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New eligibility standards now in place for freshmen

Early numbers show nearly 93 percent met tougher requirements

The freshmen arriving on college campuses this fall who plan to compete in Division I college sports were required to hold themselves to the highest academic standard ever expected of an incoming class: a high school GPA of 2.3 or above in core courses and completion of 10 core academic courses by the end of junior year.

Early numbers suggest nearly all of them met the challenge. Of the high school prospects recruited by Division I colleges to compete in 2016-17 and certified so far by the NCAA Eligibility Center, the new academic requirements would prohibit fewer than 300 of them (0.6 percent of the recruited pool) from competing in their first year.

Those students, who would have met the old standards for competition but fall short of the new ones, are considered academic redshirts. Provided they make appropriate academic progress, they are still permitted to practice with their teams and receive athletics financial aid during their freshman year of college and may go on to compete and receive aid for four full years after their academic redshirt year.

"It's hugely important that an incoming freshman has the baseline ability to do the academic work," said Oliver Luck, executive vice president of regulatory affairs. "Coming in prepared is going to allow that student to ultimately have a much better chance of graduating."

At this point, the Eligibility Center has processed academic certifications for 45,917 who appeared on a Division I Institution Request List. There were nearly 93 percent certified as qualifiers, while less than 7 percent did not qualify to participate in Division I sports, a percentage consistent with nonqualifier numbers from recent years.

An additional 0.6 percent were designated as academic redshirts. The percentage of academic redshirts was slightly higher among prospective student-athletes in football (1.5 percent) and men's basketball (1 percent).

The new standards were approved in November 2011 by the Division I Board of Directors, the division's top governing body, made up of presidents and chancellors from NCAA member colleges and universities. The enhanced standards were intended to push prospective college athletes toward better high school grades and coursework to help prepare them for college.

In making its decision, the board turned to research that showed incoming students with GPAs below 2.3 and those who do not take a steady progression of core academic courses throughout high school experience lower levels of academic success in their first year of college than other student-athletes. The new standards reinforce the NCAA's goal of helping academically at-risk students succeed in college. "Division I places a significant importance on academic preparedness as a way to be ready for college to give student-athletes every opportunity to be successful in the classroom," Todd Leyden, vice president of the Eligibility Center, said.