Reformed academic requirements continue to hinder junior college recruiting

first_imgBen Noonan called it a disservice that’s “screwing over” junior college football players.A student who has a 2.0 grade-point average in high school doesn’t qualify academically to play Division I, so he goes to a junior college first. But when he gets there, he’s asked to raise his GPA to a 2.5 while taking harder classes in order to qualify to transfer out.That hypothetical scenario — posed by Noonan, head coach at Sierra (California) College — is one that’s become a harsh reality for players trying to advance their careers.The higher GPA requirement has been in effect since the end of the 2012–13 academic year. The rule, along with the fact that some major-conference programs aren’t allowing transferrable credits to be earned through once-popular online courses, is still making the jump to Division I much harder almost two years later.Syracuse has already brought in two JUCO prospects, tight end Trey Dunkelberger and preferred walk-on quarterback Zack Mahoney, in its recruiting Class of 2015 after not having an original JUCO commit last year. And though SU may be looking at more junior college prospects, some coaches at that level are exploring ways to overcome these academic obstacles so that they don’t expand past just the junior college level.AdvertisementThis is placeholder text“I do think it’s going to shift the dynamics of recruiting in Division I and it’s not going to be long until it trickles down and affects our kids going to Division II,” said Noonan, who coached current SU linebacker Luke Arciniega at Sierra.“It’s screwing over our junior college kids because there’s always going to be the trickle-down effect as well. Whatever Division I does, Division II’s going to start doing.”For Dunkelberger, the GPA requirement wasn’t a problem. In the fall semester at Pierce (California) College, he took eight classes in order to reach the credit requirement to transfer and achieved a 3.15 GPA.But a good amount of potential D-I prospects aren’t able to get their GPAs up to the requirement of 2.5, and it’s slowly changing the landscape of college football recruiting.“Usually their status, most of the time, has to do with their ability to get the requisite GPA and the credit hours,” former Pasadena City (California) College head coach Fred Fimbres said. “Sometimes you coach excellent players that just can’t seem to re-invent themselves academically.”Noonan estimated that 99 percent of junior colleges in the country don’t have the academic support systems four-year schools have, simply because they don’t have the manpower, facilities and money to provide it.Instead of making proactive changes to the infrastructure of an athletics department, though, coaches are proposing another way to help academically challenged kids raise their GPA when they come to junior colleges.“Ideally, in a perfect world, any incoming freshman that’s a non-qualifier coming in to play JUCO should grayshirt,” Pierce head coach Efrain Martinez said. “They should catch up academically as far as their prerequisite coursework because that first year is always the most difficult one.”Martinez also pointed out that the NCAA is no longer allowing certain power-conference schools to accept credits earned through online courses as transferrable ones. Noonan estimated that about half of power-conference schools no longer accept English and math credits earned through online courses, and named the Big Ten conference, some Southeastern Conference schools and Miami (Florida) as ones that don’t.“This is going to affect Division I recruiting drastically,” Martinez said. “Not just the 2.5 GPA, but the GPA to go along with the fact that they’re not taking the online courses. It’s going to impact them severely.”Noonan said what Dunkelberger did is nearly impossible if a player doesn’t qualify for D-I play directly out of high school, and online courses were once the main way to help the non-qualifiers catch up academically.Martinez said he doesn’t think the grayshirt rule — junior college’s equivalent of a redshirt — will be installed, and admitted that junior college kids looking to transfer face significant obstacles that they once didn’t.Significant scholarships are only available at the Division I level, but they’re becoming harder and harder to obtain for those who don’t qualify to play at that level out right out of high school.Said Noonan: “We’re just going to be putting these kids in debt to continue playing football.” Comments Published on February 1, 2015 at 11:03 pm Contact Matt: [email protected] | @matt_schneidman Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more