High school students intending to play NCAA Division I or II sports whose final semesters of their senior year were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic will have several pathways to meet the NCAA’s initial-eligibility requirements this year.
“The Eligibility Center is navigating the complexity of COVID-19 and its negative impact on our membership, high schools and student-athletes,” said Felicia Martin, vice president of the NCAA Eligibility Center. “We understand this is an unprecedented situation and a difficult time for students and their parents, and the Eligibility Center is working diligently to ensure the best possible outcome for college-bound student-athletes and our member schools.”
Membership committees in both Divisions I and II reviewed initial-eligibility data and determined the NCAA would offer flexibility for incoming student-athletes based on research, fairness, equity and a standard of college readiness.
Students expected to graduate from high school in time to enroll in a Division I school for the 2020-21 academic year will be academically eligible by earning a 2.3 grade-point average in 10 NCAA-approved core courses, with a combined seven courses in English, math and science, by the start of their seventh semester in high school (prior to senior year). These criteria do not require a standardized test score and will not apply to students who are expected to graduate after spring or summer 2020.
International students expected to graduate from high school in time to enroll in a Division I or II school for the 2020-21 academic year will be eligible for an automatic initial-eligibility waiver if they complete at least 10 core-course units before starting the seventh semester with at least a 2.3 (DI) or 2.2 (DII) grade-point average in those courses.
For students intending to enroll at Division II schools after graduating from high school this spring or summer, the standard will be completion of 10 NCAA-approved core courses by their seventh semester in high school (prior to senior year), with at least a 2.2 grade-point average in those courses.
These standards will be considered automatic waivers for both Divisions I and II, which means these students meeting these criteria are academically eligible to receive an athletics scholarship, practice and compete in their first year at an NCAA member school..
Students also could qualify using the normal Division I standard for practice, competition and athletics aid (16 core courses with at least a 2.3 GPA and a test score that matches their SAT or ACT score) or Division II standard (16 core courses with at least a 2.2 GPA and a test score that matches their SAT or ACT score).
Finally, many students already know they are academically qualified to compete because they met the early academic qualifier standard for either Division I or II.
“We are keenly aware of the educational disruptions and academic uncertainty that prospective student-athletes are experiencing,” Martin said. “To that end, the Eligibility Center is committed to providing support and flexibility in application of initial-eligibility requirements as we remain nimble for additional issues we can’t predict or forecast.”
Additionally, the Eligibility Center will modify its approach to schools that issue pass/fail grades due to school closures. Ordinarily, a “pass” on a student’s transcript is awarded the school’s lowest passing grade, most often a D, and is assigned 1.0 quality points.
For courses completed in spring and summer 2020 with a “pass” grade, the Eligibility Center will apply the credit earned in those courses toward the core-course requirement. If the core GPA would increase by assigning a value of 2.3 (the minimum GPA to qualify to compete in Division I), that value will be assigned to passed courses. If the 2.3 mark would decrease the student’s overall GPA, the core-course GPA will be calculated based only on courses with assigned letter grades from other available terms. This policy will apply to students from all grade levels who have pass/fail grades in NCAA-approved core courses in spring and summer 2020 due to the COVID-19 response.
Students enrolling in Division I schools also will be allowed up to six core courses completed after starting the seventh semester of high school and before full-time enrollment in college, regardless of whether the student graduated on time or when the courses are completed. This approach will allow students impacted by school closures to complete additional core courses toward their initial eligibility. This is the current rule for Division II. Division I’s regular rule allows only one core course to be completed after graduation.
The Eligibility Center also adjusted its operations in other ways to help prospective student-athletes, their parents and high schools during the pandemic. For example, the Eligibility Center will not require a separate review of distance or e-learning programs used for NCAA-approved core courses during spring and summer 2020 in response to school closures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Students are encouraged to complete their courses as recommended by their school, district or state department of education.