The next article in the series will focus on the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the NCAA Eligibility Center, formerly known as the NCAA Clearinghouse.
The History of D-I Eligibility Requirements
The NCAA enacted Proposition 48 in 1986. With "prop 48", the NCAA established eligibility requirements that student-athletes had to meet upon signing a National Letter of Intent with the college/university. Prop 48 mandates that in order for a student-athlete to qualify to play in Division I athletics as a Freshman, the athlete must carry a minimum 2.0 grade point average (GPA) in 11 core courses and a combined 700 score on the SAT.
While proponents of the plan praised Proposition 48 for championing the seemingly forgotten cause of academics, critics condemned the policy as racist. In their view, enforcing these stern requirements would prevent a disproportionate number of poor and African-American athletes from attending the colleges they desired.
The NCAA defended its controversial policy, stating that the new requirements would bolster graduation rates of all student-athletes. Studies indicate that Proposition 48 has met this objective—especially for low-income and African-American athletes. One of the main issues concerning Proposition 48 is the fact that it has affected lower-income students more than anyone else. In fact, studies have shown that while these same low-income students have produced lower test scores, they also have the most to gain by attending college. In the court case Cureton v. NCAA, Temple’s John Chaney apparently thought the heightened standards were an attempt to diminish the number of black student-athletes in Division I. Others, however, recognized the academic reasons for having such standards. Georgetown’s John Thompson simply felt the academic necessity was not worth the adverse effect the standards would have on low-income students of all ethnicities who were victims of inadequate secondary education.
The NCAA's eligibility requirements became even stricter when delegates to the 86th NCAA Annual Convention passed Proposition 16. Prop 16's impact arrived in two phases—the first on August 1, 1995, and the second exactly one year later. Under the first phase, NCAA leaders bumped up the number of required core courses from 11 to 13, and added two elective courses to their new minimum standard. Left unchanged by prop 16 were the SAT/ACT and GPA requirements.
In the second phase, the NCAA replaced one of the two electives with English. With this decision, student-athletes were now required to complete four years of English instead of three. And if that wasn't enough, new SAT/ACT and GPA requirements also changed in 1996. The NCAA instituted a sliding scale that combined SAT/ACT scores and GPA in a minimum of 13 core classes. Now, the student-athlete who earns a 2.0 GPA must combine it with a minimum 900 SAT score to be eligible for Division 1 competition. The student-athlete who earns a 2.5 GPA can score 700 and be eligible. With these changes, Proposition 16 effectively superseded Proposition 48.