Athletic eligibility: Certification best practices

April 15, 2019
  • AACRAO Annual Meeting
  • Academic Policy
  • Enrollment Certification
  • Meetings, Workshops, and Trainings
  • Recordkeeping Compliance
  • Records and Academic Services
  • Athletes
GettyImages-855829512 by Greg Loza, Assistant Registrar – Eligibility and Degree Services, University of Colorado at Boulder

Athletic Eligibility is such a prominent issue that it could host a conference on its own; and it does. Tristin Marotz and Ryan Allen, from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, Lyndsey Oliver-Farewell from the University at Buffalo, and Brett Staley from Indiana University provided some insight to the complexities of this issue. 

One size does not fit all

When it comes to certifying Athletic Eligibility, there may be best practices, but each institution has to find its own way to successfully complete this process. Every institution’s process will vary depending on its size and resources like availability of technology. While Indiana has one full-time staff member overseeing the Athletic Eligibility certification process, Wisconsin has 2, and Buffalo has 4. Some institutions meet with Athletics once a week and some meet once a month. Some institutions calculate eligibility figures by hand and others have more automated processes like NCAA encoded degree audits. There is no one right way; there is only a right way for your institution. 

Communication is key
If there is one successful component to Athletic Eligibility, it has to be communication. Athletic Eligibility is not a checked box at the end of the term. It is a year-round, proactive job. Office of the Registrar staff have to find creative ways to communicate with the Athletic Department and campus advisors to exchange knowledge and information. Keeping in touch with colleagues across campus is key in order to stay on top of NCAA, institutional, or departmental policy changes and or updates that could affect our interpretation of the rule. Face to face, email, phone call, and network shared drive communication are some of the ways that we can share important information with each other. While the Office of the Registrar might have the responsibility of certifying Athletic Eligibility, it is a collaborative effort that campus partners share.

Why us?
In case you haven’t heard, Collegiate Athletics is often under a lot of scrutiny. Institutions are under a lot of pressure in order to comply with NCAA bylaws and legislation. So why doesn’t the Athletic Department on campus do their own certification? Well, checks and balances is a required part of this process. Often times, university registrars end up with the responsibility in order to protect the integrity of the process.

While we all have the highest regard and trust in our Athletic Departments, having the certification responsibility assigned to the Office of the Registrar adds a layer of transparency. In a long list of registrar duties like degree conferral, enrollment, course scheduling, transcript ordering, among many other things, Athletic Eligibility doesn’t always come to mind but that’s because, as our colleagues stated in the presentation, “if we do our jobs right, you won’t really know about us.”

The documentation and data gathering that these individuals do is no easy task, so next time you’re cheering on your campus athletic teams, think about our Athletic Eligibility certification teams in the Office of the Registrar and know that they put in a lot of time and effort in order to make sure that those student-athletes are certified to be on the field, court, pool, or track.