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Because of virus, UNM is hopeful that NCAA will relax college entrance-exam rules

Lobo men’s basketball on Wednesday officially announced the signing of the program’s newest recruit, junior college guard Saquan Singleton.

The fax machine – apparently they still use those things – across the hall in the Rudy Davalos Center in the Lobos women’s basketball offices was churning out three National Letters of Intent on the NCAA’s spring version of National Signing Day.

And about a half dozen or so other future Lobos for other sports put pen to paper on Wednesday and signed up to attend UNM for the 2020-21 academic year and don the cherry and silver for their respective sports.

But will they be qualified academically to play?

The short answer is probably.

“The NCAA Eligibility Center has received a number of inquiries regarding potential adjustments to the initial eligibility certification process as a result of closures, cancellations, and changes due to COVID-19,” wrote NCAA officials in an email to university athletic department compliance officers across the country on April 10. “The EC is working closely with the governance structure and making progress toward national solutions to the issues raised for both Divisions I and II. We look forward to communicating the details of these adjustments in the next several days upon complete review through our governance processes.”

But for now, while there are other more pressing matters to address, the reality is the NCAA and most universities across the country, UNM included, don’t yet have a final determination on how they are going to allow incoming students – freshmen or transfers – onto campus this summer and fall. For many, coronavirus-related changes at their current schools have left them unable to take the usually required college entrance exams, get letter grades for courses that may have shifted to a pass/fail format or even just take a needed spring or summer course that has been cancelled.

UNM has not yet made a determination about how it will approach enrollment of new students facing such issues. Some universities, including the University of California system earlier this month, have already announced one-year suspensions of entrance exam requirements for students, but those don’t clear up the NCAA requirements for athletes.

Eric Schultz, UNM’s Associate Athletic Director for Compliance, told the Journal there could be answers about eligibility issues for incoming athletes from the NCAA by Friday. It’s unclear what those might be. But he and Eddie Nuñez, UNM athletic director, echoed this thought: It’s a matter every university is facing and thus unlikely to lead to athletes being ruled ineligible for 2020-21.

As of Thursday, the ACT’s website (ACT.org) indicated the April 4 test was moved back to June 13 and there is also a test scheduled for July 18, which doesn’t leave much time for a retake if students don’t hit their targeted scores.

The SAT’s website indicates planned national testing dates for May and June have been cancelled and no other ones before the fall are scheduled.

Normally, UNM and the NCAA require one of the two tests for incoming athletes, and UNM’s international student admissions process requires an English proficiency test.

According to Schultz, other issues university athletic departments or prospective student athletes might face amid the widespread changes to traditional schooling this spring:

• How courses that have shifted to a pass/fail model might hurt students who needed a specific grade to pull up their grade point average. Currently, according to NCAA bylaw 14.3.1.3.7, the NCAA does allow pass/fail classes to count toward core requirement benchmarks, but automatically assigns the lowest passing letter grade when determining eligibility.

• Some schools have closed or cut some available classes – some that might have been needed to reach minimum core requirements or to raise a GPA.

• With so many schools having employees work remotely, simply getting information, such a student’s academic progress right now has been slowed, since some information is not stored digitally or was not yet input into the computer systems.

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