On Thursday, Southeastern Louisiana self-reported the most recent in a string of mass ineligibility violations. SLU announced that from 2005–06 to 2009–10, 137 student-athletes were improperly certified, and thus not eligible for competition. Like many of these violations, the problem was not the academic performance of the athletes. The problem was the paperwork.
“This was a case where student-athletes were erroneously certified as being eligible due to flaws in the eligibility certification process,” SLU Athletic Director Bart Bellairs said in the news release.
“In many instances, student-athletes would have been eligible had proper procedure been followed, such as timely declaration or change of a major.”
Bellairs said the student-athletes didn’t necessarily lack academic preparation and ability, noting that 86 percent of the 137 student-athletes in question either obtained their degrees from SLU or left in “good academic standing.”
At the NCAA Board of Directors meeting in January, a proposal was passed which may address cases like this. RWG–14–1, the only deregulation proposal which addresses Bylaw 14, the NCAA’s core eligibility and academic rules, removes the requirement that student-athletes declare a major prior to the start of their junior year (fourth full-time semester).
In theory, that helps these cases. But there is also another rule, Bylaw 18.104.22.168 which requires that athletes completely 40/60/80% of their degrees by the start of their junior/senior/fifth year. Removing the requirement that athletes declare a major does not help in cases where the athlete needed to switch majors in order to be eligible. And if an athlete has no declared major, they have not completed 40% of any major, unless they have completed 40% of every major.
So while the NCAA removed the major declaration requirement, it is not likely to have a big impact in cases like SLU’s. When an athlete declares and changes his or her major still can determine whether or not they are eligible. Schools will still need to monitor and track this area closely, and SLU cannot claim they would be punished for something the NCAA no longer says is a violation.