To even casual college sports fans, the start of spring means one thing: March Madness. Every year the NCAA Basketball Tournament captivates fans, and turns young student-athletes into household names. It has done so for decades, and will continue to do so for the near future.
But below the surface, the winds of change are blowing in college athletics. These changes could not only affect which teams get to participate in events such as March Madness or the BCS Championship game, but which student-athletes get to compete in college athletics.
Last fall, the NCAA approved new eligibility standards for incoming freshmen starting in 2016. That class, which is comprised of current high school freshmen, will have to have a 2.3 grade point average to be able to participate in collegiate athletics, up from the current standard of 2.0 GPA.
These students will also have to complete a minimum of 16 core classes, 10 of which have to be completed by the beginning of the athlete's senior year. Seven of those 10 classes must be in English, math or science. Student-athletes who transfer from community colleges will be held to an even higher standard.
The new requirements have come under scrutiny from some involved in athletic administration. Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike SINe told ESPN.com's Ivan Maisel that the new requirements may have gone too far.
"We do want a higher GPA, but I do think you ought to go back and take a look at what you've really done and compare it against some of the statistics," he says. "Because we think [the NCAA] may have overreached in doing that."
Norfolk State Athletic Director Marry Miller sees the changes in a different light. He believes the changes will drive young athletes to locus on academics earlier in their careers. However, Miller stressed that the athletes will need an internal support system to prepare them for the more rigorous standards they will face.
"The NCAA is sending messages to student-athletes that academic preparation is important," he says. "It is important for the counselors, coaches and the parents to take it seriously, as well as the student-athletes."
Still, the new standards represent quite a jump from those currently in effect. NCAA statistics show that if the standards had been enacted in 2009-2010, when the current senior class entered college, 15 percent of all athletes involved in intercollegiate athletics would not meet the new standards. …