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A Decade in the Making

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

Ten years ago, the NCAA relocated millions of paper files — piled high in an Iowa warehouse — to Indianapolis, and started a new era for determining student-athletes’ eligibility to compete in Divisions I and II. Gone was the old Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse, operated by American College Testing Inc. under a contract with the NCAA to conduct academic eligibility certification. In was the Eligibility Center, an entity intended to be better integrated with the NCAA national office, better equipped to respond to members’ questions, and more efficient in its processes.

Much has changed in the decade since, though the evolution is often overlooked. In fact, many members still refer to the group as the NCAA Clearinghouse, but there are significant differences in the old system and the new:

INITIAL ELIGIBILITY CLEARINGHOUSE
(1993-2007)
ELIGIBILITY CENTER
(2007-2017)
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.

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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