When Pass Means Fail

The NCAA mandates any prospect student-athlete enrolled in a pass/fail class receives the numerical core of the lowest passing grade of the school, which in many cases is a D, or a 1.0 grade point.

So, what happens when every class at a school is pass/fail and there is no letter or numerical grade to assign?

Well, for Jaquan McCullough, it means you get to fall through the athletic cracks.

McCullough spent his first three years of high school at Rochester (N.Y.) School Without Walls. Since the program didn’t have a football team, he played safety and quarterback at Rochester Wilson. And he happened to be good enough to get some FBS  looks in recruiting, and he said several FCS schools were interested, including Wagner.

However, in order to meet NCAA eligibility requirements, a student athlete must have at least a 2.0 grade point average. (That is not an issue for non-student-athletes.)

"€œThey can give you D and that is considered passing, but that is not considered passing by the NCAA,"€ McCullough said. "€œThe lowest part of the sliding scale is a 2.0. When I talked to them, they told me they recognize pass/fail, but they recognize it at the lowest passing grade."

At School Without Walls, there is no numerical grade issue, and no scale used.

Adding to McCullough’s frustration is he transferred to Wilson for his senior year, and he said his grade point average for the first four (of six) marking periods at the school are 3.36, 3.42, 2.75 and 3.25.

So, even if McCullough scored perfect on an SAT, he would be ineligible because his grade point average is below 2.0.

So, why did he stay so long at School Without Walls?

McCullough said he didn’€™t know the NCAA rule about transferring a pass/fail grade to a numerical grade until schools began recruiting him.

"€œSome just stopped because they figured I wouldn’t be eligible," McCullough said. "€œI’€™m talking about this now because I don’€™t want anyone else to go through what I went through."

At this point, McCullough plans on enrolling at Nassau (N.Y.) Community College and playing football in hopes of earning his associates degree and then transferring to a four-year school.