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NCAA permanently ends SAT, ACT eligibility requirement for Division I, II student-athletes

Dive Brief:

  • The NCAA last month permanently removed a requirement that first-year Divisions I and II athletes earn a qualifying SAT or ACT score to participate in sports.
  • The shift stems from an NCAA plan to advance racial equity, which entailed studying athletes’ eligibility requirements like admissions testing. 
  • NCAA officials had waived these testing mandates starting in 2020, when COVID-19 began to spread and shut down typical exam sites.

Dive Insight:

Historically, first-year players who want to practice, compete and receive athletic financial aid in the top two sports divisions must earn a minimum SAT or ACT score. 

Athletes’ high school GPA determines the qualifying score — the higher a student’s GPA, the lower their required score will need to be.

Colleges in Division III set their own eligibility standards. 

However, as COVID-19 struck the world, the NCAA waived the testing requirement. Many places where students usually take the SAT or ACT had shut down, limiting students’ access to the exams.

These restrictions prompted institutions to loosen entrance exam mandates. And though pandemic-era restrictions have since been scaled back, many colleges preserved test-optional policies in their general undergraduate admissions process.

Supporters of test-optional admissions argue that the tests disadvantage vulnerable applicants who cannot afford the same extensive tutoring as their wealthier peers. 

Because some colleges have stepped away from admissions testing, NCAA officials felt the same standards should apply to athlete eligibility, Lynda Tealer, executive associate athletics director at the University of Florida and chair of the Division I Council, said in a statement.

The Division I Council, one of the NCAA’s governing bodies, voted to end standardized testing requirements at the association’s annual meeting in January. Division II representatives separately did the same at the meeting.

Athletes may still need to take the SAT or ACT for colleges that have not dropped their own testing requirements for general admissions. Some athletics scholarships also require test scores.

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