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University of Miami alum has a Plan to improve student-athletes’ NCAA eligibility

It may seem like all you have to do to become a top college athlete is be exceptionally talented, and your high school will take care of your grades.

Not so. Last year alone approximately 20,000 high school-student athletes were deemed ineligible by the NCAA to play college sports. The top 30 urban districts in United States fare far worse, with up to 44 percent of registered student-athletes deemed ineligible in some school districts.

These statistics alarmed Kelly Pierce, so she created the PIERCE Plan, a platform she developed to track academic requirements for potential college athletes.

What is it?

The PIERCE Plan is one of the first software programs developed to specifically track student-athletes’ eligibility requirements, allowing students, high school advisers, college athletic departments, and administrators to access transcripts and test scores in real time.

It couldn’t have come sooner: The American School Counselor Association recommends a college counselor ratio of 250:1, but the national average is currently 471:1. What’s more, many student-athletes lack a support system at home to guide them through the process.

“Navigating the maze of academic eligibility requirements for high school student-athletes is a nightmare. It’s paper intensive and highly inefficient,” she says. “While every high school must track eligibility, it gets done poorly, if at all.”

In other words, some students are being declared ineligible simply due to bureaucratic disorganization. Others are not even aware that they’re on the wrong track until it’s too late.

The Plan has already been approved by the NCAA as part of the official recruiting process for a student athlete. It also just won the 2017 University of Miami Business Plan Competition, where it took home the Grand Prize and $10,000 in the graduate student and alumni category. The Plan also won the People’s Choice Award and $1,000.

Who’s behind it?

Pierce worked for five years as an athletic academic advisor at the University of Miami, where she was responsible for evaluating high school transcripts of potential student-athletes and checking them against NCAA qualifications.

“I always knew I had a passion for education but working with the players at the University of Miami lead me to my purpose: to change the culture of academics as it exists today for student-athletes,” she says.

She then decided to go into the high school classroom to teach algebra and coach boys basketball “to further pinpoint the inefficiencies and pain points of tracking eligibility at the high school level.”

“It did not take long to see that the system for tracking academic requirements was inefficient,” she said. Much of the documentation had to come via snail mail.

What’s next?

PIERCE Plan plans to generate revenue from high schools, colleges and universities via an annual subscription renewal, allowing student-athletes and parents to access the platform for free.

PIERCE Plan is currently registering high schools for the 2017-2018 school year, and there are discounts available.

By Rob Wile
Rob Wile, the curator for Startup.Miami, is a writer and entrepreneur living in Mid-Beach. He’s a former staff writer for Fusion and Business Insider. His work has also appeared in Slate, Newsweek, Money Magazine and The New Tropic. He writes a twice-weekly newsletter on tech, business, and the economy in South Florida called The Heatwave.