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Mark Emmert discusses looking academic changes

Nov 8, 2012, 10:00 PM EDT

Mark Emmert

One of the hot-topics heading this summer were the changes in academic requirements that the NCAA announced would be in place for the high school class of 2016.

The major changes: increasing the minimum GPA required to 2.3 from 2.0 in core classes while restricting the number of core classes than can be taken in a recruit’s senior season.

The problem, here, is that a whopping 43.1% of the players in the high school class of 2009 would not have met these initial eligibility standards. That’s a lot.

This week, Emmert addressed these changes in a Q-and-A with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and he made a couple important points that have been somewhat glossed over in discussions on the matter:

First of all, we’re beginning a broad-based communications effort to youngsters — seventh, eighth and ninth graders — letting them know that they need to be prepared not just athletically, but also academically. … Similarly, every coach of every sport knows they have to have their students paying close attention to their academics. It is every student-athletes’ dream to play in one of our tournaments, and if they are unable to (do so) because of their academics … that would be an absolute shame.

[...]

One of the provisions that doesn’t get talked about a lot is one intended to make sure we don’t shut the door. That is, (if you fail to meet the new standards but meet the old ones) you can still go to an institution on an athletic scholarship and can still practice … but you can’t play in games (the first year). People have referred to it as an academic redshirt year. … The second piece is that we know from past experience that when we raise the bar young people respond very nicely. … Setting a (minimum GPA in core courses) of 2.3 instead of 2.0, we have confidence kids will get there. Having low expectations of people has never been a good route to success.

This is important to note. The NCAA isn’t just throwing these changes out there. They are giving student-athletes ample time to get prepared for them, ample time meaning “their entire high school academic career”.

And it is worth mentioning that these changes aren’t an effort to keep kids out of college, either. The old academic standards get them into school and on scholarship, they just can’t play in games until they get their books right. Kind of like what Ben McLemore did last season, or what Ricardo Ledo is doing this year.

Putting aside your feelings about the concept of a ‘student-athlete’ in today’s money-driven NCAA, an effort to improve education is always going to be a good thing in my book.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

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