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Major Division II Academic Changes Take Step Forward

The meeting of the Division I Board of Directors got most of the attention with major reform efforts shelved or delayed along with some needed governance work. But in Division II, much bigger changes were moved along.

The President’s Council voted to accept the recommendations of the Academic Task Force, which was given the job of rethinking, top-to-bottom, Division II’s academic standards. The potential changes, which will be drafted into legislation in June and first voted on next January cover all the major elements of academic eligibility including initial eligibility, continuing eligibility, and two-year transfers:

  • Initial eligibility. Implementation of a sliding scale of test scores and grade-point averages, keyed to a GPA requirement of 2.2 to be a full qualifier. Student-athletes with GPAs between 2.0 and 2.2 would be partial qualifiers if they satisfy matching test score requirements, assuming other requirements are met.
  • Progress toward degree. Student-athletes would be required to maintain a 2.0 GPA in degree-applicable courses at all times and also would be required to complete at least 27 semester hours annually and at least nine hours per term. Current restrictions on the number of summer school hours that can be earned would be eliminated.
  • Two-year college transfers.  Any student-athlete earning an associate of arts degree would be considered a qualifier. Otherwise, the new standards would reflect a required number of transferrable hours based on the amount of time the student-athlete spent at the two-year college and a required GPA of 2.2 (similar to what is recommend for the initial-eligibility concept).

The changes will be released in more detail by the NCAA next week, but already some comparisons can be made with the Division I standards. Division II’s initial eligibility standards continue to creep ever closer to Division I’s. Starting this year, incoming freshmen in Division II will need 16 core courses, up from 14. The sliding scale and increased minimum GPA track changes Division I has already implemented.

Continuing eligibility will depart significantly from Division I’s standards. Gone will be two of the bedrock rules of Division I and II eligibility, the requirement that athletes earn six hours every semester and 18 hours each fall and spring. In its place athletes will need nine hours each semester with 27 hours each year (fall, spring and summer), plus a more rigorous GPA requirement than Division I.

The standards for 2-4 transfers will also creep closer to DI standards with a 2.200 GPA required versus Division I’s 2.500. But there will still be the major exception of earning an associate’s degree. In Division I, the increased GPA is in addition to graduating from the two-year college for 2-4 nonqualifier and 4-2-4 transfers.

Not entirely clear is whether some other concepts in the original recommendations survived. One of the most innovative was to change how and when percentage of degree was tracked, giving athletes more flexibility to change majors while still enforcing some march toward a degree. Those details will likely come out either next week or when the legislative proposals are published in August.

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