NCAA academic eligibility standards for competition in Division III

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Winkler, Chris Charles

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In NCAA Division I, academic eligibility standards are national in scope and are the same for all institutions. In NCAA Division III, there are no national standards; rather each member institution establishes its own academic eligibility standards. However, information on these standards has never been collected and published, leaving a significant hole in the research in this area. The problem addressed by this study was to collect this academic eligibility information on the members of one Division III conference. A number of questions were addressed in the study. One was, how do Division III eligibility standards compare to Division I standards? Another was, how do eligibility standards in the Division III institutions studied compare to each other? Since differences were found, a final question addressed was, do the differences in academic eligibility standards between the Division III institutions lead to competitive equity issues. Data on academic eligibility standards from 15 members of one Division III conference were collected through interviews of Compliance Officers at each institution. The data were compared to the NCAA national standards for Division I. The data were also analyzed for differences among the Division III institutions studied. A correlation analysis was used to determine if a relationship existed between academic eligibility standards and competitive equity. The findings of the study were that on most of the academic eligibility variables, the Division III institutions studied had lower standards than the national standards for Division I. In the comparison of Division III institutions to each other, differences were found for high school core course requirements, transfer and continuing student credit hour requirements, and exceptions to the rules. While the study found pronounced differences in competitive equity among the Division III institutions studied, there was no clear indication of any relationship between eligibility requirements and competitive equity. This study provided some interesting information about the institutions in one Division III conference. However, the study raised as many questions as it answered. More work needs to be done to determine whether the policies followed by NCAA Division III institutions are truly different from those followed by Division I institutions.