Pity the plight of Jason Taylor, a would-be freshman linebacker for the University of Akron. In high school he had a 3.85 grade point average and had college football recruiters lining up at his door. But four days before his first college game and only one day after classes at Akron had begun, the NCAA swooped down on Taylor and declared him academically ineligible.
The NCAA took its action when it learned that Taylor was educated at home for the past three years by his mother, who based 85% of Jason's studies on standardized materials created and graded by the Illinois-based Christian Liberty Academy, an accredited primary and secondary institution that has on its rolls more than 22,000 students who are receiving their education at home. The NCAA doesn't recognize grades for English, math, social-science or lab-science courses taken at home, and although it has made exceptions in a few instances, it is balking in Taylor's case because his SAT score of 830—freshmen need a minimum score of 700 to be eligible—didn't jibe with his eye-popping grades. By the NCAA's reckoning someone with an 830 SAT score would normally have an average of about 2.175, which is still above the NCAA's minimum of 2.0.
Mike Farris, president of the Virginia-based nonprofit Home School Legal Defense Association and the Taylors' lawyer on their appeal of the NCAA decision, insists the NCAA is misinterpreting its own rule. "[The bylaw] refers to a kid who has taken an extra course or two by correspondence," Farris says. "It doesn't mean that a student whose entire program is through home schooling gets zero credit. It just makes no sense."
Taylor's schoolwork more than satisfied the Woodland Hills, Pa., school district, where he lives, and the NCAA now concedes that when it made its ruling, it was unaware that Taylor's home schooling was monitored by Christian Liberty. It has rightly agreed to reconsider his case and possibly restore the scholarship that constitutes Taylor's only chance of going to Akron.
—DESMOND M. WALLACE