Lost In Conversion

South Carolina public school student-athletes are at a severe disadvantage when their grade point averages are converted at the National Eligibility Center. The NCAA Clearinghouse or NCAA Eligibility Center is used to certify the academic and amateur credentials of all college-bound student-athletes who wish to compete in NCAA Division I or II athletics.

Imagine two South Carolina track athletes walking up to the starting line and getting ready to race for the 100 meter state championship. Student-athlete Jones attends Private High School and student athlete Smith attends Public High School. Throughout the track season, each of these track stars has mimicked each other with respect to their 100 meter times and everyone in the stadium is ready for an epic race. However, the governing body suddenly halts the start of the race and draws a separate starting line for racer Jones from Private High, a starting line that is 33 to 40 meters down the track ahead of racer Smith. Now, the race can begin!

Anyone reading the above scenario is surely grimacing at the thought of such an unfair advantage and we are all saying to ourselves “this cannot happen, this must be a joke”. Unfortunately, with respect to the S.C. Uniform Grading Scale and its conversion at the National Eligibility Center, there is no punch line and there is no joke. The fact is; South Carolina public school student-athletes are at a severe disadvantage when their grades are converted at the National Eligibility Center.

The South Carolina general assembly directed the State Board of Education to develop a uniform grading scale in an effort to even the playing field with respect to S.C. sponsored academic scholarship opportunities. However, the playing field for student-athletes has been dramatically altered and the end result is an unjust system that eliminates many public school student-athletes from participating in Division 1 or Division 2 athletics, eliminates student-athletes from attending Division 1 or Division 2 colleges and universities, and severely hinders the student-athlete opportunities to obtain athletic scholarships.

In an effort to illustrate this point, we will use the above fictional student-athletes as a reference. Students Jones and Smith will each take 1 core course from each core academic category (Math, English, Social Science, and Physical Science) and both students in these scenarios are enrolled in an honors program.

Scenario #1

Students Jones and Smith receive identical final grades of 75% for their respective work and the workload for each student is identical. In addition, each student in this scenario has achieved a combined SAT score of 620.

Under the Private High School standard 10 point grading policy, student-athlete Jones earns a grade point average of 3.0 and the NCAA Eligibility Center conversion is 3.0 GPA (75% = 2.0 GPA + 1.0 Honor Credit = 3.0 GPA).

Under the S.C Uniform Grading Scale, student-athlete Smith earns a grade point average of 2.22. However, student-athlete Smith’s GPA conversion at the NCAA Eligibility Center is 1.0 GPA (75% = 1.0 + 0.0 Honor Credit = 1.0 GPA)

As a result, student-athlete Smith from Public High is not eligible to compete in Division 1 or Division 2 athletics and is not eligible for any athletic scholarships. Student-athlete Jones from Private High will be eligible for Division 1 or Division 2 athletics and athletic scholarships.

Scenario #2

Students Jones and Smith receive identical final grades of 92% for their respective work and the workload for each student is identical.

Under the Private High standard 10 point grading policy, student-athlete Jones earns a grade point average of 5.0 and the NCAA Eligibility Center conversion is 5.0 GPA (92% = 4.0 GPA + 1.0 Honor Credit = 5.0 GPA).

Under the S.C Uniform Grading Scale, student-athlete Smith earns a grade point average of 4.37. However, student-athlete Smith’s GPA conversion at the NCAA Eligibility Center is 3.0 GPA (92% = 3.0 + 0.0 Honor Credit = 3.0 GPA).

In this scenario, students Smith and Jones are both eligible for Division 2 athletics. However, in order to be eligible for Division 1 athletics, Student Smith from Public High must have a cumulative SAT score of 620 as opposed to student Jones from Private High who only needs to obtain an SAT score of 400. This is due to the Division 1 GPA test score and GPA sliding scale.

The outcome of these comparisons will be the same if you were to compare any South Carolina public school student-athlete to any other private or public school student-athlete who is under a standard ten (10) point grading scale with weighted points for honors classes. The reasons for this disparity are simple; the S.C. uniform grading scale is a modified seven (7) point scale versus the ten (10) point scale found in most schools throughout the United States and Europe, and S.C. public schools do not provide any honors credit at the NCAA Eligibility Center.

Due to the fact that there are many nuances associated with grading scales throughout the country, and the world. The NCAA Edibility Center relies upon each individual school to submit their respective grading scales in order to determine a student-athletes eligibility. South Carolina public schools are restricted from sending any grading scale that differs from the Uniform Grading Scale which was developed for academic scholarships.

So now that we have identified the problem, what are some of the ways that we can improve the current system to ensure a more level playing field? First we must realize that the S.C. Board of Education will be reluctant to revise the current uniform grading policy by reverting back to a 10 point scale. Thus, one suggestion would be to develop a supplemental grading scale designed specifically for college-bound student-athletes who wish to compete in NCAA Division I or II athletics and require certification through the NCAA Edibility Center. The Supplemental Athletic Grading Scale would be available to pubic schools reporting to the NCAA Edibility Center for the sole purpose of equalizing the reported grade point averages of our NCAA Division I or II student-athletes.
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