What is the NCAA sliding scale?

To be eligible to receive an athletic scholarship, and to be able to practice and compete, an athlete who will be enrolling at an NCAA Division I school as a freshman must be certified as a Qualifier by the NCAA Eligibility Center.

As part of the determination of a student-athlete’s eligibility for Division I, the NCAA uses a “sliding scale” to assess the GPA that the athlete has earned in 16 “core courses” while in high school, in conjunction with their scores on the ACT or SAT test.

For purposes of NCAA eligibility, be aware that the NCAA uses the SAT score on the critical reading and math portions of the test. The writing component of the test is not considered for NCAA purposes.

The NCAA uses an ACT “sum score” rather than the ACT composite score that is normally used for the purpose of being admitted to a college or university. The ACT “sum score” is the sum of the score from the four subsections of the ACT test. So, an athlete who received scores of 20, 19, 22, and 18 on the respective subsections of the ACT test will have a “sum score” of 79.

Also, be aware that the NCAA Eligibility Center will take the best scores received on each subsection of each test if taken more than once. So, for example, two subscores taken from a Fall ACT test can be combined with two subscores from the other two sections of an ACT test taken in the Spring can be combined for your best ACT “sum score.”

Here are a couple of other examples.

  • A prospect with a core course GPA of 2.625 can be eligible with an ACT sum score of 63 or higher. Another prospect with a core course GPA of 2.615 must have an ACT sum score of at least 64 to be eligible.
  • In similar fashion, a prospect who has an SAT score of 800 on the critical reading and math portions can be eligible with a core course GPA of at least 2.550, but a prospect with an SAT score of 730 must have a core course GPA of at least 2.700.

Currently, only NCAA Division I uses a sliding scale to determine eligibility for athletic scholarships, practice, and competition.

Beginning August of 2018, NCAA Division II will also utilize a sliding scale, but it won’t be the same scale as Division I. Until then, Division II athletes can be eligible for athletic scholarships, practice, and competition as long as they have a GPA of at least 2.000 in the required 16 core courses with either an SAT score of 820 or an ACT sum score of at least 68.

If you’d like to know more about the new NCAA rules, click here to read our post:  New NCAA Eligibility Requirements.  This post also has a link to the new vs the old sliding scale chart.

Do you have questions about how this information applies to you?

About Rick Allen

25+ years NCAA Rules Expertise, including Director of Compliance at 2 major DI schools

Former President of National Association for Athletic Compliance (NAAC)

Conducts compliance reviews and audits at NCAA Schools throughout the U.S.

Consulted with NAIA schools transitioning to NCAA membership status

Dad of a DI & DII student-athlete

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