Tyler Johnson (no, not the TB Lightning forward) should be getting ready for his second season of NCAA Division I hockey at the University of Maine.

But for 10 minutes and 26 seconds when he was 16 years old.

Instead, the 6-foot-3 goaltender is toiling as an Ontario Hockey League backup, the result of running afoul of NCAA eligibility rules in pursuit of his hockey dream.

NCAA eligibility should be a straightforward proposition for student-athletes — make the grades and the test scores, you play. But, for young hockey players looking at options including junior hockey, the route to college pucks is littered with potential missteps that could sideline a college career.

Cautionary Tale

Johnson was playing in the Tier I amateur High Performance Hockey League in 2014 when he was taken by Plymouth in the seventh round of the Ontario Hockey League’s draft. Like its Canadian Major Junior peers, the OHL is considered a pro league by the NCAA — but being drafted isn’t enough to impact eligibility.

Only when Johnson answered Plymouth’s call for an emergency start — the club was down two goalies at the time — did he become a pro in the NCAA’s eyes. The facts that he was still more than a month shy of turning 17, faced 11 shots, allowed three goals and then returned to amateur play — where he would remain through the 2015-16 season — did nothing to sway the NCAA when Johnson and Maine petitioned the organization to reinstate his eligibility.

Johnson played in 2017-18 for the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds after returning to that league with London in ’16-17.

CHL vs. NCAA

Those events didn’t derail Johnson’s chances of getting his education paid. The CHL has a scholarship program that essentially pays a year of school for every year you play in the league. There are restrictions on where you can go and what is typically covered (tuition, books, etc.), but it is a perk that might sway some players on the CHL/NCAA fence.

Remember, though, that you could get cut after two CHL seasons, be left without college eligibility and only two years of school covered. Of course, the NCAA route — where partial scholarships are common — doesn’t always cover the complete bill, either.

Still, if the NCAA is even a possible option, young hockey players must know how to protect their eligibility.

The Basics of Eligibility

Essentially, most college sports programs are governed by the NCAA, an association whose reach extends to more than 1,200 colleges, universities and organizations across Divisions I, II and III. Its most basic requirements cover academics and amateurism:

Academics: In Division I or II, student-athletes must meet minimum criteria based on high school grades in core courses, and scores on the SAT or ACT. Weighted on a sliding scale, those scores are used to determine initial eligibility.

Prospective student-athletes must:

  • Take 16 “core courses,” including 10 before the seventh semester of high school, and achieve a minimum GPA in those courses.
  • Take either the SAT or ACT. Many athletes take it more than once, and can combine subscores from multiple test dates to achieve a qualifying score.
  • Submit transcripts and test scores to the NCAA Eligibility Center.

Amateurism: Though there are exceptions, the basic rule is that student-athletes can’t have played for money prior to enrollment. The NCAA (at eligibilitycenter.org) offers plenty of guidance on this issue; but, in the main:

  • Do not accept payment or gifts based on your athletic ability.
  • Do not sign a contract with a professional team or agent.
  • Do not allow your amateur team to cover any expenses beyond those deemed as actual and necessary.
  • Cover your own expenses when attending camps with pro teams (there’s a 48-hour exception to this rule, but if Day 3 rolls around, you’d better be paying your way home).

Knowledge Is Power

Ultimately, if you want an education through hockey, first educate yourself. Not knowing the requirements is a sure way to fall short of them. Not knowing your options is a great way to choose the wrong one. The key for junior hockey players is to protect all your options until the best path is obvious.

Guest Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey gear. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3, and hasn’t put it down yet.

If you’d like more information or personal assistance regarding how the NCAA rules specifically affect your student-athlete’s situation, schedule a confidential consult online, call Informed Athlete at 913-766-1235 or send an email to rick@informedathlete.com

Most colleges are getting ready to start classes for the Fall semester.

A question that we often receive this time of year is whether a student-athlete can withdraw from classes without a “penalty.” They might wish to do this because of second thoughts about their college choice, or due to injury or illness.

If your student-athlete has already started attending their college classes this Fall as a full-time enrolled student, withdrawing from their classes could negatively impact their athletic eligibility now and possibly in the future at their current college, or at a new college that they might transfer to.

Dropping a course later in the term to avoid a failing grade that will hurt the GPA may be OK, but encourage them to finish the semester or quarter before they withdraw or transfer to another college so that they don’t lose all their credits for this term.

To discuss a potential withdrawal situation and how it could impact your athlete, schedule a confidential Eligibility Consult online or contact us at 913-766-1235.

NCAA Division I student-athletes have a “5-year eligibility clock” during which they can compete for up to 4 seasons.

Student-Athletes at other four-year college divisions must complete their playing eligibility within their first 10 semesters or 15 quarters of full-time enrollment and attendance.

It’s important to remember that a student-athlete triggers the start of their 5-year eligibility clock or uses one of their 10 semesters or 15 quarters when they attend their first class while registered for a full-time course load – even if they drop to part-time status on the afternoon of the first class day!

If you or your athlete have questions about their eligibility “clock” and the impact of dropping to part-time status, please contact us to set an appointment by calling 913-766-1235 or by sending an e-mail to rick@informedathlete.com.

We recently consulted with a student-athlete who was planning to transfer to an NCAA Division II college and learned that she won’t be academically eligible this Fall even though she earned her Associates Degree at her junior college in May.

This student-athlete had not been informed that there are multiple NCAA DII academic requirements that must be satisfied to be eligible when transferring from one college to another and thought the Associates Degree was all that was needed.

Unfortunately, she was also required to earn at least 9 credit hours of transferable degree credit this past Spring at her junior college.

In fact, any NCAA Division II athlete – even one continuing at their same university – must have earned at least 9 credit hours (or 8 if their college was on the quarter system) in the Spring term to be eligible for competition this Fall. For a transfer athlete, those credit hours must be acceptable for transfer credit at the college the athlete is transferring to.

If you’d like more information about the continuing or transfer eligibility requirements, you can schedule a confidential consult online, call us at 913-766-1235 or send an email to rick@informedathlete.com or 913-766-1235.

When a Junior College Student-Athlete transfers to an NCAA school and there are eligibility issues, it can create roadblocks to the transfer.

Student-Athletes who start their college career at a junior college have differing academic requirements when it comes time to transfer to an NCAA school.

For example:

-Was the Junior College Student-Athlete a “qualifier” or “non-qualifier” coming out of high school?  The answer to this will affect what a junior college transfer athlete must achieve academically to be eligible to compete at an NCAA DI or DII school.

-How many semesters did the Junior College Student-Athlete attend at the junior college?

-Was the Junior College Student-Athlete required to get their Associates Degree before they were ruled academically eligible to transfer to an NCAA school?

These are the types of things that frequently derail a Junior College Student-Athlete’s athletic and academic career and end up costing them personally and financially.

If a Junior College Transfer Athlete has not satisfied all necessary NCAA academic requirements BEFORE starting classes this Fall, they won’t be able to compete for their university during the 2018-19 academic year and may also not be qualified to receive an athletic scholarship!

Knowing for certain ahead of time can allow a student-athlete to make the adjustments that are needed to avoid disappointment and possibly financial problems down the road.

If you are a Junior College Transfer Athlete (or parent of one) and you are uncertain about your NCAA academic eligibility status, Informed Athlete can help:

-Go to Informed Athlete Eligibility Issues page for general information or How We Help Consults for personalized assistance.

-Click on Informed Athlete’s College Transcript Review Service to learn how you can get an assessment of your transcripts to make sure you’re on track to be eligible when you transfer.

If you have questions, contact Rick Allen at 913-766-1235 or send an email to rick@informedathlete.com.

If you are not sure you’re on track to be an NCAA Qualifier for Fall 2019, contact us for a Transcript Review and Assessment.
We will evaluate your core courses as well as your estimated core course GPA and your ACT or SAT test score to make sure you’ll satisfy the sliding scale requirement. If you’re not on track, we can help you with an action plan to become eligible or provide you with other options to consider.
The absolute hardest thing I had to do when I was a DI Compliance Director was tell a student-athlete that they weren’t academically eligible to play their sport in college. Don’t let this happen to you!

For more information, give us a call at 913-766-1235 or send an email to rick@informedathlete.com

In college athletics, any amount of participation in a game or contest against another team may count as a “season of eligibility.”

The only way to get that season “over again” is through a hardship waiver.  The most common hardship waiver is a medical hardship waiver.  A medical hardship waiver can be considered if the athlete incurs an injury or illness that is serious enough to be documented by a physician as a “season-ending” injury or illness.

However, there are specific limitations for the number of contests that an athlete can participate in and still qualify for a hardship waiver.  Here’s a link to an article we’ve written on this topic:    http://informedathlete.com/medical-hardship-waivers/

For specific questions about the rules regarding the use of a “season of competition” or a Medical Hardship Waiver, call us at 913-766-1235 or send us an email to rick@informedathlete.com to request a phone consultation.

Even though the SAT changed their test and scoring system back in 2016, the NCAA Division I Sliding Scale – which is used to determine freshman eligibility for competition, practice and athletic scholarships – has NOT been updated to reflect the new SAT scores. 

This has been causing confusion for some high school athletes and parents, as well as some of the coaches and guidance counselors whom those athletes and families look to for assistance.

Call us at 913-766-1235 or send an email to rick@informedathlete.com if you have questions about NCAA eligibility requirements or would like to request an NCAA Eligibility and Transcript Review. 

 

If you are a college athlete (or parent of one) who struggled in the classroom this Fall and your academic eligibility for the Spring Semester is in doubt, it’s possible that your coach or athletic department could choose to cancel your athletic scholarship for the second semester if you are not eligible for competition.

In one situation two years ago, we consulted with an international athlete who flew home to Europe for the holiday period knowing that he had struggled academically, but he had not been informed that his scholarship was being cancelled for the second semester.

After paying substantial money for his return flight to the US in January and arriving on campus, he learned that he had no scholarship for the Spring when his meal card was denied as “invalid” in the campus cafeteria.

His family was faced with the choice of him staying in school and finding the means to pay for it, or to purchase another plane ticket to bring him home when they were not prepared for that expense so soon after the holiday.

If you are concerned with your academic eligibility and how it could affect your scholarship, contact us at 913-766-1235 or send an e-mail to rick@informedathlete.com to schedule a private phone or Skype consultation.

This picture hit the national media this week.This picture hit the national media this week.
You may or may not agree with this Dad’s tactics to get his son’s attention, however, he is correct about the importance of academics before sports.
In fact, the NCAA has recently increased the academic requirements for a student-athlete to be eligible to play their sport.
The hardest thing I had to do when I worked on campus was tell an athlete they weren’t eligible to play their sport because they hadn’t met the core course requirements for eligibility!
This is why we created Informed Athlete’s Freshman Eligibility & Transcript Review service so we can help high school athletes and parents be better informed and prepared without unpleasant surprises!

With a Freshman Eligibility and Transcript Review, we will:

  • Explain the freshman eligibility requirements and how they affect your athlete.
  • Compare the courses completed with the courses approved by the NCAA Eligibility Center.
  • Provide a written assessment of the subjects that need to be completed to satisfy initial eligibility requirements.
  • Review your ACT or SAT test scores, and determine the GPA that will be needed for eligibility, and
  • Suggest steps and discuss a plan of action that may be available to satisfy the eligibility requirements.

For more information, call us at 913-766-1235 or send an email to rick@informedathlete.com