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March / April 2005

Taylor broke ground with NCAA
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Taylor broke ground with NCAA

HSLDA represented Jason Taylor (now #99 for the Miami Dolphins) in a legal challenge to the NCAA's policy.
Excerpted from "NFL player broke ground as home-schooled athlete" by Tom Rose, Observer-Reporter.com, February 8, 2005, http://www.observer-reporter.com.

George Novak was driving home one day when he noticed a strong young man doing some landscape work in a neighbor's yard.

Novak, the head football coach at Woodland Hills High School, struck up a conversation with the kid, Jason Taylor, who had just moved to the district from Steel Valley.

"I asked him why he wasn't out for the football team, and he said ‘I don't know. I'm home-schooled, am I allowed?'" Novak said, recalling the conversation.

Novak spoke with Woodland Hills School Board about Taylor's situation, and the district revised its policy to allow home-school students to participate in extracurricular activities. . . .

Taylor . . . developed as quite a football player. He made such an immediate impression in his two seasons that he earned a scholarship to the University of Akron. . . . On the field, he developed into one of the top linebackers in the Mid-American Conference, and eventually would be selected in the third round by the Miami Dolphins in the 1997 NFL draft.

But after his freshman year at Akron, Taylor's career nearly came to an end, as the NCAA revoked his scholarship because he had been home-schooled. Taylor's dilemma gained national attention, and the Home School Legal Defense Association took his case, negotiated with the NCAA, and eventually Taylor regained his academic eligibility.

Taylor, who has been selected to three Pro Bowls, recently signed a six-year contract with Miami for $45 million.

"The only difference is home-schoolers don't ride a yellow bus in the mornings," Taylor said of his high school home-school experience. "But anytime you do something different, something out of the ordinary, the world looks at you in a different light, like you're weird or strange. . . .

"It worked out for me. Quite frankly, it is easier. You can get done with your stuff and move on with your day. . . ."

Taylor's case with the NCAA has led to major revisions for home-school students who are interested in participating in intercollegiate athletics. Initially, home-school students were prohibited from competing at NCAA institutions, but Taylor's case led to the creation of a waiver process, which permitted home-school students to submit the required documentation for the NCAA to make an eligibility ruling.

Homeschooled defensive end Jason Taylor says, "Anytime you do something different, something out of the ordinary, the world looks at you in a different light, like you're weird or strange."

The NCAA recently eliminated the waiver process and home-school students now will register with the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse. After registering, home-school students must send their standardized test score, transcripts, proof of high school graduation, evidence that the home-schooling was conducted in accordance with state law and a list of textbooks used throughout the home-schooling process.

According to the NCAA, there were 49 athletic scholarships awarded to home-school students during the 1998 –99 season. That number rose to 107 for the 2002–03 school year and, according to NCAA spokeswoman Dana Thomas, the number is estimated at 120 for the current season.

It is a long way from the days when the NCAA considered home-school students to be high school dropouts. . . .