July 2014 Bar Bulletin
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July 2014 Bar Bulletin

Freedom from Tuition: NCAA Athletic Scholarships & Grades

By Brian Brunkow


"Wow...he lives here? I thought he just flew in for the games."
-"Fast Times at Ridgemont High"

By 2020, four years of public university tuition may cost $155,000; private schools could cost upwards of $240,000.1

With tuition going all "hockey stick" on the middle class, some sports parents see an athletic scholarship as the best shot at getting their kid into college. Maybe Johnny's summer is filled with back-to-back, "invite only" athletic camps. Perhaps Sally has a nutritionist, sports psychologist and an agility coach on speed dial. Sounds good. But how do the grades look?

Believe it or not, and despite how goofy and inept NCAA athletic governance seems lately, grades do still matter when it comes to NCAA athletic scholarship eligibility. Becoming an all-state wide receiver and running a 4.4-second 40 is great, but athletic skill alone won't get it done if the student-athlete is not also hitting the books. In fact, starting in August 2016, Division I (University of Washington and Washington State University are Division I members) will raise academic requirements for athletic scholarship eligibility.

Division I "Core Course" Requirements

So, what is a core course? A core course is an academic course that awards high school graduation credit, generally in English, mathematics (algebra I or higher), natural/physical science, social science, foreign language, comparative religion, and philosophy.2 Core courses must also be taught at or above a high school's regular academic level, and be taught by a qualified instructor.3

High school classes that do not meet the standards for core courses are, by definition, non-core-area classes, or vocational class work. This would include such classes as driver's education, art, music, physical education, personal finance, consumer education, film study, video editing, and greenhouse management.4

Also, believe it or not, computer science (of all classes) is not automatically considered a core course. If a high school awards computer science as a "technology" credit, only then is it not a core course. However, if a high school awards computer science as a "math" or "science" graduation credit, then it may be a core course.5

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