USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities to play at the college level. Jaimie Duffek was one of the top 50 high school softball players in Illinois who went onto play outfield for Drake University. Jaimie is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches, and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience, and dedication along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation, and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.
Spoiler alert: This recruiting story doesn’t have a happy ending.
Meet Allison, an extremely talented softball recruit with stellar grades—a 3.7 GPA to be exact. Her high school coach raved about her leadership qualities and by her junior year, the Division I offers started rolling in. After several campus tours, she happily committed to a college near home where she would earn an athletic scholarship that shaved off a nice chunk of college costs. Then, in the homestretch of her senior year, it all fell apart.
She received notice from the NCAA that she wasn’t eligible to play Division I sports and would not be cleared by the NCAA Eligibility Center. Because of her reputable academic career, no one—not even the college coach—thought to check her eligibility status in advance. Without knowing, she failed to complete the required 10 core courses before her senior year of high school and therefore was forced to red shirt her freshman year of college.
Like I said, not the best ending.
But there’s an important takeaway here for parents of student-athletes: Just because your child has a good GPA doesn’t mean they’re automatically eligible to play Division I or Division II sports. When it comes to your student-athlete’s class schedule and grades, they need to meet the NCAA core course requirements. Here’s what you need to know:
You must complete 16 NCAA core courses
Your student-athlete must complete (and pass) 16 core courses before they graduate high school, including English, math, science and social science. The Division I and Division II core course requirements differ slightly. You can find the full list here: NCAA Core Courses
Your athlete needs a minimum core course GPA
This common mistake often blindsides families—the only GPA the NCAA is really concerned about is your child’s core course GPA. Their grades in art, music, any personal skill classes, such as finance, or any electives, such as video editing, don’t count toward the eligibility requirements. Division I recruits need a minimum GPA of 2.3 in their core courses. And, with the new NCAA regulation changes, Division II recruits starting school before Aug. 1, 2018 need a 2.0 and those enrolling after Aug. 1, 2018 need a 2.3.
Division I athletes need to complete 10 courses by the end of their junior year
When recruits like Allison realize they’ve overlooked this eligibility rule, it’s usually too late. Before your student-athlete kicks off their senior year, they need to complete 10 of the core courses to qualify for Division I, and seven of the 10 need to be an English, math or natural/physical science class. Once they complete these classes, though, they won’t have a chance to improve their grades and retake them. That’s why it’s crucial for your family to tackle eligibility early in the recruiting process.
Your first move is to contact your child’s high school academic counselor.
Insider tip: Your high school already has a list of approved core courses, so schedule a meeting with their counselor to map out their class schedule. You can also visit the NCAA’s website to see the list of approved courses at your student’s high school. Learn more: NCAA High School Search
Remember that while the rules vary a bit between the two divisions, being eligible for Division I means you’re eligible for Division II. Here’s an example class schedule that would meet the requirements for both:
- American Literature
- Algebra 2
- American History
- Creative Writing
- Chemistry Lab
- Driver’s Ed
- AP Physics
- US History
- Web Design
- Modern Literature
- Study Hall
- Family Studies
- Religious studies
- AP English Literature and Composition
- Art History
- Political Science
- Personal Finance
- Open Period
Insider Tip: There is no reason to delay in registering with the NCAA. In addition to the traditional NCAA Certification Account, you can now create a profile so you can get started with the NCAA, without having to pay a registration fee. Here is more information on how to determine what kind of NCAA account is right for you.