October 24, 2003
Tougher academic rules in play for Cyclone student-athletes
by Diana Pounds
The freshmen who joined Cyclone athletics teams this fall have to focus
earlier on their career goals and be more attentive to their GPAs than their
They begin their academic careers under the National Collegiate Athletic
Association's tougher, new standards for classroom performance. If they want
to play, these student-athletes will have to show faster progress toward
their degrees than their predecessors.
The new academic standards are part of a series of NCAA reforms championed
by Division I university presidents and chancellors.
"The NCAA is strengthening academic requirements and expectations, with the
goal of raising student-athlete graduation rates," said Paula Morrow,
University Professor of management and Iowa State's faculty athletics
representative to the NCAA and Big 12 Conference.
Under the new NCAA rules, this year's freshmen and future athletes will
remain eligible for competition if they complete 40 percent of their degree
requirements and earn at least 1.9 grade-point averages after two years of
college. Three years in, they'll need to be 60 percent of the way toward
their degrees and have 2.0 GPAs. After the fourth year, those numbers climb
to 80 percent with a 2.0 GPA.
The requirement, often called the "40-60-80" rule, replaces the less
ambitious "25-50-75" rule, which required student-athletes to complete 25
percent of degree requirements after two years, 50 percent after three, and
75 percent after four.
Junior college transfers will face the same requirements. For example, a
student-athlete who started junior college this fall and transfers to Iowa
State two years from now must enter the university with 40 percent of his or
her degree requirements completed.
Unlike some of their classmates, student-athletes will not be able to remain
undecided about their majors until late in their college careers, Morrow
said. "They must set their career goals early and work toward them. If they
change majors frequently, or even more than once, it could be difficult for
them to maintain academic eligibility."
The NCAA also is phasing in new requirements for high school athletes who
want to play intercollegiate games. The number of core courses that future
college athletes need to complete in high schools will be bumped up from 13
to 14 for freshmen entering college in 2005. By 2007, the requirement will
be 16 core courses.
As in the past, high school athletes need at least a 2.0 grade-point average
to be eligible for college sports. However, the NCAA is phasing out its
minimum test score requirements (820 on the SAT or 68 on the ACT) in favor
of a sliding scale that links test requirements to students' high school
Those with better grade-points don't have to score as well on the SAT or ACT
under the new system. For example, a student with a 2.0 grade-point average
would need a 1010 SAT score or 86 ACT score to be eligible to play college
sports. However, a student with a 3.0 GPA could qualify with a 620 SAT or 52
The first part of NCAA academic reforms focused on toughening student
eligibility standards, Morrow said. NCAA committees already are at work on
an anticipated sequel -- rewarding or penalizing athletic teams and programs
based on their success in retaining and graduating students.
Those reforms are probably a couple of years away and details are yet to be
worked out, Morrow added. But rewards for academically successful athletic
programs might include, for example, more athletic scholarships, recruiting
benefits or additional funds through conference and NCAA
Iowa State fields 18 NCAA intercollegiate teams.
Morrow is no stranger to ISU athletics
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
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