Right now, Wichita State University sprints coach John Wise is contemplating whether to red shirt freshman Lauren Pickens.
Pickens won 12 2A state titles at Peabody-Burns High School.
Pickens battled an ankle injury in the fall and missed some practice time. She competed in the first meet of the year unattached. If she is red shirted, she would be able to compete unattached at Kansas meets but not compete on team road trips.
The decision is solely based on the normal struggles of a freshman runner.
“Most college kids will be in college five years,” Wise said. “And they’ll be better by their fifth year.”
Pickens problem has nothing to do with academics. In her first semester, she qualified as a scholar athlete with a 3.2 grade point average, Wise said.
However, Pickens athletic scholarship was in jeopardy before she stepped on campus in Wichita because a problem with high school credits required for National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I eligibility, Wise said.
The requirements for academic eligibility are four years of English, three years of mathematics (algebra I or higher), two years of natural and physical science, one year of additional English, math, or natural science, two years of social studies, and four years of additional courses from any of the previous areas listed. The requirements amount to 16 credits total.
“If an athlete is academically eligible, I’ve never seen a case where they weren’t admitted to WSU,” Wise said. “It’s significantly higher academic requirements than the rest of the student body.”
Peabody-Burns High School requires 26 credits for graduation and their specifics are very similar to the NCAA Division I requirements.
While he could not talk about Pickens’ case because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Robertson said that the state is not as stringent in its class requirements.
Under the pathways curriculum, food science and animal science count toward state credits as natural science classes with a laboratory study section. But those classes do not meet NCAA requirements.
“It’s tough for high schools to keep track especially when they don’t have a lot of Division I athletes,” Wise said. “(The NCAA rule book) is about 500 pages thick.”
Two more examples are algebra III and a now defunct history of Peabody class that met state requirements but not NCAA rules.
“There would have been about 52 hoops to jump through,” Robertson said to get any of those classes NCAA eligible. “I wish they were more closely aligned.”
Robertson said the school passes out a form with NCAA Division I and Division II course requirements to all students. He said if students think they could play NCAA sports that they should immediately meet with him or social worker Sarah Grout to make sure they are meeting requirements.
“If they want to become NCAA eligible we will make that happen provided we have enough time,” Robertson said.
Robertson said it is easy for students to get off track. A football player may take weight lifting every year; physical education classes do not count toward one of the 16 credits required by the NCAA
Other students, especially with sports like rowing, may not be recruited until their senior year and may not realize they are ineligible.
“It’s tough on kids a lot of times because they don’t know what they want to do,” Robertson said.