, the new rule does allow for a “redshirt.”

An academic redshirt would have been eligible under the current rules, but not the new ones. The redshirt would have to still complete 16 core classes, have a minimum GPA of 2.0 as well as meet the sliding scale requirement for a corresponding SAT or ACT score to match their GPA. The academic redshirt would be allowed to practice during the first semester, but would need to show they are academically successful during this time in order to continue practicing for the remainder of the school year.

Despite this upcoming new requirement from the NCAA, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association plans on maintaining its current policy on academic eligibility.

“A student must have passed a minimum load of work during the preceding semester to be eligible at any time during the present semester,” the NCHSAA rules state. “The semester is normally considered half of the academic year. All students must also meet local promotion standards, set by the LEA (local education agency) and/or the local school.

A minimum load is defined as five courses in the traditional school schedule and three courses for schools on the ‘block’ format…Any student, including seniors, must pass that minimum load, even if they need fewer for graduation.”

There is no mention of a minimum GPA requirement in the NCHSAA bylaws, just the passing of a certain number of courses. Rick Strunk, the NCHSAA’s associate commissioner for communications, said there has been talk of a GPA requirement.

“Our board has discussed it,” Strunk said. “They talked about it but decided not to do anything.”

Strunk added the current bylaw is just a guide for the LEAs to follow. Some have decided to take the next step and require a minimum GPA to participate in athletics.

“In Wake County, they have a 1.5 GPA,” Strunk said. “In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, it is 2.0.”

Richmond Senior athletic director/baseball coach Ricky Young believes it is best for the high school to follow the directive of the NCHSAA and not have a set GPA.

“It gives more kids a chance to play sports,” Young said. “If someone has the ability to go play in college, then we need to do what we can to get them eligible.”

Editor’s note: This is the first part of a series on academics and athletics. Thursday’s story will focus on the success of athletes in the classroom.

Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 or on Twitter @scgolfer.

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