USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the recruiting process. This isn’t about where just the top five-star athletes are headed but rather a guide to the process and the pitfalls for student-athletes nationwide from Fred Bastie, the owner and founder of Playced.com. Playced.com is an industry leader in college recruiting. Their technology based recruiting service identifies the right colleges for potential recruits to pursue and provides a recruiting system that is second to none for student athletes of all talent levels and ages.
So, you’re wondering exactly what the NCAA Eligibility Center is and how it affects your college recruiting experience. Here’s my attempt to deliver everything you ever wanted to know about the Eligibility Center, but were too afraid to ask.
The NCAA Eligibility Center certifies the academic and amateur status of all prospective student-athletes who plan to compete in NCAA Division I (“DI”) or Division II (“DII”) athletics. The Eligibility Center was created for this purpose and to ensure that all college-bound student-athletes, their parents, coaches and administrators, have access to the rules for participation. All student-athletes must register with the Eligibility Center to be eligible to play DI or DII sports in college. Athletes playing in Division III (“DIII”) do not have to register.
When you register with the Eligibility Center, they will certify that you meet the requirements to participate in DI and/or DII intercollegiate athletics. This is done by reviewing your academic record, SAT and/or ACT scores, and your amateur status. You must apply and be approved prior to your freshman year of college or you will not be allowed to be on any team or to accept any athletic scholarships.
The NCAA recommends that you register with the Eligibility Center during your sophomore year in high school. When you register, you will receive an NCAA ID number which is needed for most college recruiting questionnaires. Also, keep in mind that you must be completely registered for a Certification Account in order to go on an official visit to a DI or DII school even though your final certification will not come until after you graduate.
You can register for your Certification Account at the Eligibility Center website. There is an $80 fee for U.S. students and $135 fee for International students. If you aren’t sure you will be recruited, or if you plan to participate at the DIII level, you can establish a Profile at no cost. If you are later recruited by a DI or DII school, you can then easily transition it over to an NCAA Certification Account and begin the process of determining your eligibility. Since the Eligibility Center verifies your academic requirements and amateur status let’s cover those two topics.
Your academic requirements
The NCAA Eligibility Center academic standards you must meet are slightly different for DI and DII but here are the basics:
- You must successfully complete all required NCAA core courses,
- You must have achieved the minimum Core Course GPA for your division,
- You must have a minimum qualifying score on the ACT or SAT, and
- You must graduate from high school and provide your completed high school transcripts.
The NCAA Core Courses are the foundation for the Eligibility Center standards. Really, if you are even thinking about becoming a college athlete, you should meet with your school counselor as a freshman to develop a plan of the courses you will take.
A core course is any course at your high school that has been approved by the Eligibility Center as a course that meets its academic standards. The Eligibility Center approves courses in four categories; English, Math, Natural/Physical Science and Social Science. Some Foreign Language, Philosophy and Non-Doctrinal Religion classes may also be approved as core courses. Keep in mind that courses like Art, Band, Computers, Economics, and Physical Education are examples of courses that are NOT approved as core courses.
In case you are wondering, the Eligibility Center maintains a list of approved core courses for every high school in the country that has registered with the Eligibility Center. You can get the list for your high school from your high school counselor, or online at the Eligibility Center website.
The specifics of the Core Course and GPA requirements are slightly different for DI and DII, but can be found on the Eligibility Center website . At the DI level, a sliding scale is used based on core course GPA. The higher your GPA, the lower your test scores need to be to qualify. Higher test scores will also allow for a lower minimum GPA. At the DII level, the test score and GPA requirements are different depending on when you will be enrolling in college. The differences are outlined on the website.
Your amateur status
The second part of verifying your eligibility status is that all incoming student-athletes must be certified as amateurs. With international recruiting becoming more and more common, determining the amateur status of prospective student-athletes can be challenging at times. All NCAA student-athletes are required to adhere to the NCAA amateurism requirements to remain eligible for intercollegiate competition. When you register with the Eligibility Center you will be asked a series of question about your sports participation to determine your amateur status.
In general, the amateurism requirements do not allow the following:
- Contracts with professional teams
- Salary for participating in athletics
- Prize money above actual and necessary expenses
- Play with professionals
- Tryouts, practice or competition with a professional team
- Benefits from an agent or prospective agent
- Agreement to be represented by an agent
- Delayed initial full-time collegiate enrollment to participate in organized sports competition
More than 90 percent of student-athletes who register are certified automatically. For those who are not, the Eligibility Center may just need some additional information to certify your amateur status.
Here’s the deal
College coaches aren’t going to find you because you’re registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center and you don’t have to be registered with the Eligibility Center to talk with a college coach. That said; you have to make sure you will be eligible academically and you have to be certified to sign an athletic scholarship, so you better make sure you meet the requirements.