Fixing Georgia State football, part II: Admissions

A graduation ceremony at Georgia State. (Photo courtesy of Georgia State University)

A graduation ceremony at Georgia State. (Photo courtesy of Georgia State University)

In part II of the series, “Fixing Georgia State Football,” I’ll take a look at the important role that admissions plays in building a football program. Part I, “you and your wallet,” can be found here. Part III, “a little bit of attention,” will post Thursday.

Georgia State has some of the most restrictive admissions policies of the Sun Belt schools it competes against when it comes to recruiting athletes.

However, the university has also frequently bent those requirements when it comes to admitting football players.

One of the graphics included in the AJC's look at admissions at state schools.

One of the graphics included in the AJC’s look at admissions at state schools.

 The university allowed 87 “special admits” – those who don’t meet a portion of the minimum academic entrance requirements as documented in an investigation by the AJC – for football from 2009-14. As you can see in the graphic, Georgia Southern allowed 59.

Here are Georgia State’s minimum academic entrance requirements, which helps to explain the why number of special admits seems high:

To receive consideration for admission, high school students need a minimum 2.8 grade-point average compiled in 17 courses of Math (four courses), English (four units), Science (four units), Social Science (three units) and Foreign Language (two units in same language).

Additionally, applicants need SATs with minimums of at least 430 verbal/critical reading and 400 on the  mathematics. Or, students need electronic ACT scores (including the Writing Test) with a minimum composite score of 19 with at least 17 on the English and 17 on the mathematics. If the SAT or ACT score doesn’t meet the minimum, the student-athletes are considered special admits and are looked at on a case-by case basis, of which few are allowed admission each year.

Again, those are minimums. Georgia State advises applicants that the average grade-point range in core classes is 3.2-3.7, SAT range for admissible freshmen is 970-1190, and the ACT range is 21-27.

So, you’ve got to be a decent student to gain admission, which isn’t a bad thing.

If you are a high school student and meet the minimum GPA and minimum SAT or ACT scores, that doesn’t mean you meet the admission requirements because the process isn’t done.

These scores, combined with the GPA, are plugged into the Freshman Index, which must meet a minimum score of 2,500 to be admitted.

The two Freshman Index formulas are:

SAT FI = (500 x HSGPA) + SAT  verbal + SAT math.

ACT FI = (500 x HSGPA) + (ACT composite x 42) + 88.

In calculating the grade-point average for Freshman Index purposes, the applicant’s transcript is calculated using 16 of the academic (college preparatory) courses.

As you can see if you go to the admissions tool on Georgia State’s website, a 2.8 high school GPA with a 430 verbal and 400 math will result in ADMISSION DENIED.

There are cases for college-preparatory curriculum deficient freshmen. According to Georgia State’s website, no more than 100 will be admitted each year and the standards are high: combined SAT (or ACT equivalent) score of 1,100 or higher and a minimum high school GPA of 3.3. You can read more about it here.

Because I used Georgia Southern as a comparison for facilities and fundraising in the Part I, consider its admission requirements:

A minimum SAT score of 1,010 or 21 on the ACT.

The minimum scores needed at Georgia Southern are slightly higher than Georgia State’s and the Eagles just won the Sun Belt.

So ,what’s Georgia State’s problem?

Here are the problems:

There is a large gap in the the minimum grade-point average required for incoming freshmen between the two schools:

Georgia Southern’s is 2.0 (but the average for incoming freshmen last year was 3.24). Remember, Georgia State’s is 2.8.

Additionally, Georgia Southern has a freshman index but it’s not something that is always used for admissions. Georgia State does use a freshman index and it’s rarely not used.

In other words, if you are an athlete with a minimum high school grade-point average of 2.0, you may be able to get into Georgia Southern (as long as you meet the NCAA’s minimum requirements) but will likely not get into Georgia State … unless you do exceptionally well on the SAT or ACT so that you can meet the Freshman Index or are a special admit, of which the school allows few each year. Before folks assume that the players on Georgia Southern’s football team aren’t as smart as those on Georgia State’s, you’ll see in the above graphic that Southern’s players had higher SAT scores than State’s in 2013.

So the problem is Georgia State has a much smaller pool of recruits from which it can draw, and trying to bring in junior college players can be even more difficult because not all of the classes can transfer.

By no mean is it a bad thing for a university to have strong academic minimum requirements.  There are thousands of smart, talented high school football players. But there are also more than 240 FBS and FCS schools competing to sign those players. All of those players can’t go to Georgia State.

I’m not going to get into whether this difference in admissions policies between the two universities are fair, nor will I address the socio-environmental factors that can affect test scores, nor will I argue from which school you can receive a better education, nor will I argue for or against if more case-by-case academic allowances are good or bad for the reputation of a university.

I won’t do so because every student is different with different reasons that their GPA or SAT score may not be what Georgia State would like.

But I do know that there are lots of high school students who don’t have good grades, but have the potential to get good grades. Just like there are lots of smart students who don’t know what it means to really work to get those and then struggle in college once work is required.

I’m not advocating throwing open the admissions door to allow anyone entry. I’m saying that increasing the number of special admits will likely be needed if Georgia State wants to widen its pool of recruits in order to quicken the speed with which it can potentially become at least competitive with other schools in the Sun Belt.

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