We often focus on the “athlete” portion of the student-athlete designation, but the educational eligibility requirements of players hoping to play in Division I or Division II sports might change significantly in the near future.
A few weeks ago, the NCAA Standardized Test Score Task Force proposed that high school students who are looking to play Division I or Division II sports do not need to achieve certain thresholds on standardized exams.
“We are observing a national trend in NCAA member schools moving away from requiring standardized test scores for admissions purposes and this recommendation for athletics eligibility aligns directly with that movement,” said David Wilson, president at Morgan State and leader of the task force. Via NCAA.org
Within the last decade or so, the value of standardized testing has certainly come into greater societal focus, and this development falls in line with that. There are two main sides to this argument that are usually made.
One side might disagree with this proposal by the NCAA, because it can reduce the barriers to entry as a student. For groups like the Knight Commission and others who believe the educational experience of college comes first and foremost above the athletic ones, any action to make acceptance easier from a scholastic standpoint may not be well received. It can be argued that standardized test scores are still the best common denominator we have in this country where state educational systems can vary drastically.
The other side of the coin contains the notion that standardized testing is a poor mechanism for determining scholastic aptitude. Inherent economic and racial disadvantages can place certain students behind the eight ball when it comes to test preparation. In fact, the task force was created based on issues relating to racial equality. There’s also thinking along the lines of judging a student based on his or her entire academic body of work, rather than one score that may be anomalous.
While not mentioned in the NCAA’s announcement, it is also fair to wonder if the new NIL rules are playing a part in this movement. There might be a sizable faction of high school athletes whose families are not well off, and would not be able to support SAT or ACT preparation. Those students might be more inclined to get to college to take advantage of NIL, to help support their families.
There are a lot of ways to look at this topic, but it usually does engender strong reactions from students, parents, fans and administrators alike.