J. Michael Smith, President Michael P. Farris, Chairman
 
 
UPDATED: September 13, 2007

So, You Want to Play College Ball?
By Christopher J. Klicka, Senior Counsel for the
Homeschool Legal Defense Association

Good news for homeschoolers who want to receive NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) scholarships and participate in college sports! Homeschoolers have finally been recognized as high school graduates by the NCAA. Homeschool students no longer have to go through the “waiver process,” but can now register in the same manner as “traditionally schooled” graduates.

Homeschooled students have come a long way and have cleared many hurdles to gain recognition academically. Hundreds of studies have revealed that homeschooled students on the average score 20 to 30 points above the national average on standardized achievement tests. The average homeschooler’s academic ability is beyond dispute. Colleges and universities across the United States as a result have begun to open their doors to homeschoolers.

Over the last several years, homeschoolers have begun to expand their recognition to the realm of athletics. For instance, homeschooled student Jason Taylor played football at the University of Akron on a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) scholarship and later signed a contract to play with the Miami Dolphins. Kevin Johnson, a 6-foot 8-inch forward, received a full basketball scholarship from the University of Tulsa, an NCAA Division I school. When the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes faced North Carolina in March 2000, Kevin became the first homeschooler on record to play in the tournament known as March Madness. These homeschoolers, and many others, initially had difficulties getting into the NCAA, but the new policy should eliminate these problems.

During the last few years, the NCAA approved the academic eligibility an average of 75-100 homeschooled students to receive scholarships at Division I and Division II schools. These homeschooled athletes went on to play college basketball, baseball, volleyball, football, wrestling, track, and virtually every sport.

Over the last several years, hundreds of homeschool sports leagues have developed throughout the states, culminating in several annual national homeschool athletic tournaments. A major breakthrough for homeschooled athletics occurred in Florida when homeschool teams were allowed to compete against public school teams. Some of these children competing in homeschool teams and leagues have gone on to receive athletic scholarships and play college sports.

What steps must homeschoolers take to receive an athletic scholarship?

In applying for an athletic scholarship, being on top of your game is only part of the challenge. It is equally important to be on top of the academic eligibility, course standards, and core course requirements of the colleges in which you are interested—and to be on top of them early on. It’s not uncommon for high school juniors to be contacting universities to find the answers to these questions. By asking these questions early in the game, you will be better equipped to ensure that your transcript reflects the necessary core course requirements.

Second, you need to contact the colleges in which you are interested to learn more about their specific athletic requirements for your particular sport. You should also inquire whether the college is a member of either the NCAA or the NAIA (National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics). Follow up by contacting the financial aid office and asking for the necessary paperwork to begin the eligibility determination process through one of the athletic associations. This step is absolutely essential in order to obtain an athletic scholarship.

What exactly is the National Collegiate Athletic Association?

Founded in 1906, the NCAA comprises approximately 1,024 schools, classified into three divisions. Division I has 326 schools, which tend to be the larger universities. Division II has 288 schools, which are mostly intermediate-size colleges. Schools in both of these categories offer athletic scholarships. The 420 Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships. The NCAA sponsors 87 championships in 22 sports. Almost 362,000 men and women student athletes annually compete for the NCAA titles.

Member colleges and universities pay the NCAA to establish and execute standards for determining individual students’ initial academic eligibility. In order to fulfill this responsibility, the NCAA has retained the ACT organization, which provides college entrance exams, to run the clearinghouse for determining a student’s academic eligibility. A student’s academic eligibility will determine whether he is able to practice, compete, and receive athletic scholarships.

While the scholarship money comes directly from the colleges, the national collegiate associations serve the schools to determine whether a particular student is academically eligible to receive the money from the school.

Are there unique requirements for the homeschooled student?

In early 2004, NCAA streamlined the process for homeschoolers, and the good news is that homeschoolers no longer have to go through a waiver process as non-high school graduates. Homeschoolers now go through the same process as other high school graduates.

Initially, homeschoolers were prohibited from the NCAA because they were considered high school dropouts. Then HSLDA helped create the waiver process: homeschoolers were able to seek an eligibility wavier and then submit the required documentation of their homeschool program. HSLDA was able to help many homeschoolers successfully get through this process.

As a result of the excellent performance of homeschoolers, the NCAA has decided to change the policy to place homeschoolers into the mainstream with other high school graduates.

The NCAA has eagerly worked with HSLDA to establish some clear guidelines and procedures for homeschooled students. Homeschooled students must, like all students, meet the NCAA initial eligibility standards in order to be eligible for scholarships at their university. Traditionally schooled student athletes must be certified by the NCAA Initial Eligibility Clearinghouse as having met the initial eligibility requirements. Homeschooled student athletes must be certified as having met the initial eligibility requirements as well, and are no longer required to seek an eligibility waiver as non-graduates, but are able to register with the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse in the same manner as “traditionally schooled” students.

These requirements are much less invasive. Homeschoolers must:

  1. Register with the clearinghouse. Online registration can be completed at www.ncaaclearinghouse.net.

  2. Take the ACT or SAT test. When registering for either test, the student must select the clearinghouse as one of the recipients of the test score. The clearinghouse code is 9999.

  3. Upon graduation, provide the clearinghouse with the following materials:

    • Transcript (included 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,
    • A list of texts used in core courses throughout home instruction (including title and publisher, and
    • Proof that the homeschool was conducted in accordance with state law using either a copy of the state form, or a statement from the homeschool teacher.

The good news is that homeschoolers are no longer required to provide a description of the homeschool teaching environment, copies of the table of contents for textbooks utilized in core courses, or samples of work completed, as they were under the waiver. Discretionary approval of these details and the sheer volume of requested documentation used to cause much confusion. We are thankful the NCAA chose to discontinue this unnecessary and burdensome process.

The NCAA made an additional change in January 2005 to make the process even more streamlined for homeschoolers. The new policy allows a student to obtain a preliminary analysis of their high school subjects by the NCAA. This means that homeschooled students may submit their transcripts to the NCAA at the end of their junior year, and the NCAA will highlight any deficiencies in the transcript that the student can then remedy in their senior year.

Periodically, HSLDA members have run into some difficulties along the way. When such difficulties arise, I simply call the NCAA to clear up any problems. At the time of this article, every homeschooled student who contacted me has ultimately made it through the process, making them eligible to receive athletic scholarships at the institution they were attending.

The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) has also been open to homeschool students, although the organization is still in the process of writing specific standards for homeschooled students. Until these standards are written, homeschoolers must comply with NAIA's normal eligibility standards, which require students to meet two out of three academic requirements: (1) a minimum score of 18 on the ACT or 860 on the SAT test, (2) graduate in the upper half of the student's high school graduating class, or (3) have an overall high school grade point average of 2.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale. Homeschool students who cannot meet this requirement may request an exception to the rule from the NAIA National Eligibility Committee. Homeschoolers experiencing difficulties in obtaining the exception should contact HSLDA for assistance.

Setting your goals

Above all, I cannot overemphasize the importance that homeschooled student athletes keep their focus. The goal of the homeschooled student should be to obtain a solid college education, not to become a pro athlete. A quick look at the statistics is sobering. There are nearly 1 million high school football players and about 500,000 high school basketball players. Of those numbers, approximately 150 make it to the NFL and only about 50 make it to an NBA team. The odds of a high school basketball player playing in the pros is 10,000 to 1. Less than three percent of college basketball seniors will play one year in professional basketball.

Homeschoolers should always take a reality check to keep themselves focused on academic success, so that when college is finished they will be able to put their education to good use. If it is the Lord’s will, some will make it to the pros.

For the Christian homeschooler, the ultimate purpose in life is to glorify God. We need to remember that God requires us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” As we serve Him with our whole heart, soul, and mind, God will bless His people. The best advice for the homeschooled, college-bound athlete is to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

May God bless your endeavors as you seek to serve Him through using your body, mind, and spirit to glorify Him.

For more information, contact the following groups:

National Christian Home School Athletic Association
P.O. Box 8060
Wichita, KS 672208-8060
Phone: 316-684-6953

Family Educators’ Alliance of South Texas (FEAST)
4719 Blanco Rd.
San Antonio, TX 78212
Phone: 210-342-4674

National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
Indianapolis, IN
Phone: 317-917-6222 www.ncaa.org

National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The smaller NAIA is comprised of over 300 member universities and operates much like the NCAA.
Kansas City, MO
Phone: 816-595-8000
naia.cstv.com