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New DI academic standards are personal for Arizona State associate AD

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

When Jean Boyd saw the higher academic expectations for student-athletes who want to play Division I sports adopted last fall by the Division I Board of Directors, his first thought was of the kids who would be affected more than others: recruits from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Kids who reminded him of himself.

Arizona State’s associate athletics director for student-athlete development grew up in inner-city Los Angeles, the son of a single mother, and his upbringing shaped his world view.
Now, after nearly two decades working in the educational arm of intercollegiate athletics, he has a special passion for helping kids from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The thought that any population of student-athletes would be disproportionately impacted by this, I can’t stand that thought,” Boyd said. “It drives me to act.”

And act he has. Since the Board adopted the new initial-eligibility standards in October, Boyd has presented to more than 1,400 people and reached countless others through social media to explain the new requirements and what they will mean for high school students wanting to participate in Division I athletics. His mission is to make sure high school counselors and coaches – and students and their parents – know what will be expected of them come August 2016. 

Boyd believes the education efforts surrounding the changes are just as crucial to success as the changes themselves. He began asking questions, first at Arizona State, then nationally through the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics (N4A) and NCAA national office staff. What is the education plan, he wanted to know. What action can we take?

He secured of the materials explaining the new regulations and set to work. He started with a monthly meeting of Tempe/Phoenix-area high school athletics directors.

“Some of them hadn’t heard about the changes at all,” he said. “They should have by then, but they hadn’t. That was my first ‘a-ha’ moment, where I realized people were really behind in getting this information.”

That meeting led to another with about 70 academic counselors from the same group, including a few who drove the two hours from Tucson to hear Boyd’s presentation.

From there, Boyd’s outreach efforts blossomed. He has been before dozens of individual schools and school districts, has presented with NCAA staff at the Arizona Interscholastic Association meeting and even educated attendees of the annual Arizona Cardinals high school student-athlete skill development clinic in May.

“That was an opportunity to get in front of 800 high school students at one time to discuss the current rule and the importance of education and so forth, but for the parents there who had younger student-athletes, we talked about some of the rule changes on the horizon,” he said.

The day after the Cardinal Clinic, Boyd presented at another football clinic for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Earlier this month, he was at the N4A conference in Buffalo, N.Y., talking about the need to reach out to inner-city high schools and strategies for how schools can get it done.

Whether his work actually leads to more kids being eligible by 2016, Boyd feels his efforts are worth it.

“Every time these constituencies hear this information, it’s important,” he said. “In some cases, I’ve been the very first person to talk to them about it or it’s been the very first time they’ve heard that (the standards are) evolving this way. We need more foot soldiers to spread the word about the value of education.”

Boyd said people often stay after his presentations and ask questions, obviously hungry for as much information as they can get. Many times, he said, they tell him they will take the information back to their area and spread it. Sometimes, he educates a parent who didn’t realize the significance of the new requirements.

“I think they are pretty amazed. The sense of urgency is increased for them to light a fire under their son or daughter if necessary,” he said.

Boyd’s initiative makes it easier for the NCAA Eligibility Center to fulfill its mission of educating the secondary school community about NCAA rules. Jeremy McCool, assistant director of high school review with the Eligibility Center, presented at the Arizona Interscholastic Association session with Boyd.

“We always appreciate the opportunity to collaborate with representatives from the membership, especially in a local environment,” McCool said. “It gives us the inroad to develop relationships and provide a face to a name. Whenever a member institution takes the lead, that allows our process to be that much more efficient.”

Chuck Schmidt, associate executive director of the AIA, said the presentation at their event would benefit the high school student-athletes of Arizona in a significant way.

“It really offered an opportunity for parents, counselors and athletics administrators to come in and hear exactly what is going on with these changes. It wasn’t just some cursory review,” Schmidt said.

The presentation has led to a better relationship with Arizona State, and Schmidt anticipates using Boyd and his colleagues – as well as NCAA Eligibility Center staff members – as future resources.

Boyd said there’s no magic to what he’s doing – anybody could do the same and be effective. If other academic staffers nationally are interested in educating their local communities about the changes, he said all they need to do is educate themselves, get their hands on the NCAA materials and make an offer.

“As soon as you offer to extend yourself, people are going to take you up on it,” he said. “It’s not like you have to have some type of strategic marketing plan to get the word out. Just make it known to some local school districts that you are interested in educating, and they will respond.”

Boyd, who presented at the N4A conference earlier this month, will keep answering those calls as long as they come.


Division I initial-eligibility changes

The changes adopted by the Division I Board of Directors continue to use a student-athlete’s grades in high school core courses in combination with the student-athlete’s ACT or SAT score and core-course accumulation. The new standards are as follows:

• To be immediately eligible for competition, prospective student-athletes must achieve at least a 2.3 GPA and an increased test score. For example, an SAT score of 1,000 requires a 2.5 high school core-course GPA for competition and a 2.0 high school core-course GPA for aid and practice. Student-athletes serving this academic redshirt year would have to successfully complete nine semester or eight quarter hours during their first academic term to be eligible for practice during their second term.

• Prospects must successfully complete 10 of the 16 total required core courses before the start of their senior year in high school. • Seven of the 10 courses must be successfully completed in English, math and science.

• A new academic standard has been created that allows true freshmen that meet the previous initial eligibility standards to practice and receive financial aid, but not compete, while they acclimate to the college environment.

• Student-athletes transferring from two-year colleges must achieve a 2.5 transferrable GPA and transfer only two PE activity courses. In addition, a nonqualifier would also need to complete a core curriculum in English, math and science.