What Being Eligible Means for NCAA-D1 Schools - Friday's Scholarship Guide

by Dominic Tinodi

In order to be declared eligible by the NCAA Eligibility Center all athletes undergo a screening process on the basis of athletic and academic criteria. This week's Friday Scholarship Guide is about NCAA eligibility criteria for entering freshmen in Division 1 teams. We'll cover NCAA Division 2 and NAIA in separate blog articles at a later stage.

Photo credit: Dominic Tinodi

You could think it's a pretty boring topic and it's certainly not one of the most exciting ones about college recruiting, BUT it's an incredibly important one, as the rest of your recruiting efforts depend on the final NCAA decision, whether you are eligible to compete or not. It all comes down to two major questions: 1) Are you an amateur according to the NCAA regulations and 2) can you show proof of an academic background which fulfills the NCAA requirements. The NCAA Division 1 manual is a vast collection of complex regulations. For simplicity, we provide a basic overview of the framework without going too much in-depth. If you'd like to get more specific insights, we're very happy to help you with your questions per e-mail.

1. Amateurism and Athletics Eligibility

You wanna compete for a D1 team? Awesome! For starters, the NCAA has some pretty tough rules you have to comply with, and you definitely wanna know about them more specifically to make sure you are "eligible".

Amateur status

One of the key principles of college sports is that it is per definition an amateur league, and thus differs significantly from professional sports leagues, such as the NBA, NFL or NHL. In order to maintain this status, the NCAA ensures that no professional athletes have the possibility to be accepted and compete in any of the NCAA member schools.

7 criteria need to be fulfilled in order to be classified as amateur prior to signing with a college. You must not...:

(1)... earn money based on your athletic skills

(2)...accept a promise of pay (even following completion of college)

(3)...sign a contract to play professionally*

(4)...be compensated financially in any way from professional sports organizations

(5)...compete on a professional team*

(6)...enter into a professional draft

(7)...enter into an agreement with an agent, who promotes you as an athlete and represents your interests

*Exceptions to the above

The very strict rules (3) and (5) only apply to men's ice hockey and skiing. In all other sports, these two rules don't apply as long as the athlete doesn't receive payment, which exceeds the actual and necessary expenses to participate on a team.

2. Freshman Academic Requirements

Besides athletic eligibility, the NCAA Clearinghouse checks your academic results to determine whether you qualify for studying at a college as a student-athlete. Prospective student-athletes will be accepted by the NCAA as "qualifiers" if they're high school graduates who can show proof of passing the following academic achievements below:

High school graduation

Minimum grade-point average in the core curriculum

Completion of a required set of courses (core curriculum)

Specified minimum SAT or ACT scores

Minimum cumulative GPA

Athletes are required to pass high school with a certain grade point average (GPA) in a core curriculum of at least 16 academic courses, such as English, Social Sciences, or Physical Science. According to the American grading system, a GPA of at least 2.0 would suffice. However, a lower GPA would require to do relatively better at one of the scholastic tests SAT or ACT.

Completion of core curriculum

Courses which count as part of the core curriculum are in essence mandatory courses, which qualify for high school graduation credit. These are academic courses, which are part of the scheduled curriculum by the high schools and taught by qualified teaching personnel.

The core curriculum must include the following courses:

English - 4 years

Mathematics - 3 years

Natural or physical science - 2 years

Additional courses in English, Mathematics, & Natural/Physical Science - 1 year

Social science - 2 years

Additional academic courses in any of the above, foreign languages, philosophy, or religion - 4 years

Minimum score on the SAT or the ACT

The NCAA requires every prospective student-athlete to deliver an official SAT or ACT test score taken at any of the official testing dates at any of the official testing locations. The personal minimum test score requirements differ depending on the personal high school GPA. It's important to differentiate between minimum SAT scores and minimum ACT scores. The SAT requirement is the combined result of the critical reading and the mathematics section. The ACT requirement is the total minimum sum score. The NCAA provides an eligibility index, which can be used to estimate academic eligibility:

Say a student achieved a high school GPA of 3.325, he/she is required to deliver the following minimum scholastic test scores:

SAT 490 - ACT 44

If a student achieved a much lower GPA of 2.500, significantly higher minimum test scores are required:

SAT 820 - ACT 68

To view a full list of the eligibility index, this reference sheet by the ITA provides a great and quick overview.

Conclusion

We hope you'll feel more confident about your chances to compete for a D1 school from a formal standpoint: Do I roughly have what it takes based on my high school grades? Will I be regarded an amateur by the NCAA or do I need to take a closer look at the specific rules, which apply to my sport? In any case, we are here for any of your questions, and interested coaches will always assist you because they are extremely interested to get you through the official NCAA Eligibility Center.

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