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1 Decade, 1 Million Certifications

In its 10 years, the Eligibility Center has redefined the athletic certification process

To ensure student-athletes are prepared for college coursework, the schools that make up the NCAA established academic requirements for incoming student-athletes. Beginning in the early 1990s, the Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse, operated by American College Testing Inc., evaluated student-athletes interested in competing in college. In 2007, the NCAA Eligibility Center brought prospective student-athlete certification in-house. Over the last decade, the certification process has been refined to better assist student-athletes, their families and the schools they plan to attend. In that time, the Eligibility Center staff has certified approximately 1 million student-athletes to compete in Divisions I and II. (Division III schools certify their incoming student-athletes on campus, but have the option to create a free account with the Eligibility Center as well.)

Read below to learn more about where we came from, the progress we’ve made, and how we’re looking to improve.

Determined initial decisions for academic certification.
Determines initial decision for academic certification. Initiates waiver process for athletes who are not immediately certified.
Placed priority on certification. Review of high school courses conducted by the national office.
High school review integrated with the Eligibility Center, which works daily to review core courses submitted by high schools to determine if they meet the standards for certification.
Reviewed and certified academic eligibility. Amateurism certification conducted by NCAA member schools.
Reviews and certifies both academic and amateurism eligibility, creating a consistent standard for both.
Entirely paper-based process with no visibility to students or members.
Entirely digital process that allows transparency in the process to both students and members through a high school portal and a membership portal.
Processed certifications in two to three weeks, sometimes longer, of receipt of required materials.
Established a business standard of processing certifications within 10 days of receipt of required materials. In July 2017, the Eligibility Center reported it was evaluating prospective student-athletes within 24 hours.
Reactive process focused on certification.
Proactive process with emphasis on outreach to high schools and NCAA schools to educate them about the process and initial-eligibility requirements.


To improve the experience for prospective student-athletes, the NCAA Eligibility Center has implemented extensive education and outreach efforts with university compliance officials, high school administrators and coaches. The collaborative effort aims to better inform prospective student-athletes about the certification process to participate in college sports.

• The Eligibility Center’s call volume from member schools has decreased by 66 percent since 2009, and call volume from the public has decreased by nearly 50 percent (164,000 to 84,000). It is believed the decrease in call volume — and accompanying questions — demonstrates a greater understanding of the process.

• In 2014, in response to feedback from high school counselors, the Eligibility Center began offering an online option to upload transcripts, which significantly decreased the time needed to reach final certification once all documents are received (from 13 days to a little more than one day). High school counselors have uploaded more than 825,000 transcripts since this option became available.

• The initial-eligibility waiver process has improved significantly by making it more efficient and improving policies. These waivers are filed by universities on behalf of prospective student-athletes who do not meet the eligibility requirements.

• The number of waivers filed has decreased. This can be attributed to educating prospective student-athletes, their families and high school administrators about the increased academic standards, as well as introducing automatic waiver criteria into the certification process.

• The time it takes to make a final waiver decision has been cut in half.

Prospective student-athletes can now register to receive updates about college sports and eligibility requirements before they decide if they want to play college sports. This allows them to evaluate their options before paying the registration fee and beginning the certification process. In the first year this option was available, more than 40,000 prospective student-athletes created a profile page.


College-bound student-athletes preparing to enroll in a Division I or Division II school need to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center to ensure they have met amateurism and academic standards. The Eligibility Center staff is a resource for high school students, parents, counselors and others.


To be successful in college, students need to be prepared for a higher level of coursework. The NCAA has set academic initial-eligibility standards for Division I and Division II that take into account GPA, standardized test scores and core courses taken in high school. All student-athletes also must meet the unique acceptance requirements of the college or university they plan to attend (which may exceed the NCAA standards).

Oliver Luck, executive vice president of regulatory affairs, and Felicia Martin, vice president of the Eligibility Center, discuss why NCAA members raised the initial-eligibility standards for incoming college freshmen to a 2.3 GPA.