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High schools get say in eligibility

Effective immediately, the NCAA will let principals judge if student-athletes have met high school course requirements.

Abandoning a policy that has sidelined thousands of young athletes, the NCAA will let high schools judge whether students completed the course work necessary to play college sports.

The change, approved last month, takes effect immediately and lets high school principals vouch for the quality of their schools' courses.

The NCAA eliminated certain parts of the course requirements, giving high school principals more latitude in setting the agenda.

"We've become more generic in defining those academic criteria," Bob Oliver, director of NCAA membership services, said Wednesday.

The new rules require that a course be considered college preparatory, and that it be taught at or above the high school's regular academic level and qualify for graduation credit in English, math, natural or physical science, social science, foreign language, computer science or nondoctrinal religion or philosophy.

Independent study, individual instruction and correspondence and Internet courses now may be part of the new criteria for core subjects.

Oliver said the changes came about after two years of discussions.

"In areas of science and English, for example, they do a lot of interdisciplinary work," he said. "We're saying, if you give a course in English credit at your high school and that's preparing the student for a four-year college, then that's meeting the intent of what we're trying to do."

He said the intent is to prepare students to succeed in college.

"Not are they able to use a computer to edit their term paper, but are they prepared to write a term paper?" he said.

Oliver said the NCAA in most cases will accept a principal's certification that a course satisfies requirements.

"The only time we'll investigate is if they send in a course titled "woodworking' or "drivers ed' or "phys ed' or "remedial reading.' That would throw up a red flag."