HUNTINGTON — On Friday, the NCAA made another landmark change to its structure in response to the coronavirus and how it has affected the nation.
The NCAA Eligibility Center announced plans for the COVID-19 automatic waiver, which aids prospective student-athletes in their abilities to become eligible in Division I and Division II athletics for the 2020-21 year and beyond in many ways.
Felicia Martin, vice president of the NCAA Eligibility Center, spoke about those changes on social media Friday following the organization’s announcement.
“We’ve taken a hard look at where our initial eligibility standards are and worked with D-I and D-II governing structures, and what we’ve done is decided is to make modifications to that initial eligibility standard,” Martin said. “For incoming student-athletes, the COVID-19 automatic waiver is available to all college-bound student-athletes expected to graduate this spring or summer 2020. It is applicable to domestic, international and home-schooled students. We tried to think about every student in every situation possible.”
Under the COVID-19 automatic waiver, students within the Class of 2020 (spring or summer 2020 graduates) will not be required to submit a standardized test score, which is generally the SAT or ACT, depending on what state a student-athlete resides.
“We are not requiring an ACT or SAT this year,” Martin said. “Because of the COVID-19 disruptions, we wanted to be sure that we weren’t asking for a requirement that students could not present.”
Martin later made it clear that this is not a change in the standard moving forward and that standardized test scores will be required in the future. This is an exception only for graduates in spring 2020 and summer 2020.
Also, with many states forced to utilize pass-fail options on courses during spring 2020 due to closures forced by the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA has ensured that those options will not hurt an exiting senior’s academic standing as it applies to the eligibility center.
Students who earned at least a 2.3 grade point average in 10 NCAA-approved core classes prior to the start of their seventh semester (senior year in 2019-20) will be eligible for Division I athletics, so long that seven of those 10 core classes have come in English, math or science.
In Division II, the same rules apply, except the minimum grade point average drops to a 2.2.
While those standards apply to those who are seniors in the 2019-20 school year, there were others that apply to all students as well. The pass-fail options not only affect seniors, but also those who are underclassmen, and Martin touched on how those pass-fail courses will be applied.
“For NCAA-approved core courses that are issued a pass, the Eligibility Center will apply that credit earned in that class to the core course requirement in the student’s certification,” Martin said.
To ensure that students would be able to complete such core courses outside of the traditional classroom setting, the NCAA Eligibility Center also announced changes to its legislation of external and non-traditional learning settings, which includes online course completion.
“Because of this incredibly bizarre circumstance, the eligibility center will not require a separate review of distance or e-learning programs used for spring 2020 or summer 2020 in response to the closures due to COVID-19,” Martin said. “Students are encouraged to complete their NCAA core courses through the channels of instruction that their high schools, districts and their state departments of education have outlined for them.”
Martin said that in a time of uncertainty within the NCAA ranks and within schools nationwide, it was a breath of fresh air to be able to give some good news to those who are trying to navigate through one of the nation’s most difficult times ever within education circles.
“What we’ve done is come up with a number of solutions to help student-athletes function and navigate through what we’re up against with the pandemic,” Martin said.
Changes within the framework of the NCAA Eligibility Center came based on talks within the membership committees of Division I and II.
According to NCAA.org, these changes were made based on research, fairness, equity and a standard of college readiness.