Homeschooling’s innate flexibility helped Bowen McCloud excel on and off the playing field – until a misunderstanding by the NCAA almost derailed his college soccer career.
The University of Tulsa freshman risked losing his scholarship this fall after the association failed to understand specifics regarding his high school homeschool program.
“I knew Bowen had worked so hard for this, and I felt so horrible,” McCloud’s mother, Jacqueline, said in an interview with the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
McCloud had been homeschooling since kindergarten, and his parents made full use of this educational method to help him focus on athletics.
He played in youth clubs associated with the Chicago Fire FC and FC Dallas Major League Soccer teams. Although the teams were amateur, McCloud still experienced traveling in road games to Poland, Mexico, and Canada.
McCloud completed most of his homeschool courses using a computer-based curriculum provider, which offers an NCAA-approved program.
However, McCloud was using a different online course from the same provider, which caused the NCAA to conclude he was receiving instruction outside his family.
Even though Jacqueline had worked hard to begin providing her son’s documentation to the NCAA before his enrollment this fall, McCloud still had to withdraw from team activities in September for a few weeks.
Jacqueline contacted HSLDA, a nonprofit that works to defend homeschool freedoms and provide legal representation to its members.
“I showed that [McCloud’s parents] were ultimately responsible for their son’s education,” said HSLDA Senior Counsel Tj Schmidt, who took on McCloud’s case.
The NCAA has also committed to assist homeschooling families who want to qualify their students for college athletics, Schmidt said. It will host an online workshop Dec. 13 on how homeschool athletes can determine initial eligibility.
After the NCAA resolved the error, McCloud was allowed to return and scored his first collegiate goal in Tulsa’s Sept. 16 match against Florida Atlantic.
“I just can’t thank HSLDA and Tj enough,” Jacqueline said. “He was calming and encouraging, and walked me through what I needed to do to correct the misunderstanding.”