It’s not news that most Division 1 schools provide special admissions criteria for student-athletes. Even academic strongholds admit student-athletes with academic credentials far below typical incoming freshmen at those schools. This reality is one of the things we live with for the sake of interesting and profitable intercollegiate sports, and we make it easier to stomach by rationalizing that schools are providing educational opportunities for those who would otherwise have none.
The NCAA sets the bare minimum guidelines to prevent the admission of student-athletes from becoming a complete farce, and it’s up to the schools to apply their own admissions standards above and beyond those minimums. Many do, some don’t. The University of Georgia, for example, generally grants admission to any prospective student-athlete meeting minimum NCAA standards. In Georgia’s case, a faculty oversight committee is an additional quality control on character and honor code issues.
Tension between athletic and academic interests over admissions standards is also not a new development. Georgia decided to deny admission to Jamar Chaney not because of more strict academic standards but because of honor code concerns. Even that decision drew criticism from a small handful of fans who claimed that any standards other than the NCAA minimums placed the University at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting student-athletes.
Steve Spurrier made headlines earlier this year when he clashed with University of South Carolina officials over the school’s rejection of two incoming recruits who met NCAA requirements. Spurrier went so far as to threaten "to go somewhere else" if the policy wasn’t addressed. South Carolina eventually agreed to amend their policy and, more importantly, provide feedback much earlier in the process so that the football program could devote its resources to prospects who weren’t admissions risks.
The latest development in the blurring of the lines between athletics and admissions comes from Florida International. Coach Mario Cristobal’s contract includes language that places authority for the admission of student-athletes solely with the athletic director.
University shall admit to FIU all student-athletes meeting the NCAA Academic Eligibility requirement … provided the student-athlete has been cleared through the NCAA clearing house and been approved by the Athletic Director.
Taking Spurrier’s threat to leave one step further, FIU would be in breach of contract if they failed to admit a student-athlete who met NCAA minimums and who had been approved by the AD.