Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Attention on Athletes' Academics

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Attention on Athletes' Academics

Article excerpt

STRICTER STANDARDS: New NCAA rules begin in 2016

Getting good grades is more important than being the popular athlete at school.

If you didn't think so before, the National Collegiate Athletic Association will make sure you get the message with its new, stringent academic standards.

Starting in 2016 at the Division I level, college freshmen will not be allowed to compete during their first year if they don't qualify under the new NCAA rules.

That means maintaining a 2.3 GPA (up from 2.0) in their core courses and completing 10 of those 16 required courses before the seventh semester. Those grades are locked in at that point and cannot be taken for grade improvement.

Corresponding test scores must also be met, on a sliding scale. So, with a 2.3 GPA, a student must have either a 1080 on their SAT or a 93 on their ACT.

"For the average student that's tough," said Joe Kinnan, the head football coach at Manatee High School who is also the athletic director there.

"I read somewhere that if this was in place this year that 50 percent of last year's athletes would not have qualified this year."

His job now is to get the word out.

Some, like Lemon Bay cross country runner Abigayle Weinfeld, don't need much prodding.

The 14-year-old freshman impresses as much with her GPA (4.0) as with her 5K time (18:56.22). This fall, she came in ninth at the Class 2A state meet.

This spring, she is enrolled in honors classes. Next year, she will be taking Algebra 2, normally a class taken by juniors.

"I'm in a lot of advanced classes so I'm not too worried about (the new requirements)," said Weinfeld one recent Wednesday as she was preparing for high school track practice.

"My parents also won't let my grades slip."

That's partly because her father learned a valuable lesson about academics when he was a senior in high school.

He was a fast runner, too, but his grades limited him from attending the school he really wanted to: The University of Florida.

"I was a little disappointed because all of my friends were going there," said Dan Weinfeld, who ended up running at Murray State in Kentucky on a partial athletic scholarship.

"I want to make sure her options are a little bit wider. …

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