I ran across an article in the Star Tribune about a student athlete
Jeff Jones. This article resonated with
me on a personal level, both as an NCAA and professional athlete and as a father
of an athlete. It prompted me to write this latest blog. It is not about basketball per se, but it
relates to all athletes who have an eye on playing sports at the higher levels,
beyond high-school athletics. It is about making the right choices for the best
chances of success as a student, and as an athlete. For reference and credit, here's a link to
the Star Tribune article: http://m.startribune.com/?id=265313941
Jeff Jones, is a running back from Minneapolis Washburn High
School with some decisions to make. Rivals.com ranked Jones as the nation's
seventh-best running back on national signing day in February. As a senior, he had 1,525 yards rushing, 493
yards receiving and scored 42 touchdowns.
He was ranked the No. 7 running back recruit in the U.S. when the University
of Minnesota's Gophers signed him to a full-ride athletic scholarship. But due to his poor academic performance, he
is ineligible and his status for the upcoming season is in doubt.
Jones took a test on June 14 for his last chance to qualify
for his scholarships by improving his ACT score. He improved, but didn't
improve enough to be eligible to play.
However, he still has another chance. If Jones was to raise his grade-point average
by retaking two classes this summer he may still qualify. These two classes are being taken at Washburn
High School and would replace two of his worst grades from high school. Depending
on those grades, he may still not qualify as currently, the "jury is out."
The NCAA Eligibility Center will award Jones and the Gophers
the opportunity to work together if he raises his GPA. The NCAA uses a formula
that is based on a sliding scale combining ACT test scores and GPA. Jones ACT score is high enough to qualify but
his GPA is so low that he needed a higher ACT score, or in the situation now, a
higher GPA to counterbalance the offsetting combination of eligibility rules.
Iowa Western Community College
Jones has the option to go to Iowa Western Community College
for two seasons and earn an associate degree, therefore playing football and
earning NCAA Division I eligibility status to go to any college of his choice. Here are some considerations:
·There are 7 million high school athletes, and only
2% will compete in college.
·With college costs at an all-time high, it needs
to be understood that there are many opportunities that are outside of the D-I
realm. There is D-I, D-II, D-III, NAIA
schools that all offer scholarships.
·Jones can keep playing football and earn his
general education credits and be debt free at the same time
·No one wants debt. Starting out adult life in debt is certainly not
·When Jones dominates this level, and he should,
he should then be able to choose any program, anywhere, as he wouldn't be
locked into the University of Minnesota
at Minnesota as a non-student-athlete and join the team, if eligible in 2015.
He would need to sign up for financial aid.
Here, he would not be a part of the football team. To gain 2015
eligibility, Jones would need to finish at least 24 university credits by the
end of the 2015 summer session, with at least a 2.0 GPA. ( he would then have 3-years
of eligibility, and a 4th if he is 80% finished with his degree in
his fifth year of college). If he
chooses to go the U of Minnesota and pays for college himself, without the
ability to play with his teammates, there are too many questions flapping in
·Will he be able to hack the grades?
·Will he be self-motivated enough to keep in
·Will he recover from the debt of college?
a guarantee from the University going into this scenario? Maybe, but I doubt it.
Debt free and 24 hours of credit under his belt, with
choices to join any team seems to be a better route for Jeff Jones. I believe it is a much better choice than the
option at the U of Minnesota. I am making this recommendation based on
experience. My son got all-city honors
in football and had a full-ride scholarship to play football at Mesa Community
College. A place where he could earn
credits, learn the game at a higher level, have his college paid for, and earn
a great opportunity to play football at Arizona State University, or Northern
Arizona University. But he decided that
Community College was like banishing him to prison, that there couldn't be a
worse place to go than a community college, for any reason.
Long story short, he didn't play football or any sport at
the next level, at all. I know to this
day he wishes that he had not been so hung up on where, but just that he had. A dream of his to play a sport at the next
level never happened just because it wasn't cool to go to a community college.
His mom and I did our best to get him through college debt
free, but we were not completely successful.
Therefore, he owes money on a student loan, a tough way to start out
life as an adult. As his father, this is
very frustrating. I earned 4 college degrees,
two of them Masters Degrees, all on scholarship. Where there is a will, there is a way!
What would you do? What
would you recommend? What do you think is in his best interest?
Why not have your school paid for? Why D-I
or bust? It doesn't have to be that way.
Athletes with the potential to play at
higher levels should not limit their options.
Above all...they need to MAKE THE GRADE, so they won't be scrambling like
Jeff Jones. Jeff is a talent that could
play anywhere if he can just make the grade. Good luck Jeff, I am pulling for you!