by Christopher J. Klicka, Esq.
Good news for homeschoolers who want to participate in college sports! Homeschoolers have finally been recognized as high school graduates by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). They no longer have to go through a waiver process to join, but can now register in the same manner as "traditionally schooled" graduates.
Initially, the NCAA classified homeschoolers as high school dropouts, who are prohibited from joining. Then Home School Legal Defense Association helped create the waiver process: homeschoolers could seek an eligibility waiver as non-high school graduates, and then submit documentation about their homeschool program. Through this process, the NCAA approved the academic eligibility of an average of 75–100 homeschooled students per year to receive college scholarships in basketball, baseball, volleyball, football, wrestling, and track.Meanwhile, the NCAA continued working with HSLDA to establish clear guidelines and procedures for homeschooled students. In early 2004, as a result of homeschoolers' excellent performance in collegiate sports and academics, the NCAA streamlined the application process for homeschoolers, eliminating the waiver requirement. Homeschoolers now follow the same process as other high school graduates.
In order to receive scholarships at their university, all applicants must first meet the NCAA initial eligibility standards. The next step is to register with the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse. (In the past, this was the point at which homeschoolers had to enter the waiver process.)
The new requirements
Under the NCAA's new policy, homeschoolers must:
- Register with the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse. Online registration can be completed at www.ncaaclearinghouse.net.
- Take the ACT or SAT. When registering for either test, be sure to select the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse (code 9999) as a recipient of the test score.
- Upon graduation, provide the clearinghouse with the following items:
|>>||Transcript (including course titles, grades, units of credits for courses, and grading scale);|
|>>||Proof of graduation, in the form of a diploma, listing the graduation month and year;|
|>>||List of texts used in core courses throughout home instruction (include title and publisher); and|
|>>||Proof that the homeschool was conducted in accordance with state law (provide either a copy of the state form, or a statement from the homeschool teacher).|
Gone are the old time-consuming, often confusing waiver requirements that homeschoolers provide a description of the homeschool teaching environment, copies of textbook tables of contents, or samples of completed work.
Up to this point, every HSLDA member who has contacted our office for assistance has ultimately completed the NCAA process and become eligible for athletic scholarships. If you encounter difficulties in the NCAA application process, do not hesitate to call HSLDA.
More homeschoolers in sports
Over the last several years, homeschoolers have begun to earn athletic recognition in an increasing array of college-level arenas. In the mid-1990s, homeschooled defensive end Jason Taylor played football for the University of Akron on an NCAA scholarship and later signed a contract with the Miami Dolphins. (HSLDA fought to help Taylor regain his athletic scholarship at Akron. Read more in the November/December 1997 Court Report) Another homeschool graduate, Kevin Johnson, received a full basketball scholarship from the University of Tulsa, an NCAA Division I school. When the Tulsa Golden Hurricane faced the North Carolina Tar Heels in March 2000, Johnson became the first homeschooler on record to play in the "March Madness" tournament. And in recent months, a 20-year-old Hawaiian homeschool graduate has made headlines in the world of tennis. Chris Lam and his four siblings were homeschooled by their mother, Patricia. Lam is now a junior business major at UCLA. (See Bright Spots In Home Schooling: Chris Lam.)
Timing is everything
Before or when you start high school, begin investigating colleges. Find out what the academic requirements, course standards, and core course requirements are at the specific colleges you'd like to attend. It's never too soon. By asking these questions early in the game, you can ensure that your transcript reflects the necessary core course requirements. Also check out the college's specific athletic requirements for your particular sport. Is the college a member of either the NCAA or the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)? Follow up by asking the financial aid office for the necessary paperwork to begin the athletic association's eligibility determination process.
Not every homeschool student who makes it into college sports will become a professional athlete. But as homeschoolers know from experience, true educational success is only possible when students can pursue their dreams to the best of their abilities—and the new NCAA process gives homeschoolers that opportunity.
"So, You Want to Play College Ball?" by Christopher J. Klicka. (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)
January 16, 2004, NCAA letter to HSLDA President J. Michael
Smith (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)