Dick Harmon: New NCAA academic standards will take toll on recruits

Published: Tuesday, Oct. 6 2015 3:22 a.m. MDT

PROVO — The NCAA has raised the bar for recruits and this has many college coaches furious.

ESPN's senior college writer Ivan Maisel grazed around college football conference media days and said many coaches were in a state of apoplexy over the new NCAA academic standards.

Frustration, panic, anger. College recruiters feel stymied.

Beginning in 2016, potential recruits for BYU, Utah, Utah State or any other Division I athletic program will have to get a head start on their academics, and that means it has to begin this fall as they enter their freshman year of high school.

There can be no more stockpiling core classes until their senior year. There is no luxury of messing up as a sophomore or junior and then "making things up" as a senior.

Now, you can't wait until the last year in high school and take online correspondent courses to suddenly become eligible before college.

"I am not against improving and encouraging kids to do better academically," said Roy Williams, North Carolina men's basketball coach, in an ESPN.com interview. "I am against such a drastic step when there hasn't' been enough educational process for the high schools. There hasn't been enough time. There hasn't been enough discussion."

Williams' concerns are echoed around the country — that these new standards are on the heads of high school freshmen and many of their coaches and parents, and even high school administrators don't know anything about them.

I spoke to Trevor Wilson, director of BYU's student athletic center, on this issue and his concerns resonate with many college coaches. Generally, all agree increased focus on academics is a good thing and most kids will step up and get with it. But getting out the word and pulling it off this fast will be difficult.

"This is going to be a challenge because of communication," Wilson said.

How many college recruiters can call up an eighth-grader and let him know he'd better get with the new program when he gets to high school? None. It is against NCAA regulations to call an eighth-grader. And how many recruiters can protect a ninth-grader if it's somebody they want?

Wilson, a former high school principal at Ogden High, said in his career he never received any formal training from the NCAA on academic requirements for his students.

"In fact, at a school of 1,200 students, you have classes that get filled up all the time and you are trying to find spots for students in classes. Sometimes you don't have the flexibility to accommodate a need in a given semester or year. If an athlete can't get the right core class at the right time with the new standard, I see problems," Wilson said.

A freshman entering high school this fall, who hopes to be eligible and compete for a Division I university must now do the following:

Complete 16 core classes and have 10 of them completed and passed by the end the junior year of high school. Seven of those 10 classes must be in English, math or science.

The minimum GPA in those 16 core classes has been elevated from 2.0 to 2.3.

The minimum GPA for a junior college transfer is 2.5.

The reasons for these new standards are part of academic reforms instigated by the NCAA to increase preparedness for athletes going to college, enhance graduation rates and protect the integrity of higher education at the nation's universities that field major college sports.

In short, there is no free pass for high school freshmen that want to play major college sports. They've got to dive in.

If these standards were in effect in 2009 and 2010 for college recruits, 15.3 percent of athletes overall would not meet the projected 2016 standards. But 35.2 percent of college football players would have failed and 43.1 percent of basketball players would have come short of the mark.

Another administrator I spoke to this past week said those failure statistics might be interesting, but if the new standards had been in place five years ago, it would not have been all that bad because kids rise to the occasion.

"The upscale is all philosophical, in raising the standard and preparing the athletes," Wilson said.

"The downside — and they've corrected one of those by changing the original date of enactment of 2015 to 2016 — is the communication that happens at the high school level; it isn't always accurate," Wilson said.

Wilson said the other concern he has is now 10 of the 16 core classes have to be done by the end of junior year and if a student messes up or if they were wrongly advised by a high school counselor, they don't have time to correct it.

"It does happen," Wilson said. "I've seen it all the time and it will happen."

If a college recruiter signs an ineligible player who hasn't met the new standard, he can accept a scholarship but would be still be ineligible, thus bringing back the academic redshirt year we had back when the "Prop 48" label applied to non-qualifiers.

Another concern Wilson said is some potential student-athletes may be at a school that has no idea about these standards, and some charter schools that may not be informed. By the time this young person discovers they have the talent to be recruited, it may be too late to do the core work.

"The main people who will inform these recruits are those recruiting them (coaches). In all my years of public education, I've never received any training on NCAA academic core requirements," Wilson said.

So, put the message out there now.

If you are a young person who believes someday you will be good enough to play major college football, basketball, track, baseball or some other sport, better buckle down early.

You can't wander around guessing and dreaming while messing up on accumulating core classes required to be a Division I athlete.

And it all starts your first year of high school, or as a ninth grader.

Be warned.

email: dharmon@desnews.com

twitter: harmonwrites

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