NCAA panel recommends nixing standardized testing requirements for athlete eligibility

Dive Brief:

  • An NCAA panel is recommending the association end its requirement that incoming first-year athletes in Division I and Division II sports submit standardized test scores, a move that comes after the organization set up processes to examine racial inequities. 
  • These student-athletes must earn a qualifying SAT or ACT score as part of the NCAA’s eligibility requirements to play college sports. The head of the NCAA Standardized Test Score Task Force said Friday that the requirement should be dropped as many colleges in the U.S. move away from entrance exams in admissions.
  • The recommendation will next be reviewed by two respective academic committees in Divisions I and II as they meet in February.

Dive Insight:

The NCAA created the task force as part of an eight-point plan to address racial equity issues. Critics of the SAT and ACT say they cater to wealthy and White students and are a barrier to applying to college for their low-income counterparts. 

The pandemic early on shut down common SAT and ACT testing sites, leading a significant contingent of colleges to no longer require the scores as part of their admissions processes. Many institutions adopted multi-year pilots of test-optional admissions, and experts in enrollment management anticipate these policies will often stick post-crisis. Notably, too, many schools switched to test-free admissions, meaning they refuse to consider the scores at all.

The NCAA panel’s recommendation “aligns directly with that movement,” in admissions, the task force’s leader, David Wilson, said in a statement. Wilson is president of Morgan State University, a historically Black institution in Baltimore. 

The task force sought feedback from such organizations as the National Association for College Admission Counseling and testing providers when formulating its guidance. 

The ACT and the College Board, the latter of which administers the SAT, jointly advocated for continued use of the exams in a presentation to the task force earlier this year, according to an emailed statement from the ACT. They highlighted how the tests are used in academic advising and student success initiatives for players.

The ACT said that it understands and respects the task force’s recommendation. Institutions, including the NCAA, should determine how they want to use testing data, it added.

The College Board did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Momentum has been building in the college athletics world to abandon standardized tests. 

The National Association of Basketball Coaches, for one, last year cited racial inequities in the assessments and called for the NCAA to nix its requirements.

“The NABC Committee on Racial Reconciliation believes that the SAT and ACT are longstanding forces of institutional racism and no longer have a place in intercollegiate athletics or higher education at large,” representatives of the organization said in a statement at the time.

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