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Breaking Down The New NCAA Student-Athlete Eligibility Changes

Jamie Dixon and the rest of Pitt's coaches will be dealing with new NCAA eligibility changes in 2015 (Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE)
Jamie Dixon and the rest of Pitt's coaches will be dealing with new NCAA eligibility changes in 2015 (Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE)

In case you hadn't heard, changes are a comin' in the NCAA regarding eligibility for student athletes. This sounds a bit confusing, so bear with me. In all, there are two huge changes.

The first involves the fact that there are two sets of eligibility requirements for a student athlete to be able to play in his or her first year. Beginning in the fall of 2015, they'll need to meet certain requirements to earn a scholarship and have the right to practice. If they want to play in games as a freshman, they'll need to meet even higher standards.

When it comes to being able to practice and being able to play, the GPA minimum is being raised to 2.30. If a freshman wants to play immediately, instead of a 900 SAT score, they'll need a 1080. What's this mean? As Panther Lair notes, certain one-and-done basketball players could skip college altogether if they're not eligible immediately. More players could head overseas for a year while waiting to get into the NBA. On the football side, fewer freshmen are likely going to be eligible to play right away.

So for the one-and-done basketball players, instead of getting one year of school (which, granted, is largely a hand wave for some), some may not get any. It's true that some of the players probably didn't take it all that seriously, anyway, if they knew they were leaving. But the flip side is that it also will eliminate having any connection at all to a college. If players turn pro and leave school early, many times they end up going back to college to get their degree. If they never go in the first place, they may not be inclined to ever go. Not the end of the world for athletes making a nice living in the pros, but for flameouts, they may not even be able to get into college if they shoot for a pro career right out of high school.

The thing to keep in mind, though, is that the number of one-and-done basketball players isn't all that high. It will affect some, (Kentucky, I'm looking at you), but in looking at the total number of players, it's an extremely small percentage that will be affected strictly from the one-and-done standpoint.

Looking back at the football side, as I said, it's almost a given that fewer freshmen will probably be eligible to play right away. As a result, programs will undoubtedly be trying to give those reps to players that will be suiting up in the fall, meaning development for incoming freshmen could be stunted at least a little.

But there's another huge change that affects all high school athletes coming to play in college.

The other big change is in regards to core classes. There are now 16 core classes athletes need to take before entering college. In addition, ten of those have to be done before their senior year in high school. Again, as Panther Lair correctly notes, this really hurts students who get off to a bad start in high school. Their GPA in the core classes is what's partially used to determine their eligibility as a college freshman. Basically, the players are going to need to be on top of their grades in those core classes from the time they enter high school.

These changes are really pretty rough - at least it sounds that way. Not only are players forced to do better in their classes in college, but they really need to take those early core classes extremely seriously.

Where's this all lead? Here's the thing - I think we'll see colleges go after players even younger than they already are. Because they've got to make sure future players are eligible right away, they'll be stressing the importance of grades a lot easier. It really probably affects basketball more than anything since football players need to wait three years, anyway. If a football player can't play right away, it's not really the end of the world. I think we'll see more coaches talking to middle school kids to prepare them for the high school core class standards.

It's really difficult to project how this is going to turn out. But these appear to be pretty significant changes.

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