Most college athletic programs are regulated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), which is an organization that has rules on eligibility, recruiting, and financial aid for prospective student-athletes. If you are interesting in playing college sports or receiving an athletic scholarship, here is some info you need to know about NCAA rules.
The NCAA has three membership divisions: Division I, Division II, and Division III. Generally, larger schools compete in Division I and smaller schools compete in divisions II and III. Division I schools usually recruit athletes in more than one sport, and they also offer athletic scholarships. However, some Division I schools, such as Ivy League and some Patriot League schools, do not offer scholarship money due to institutional or league policy. Division II schools also recruit and offer scholarship money, but Division III schools cannot offer athletic scholarships, although they may or may not recruit actively.
Guidelines for Eligibility
If you intend to participate in Division I or Division II athletics as a college freshman, then you must be certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center. Eligibility is determined solely by the Center and not by the college or university you wish to attend. Eligibility decisions are different for each division and are based on grade-point averages for core curriculum courses and scores on the ACT or SAT. You should start the certification process when you are a sophomore in high school. Check with your school counselor to make sure you are taking a core curriculum that meets NCAA requirements and register to take the ACT and/or SAT during the spring of your junior year. When you are ready to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center, speak with your counselor to find out what the registration fee is for that specific year (waivers are available for students who qualify). Upon registration, the Center will determine your eligibility for practice, competition, and athletic scholarships. For Division III athletics, eligibility requirements are different. Since Division III schools do not award athletic scholarships, eligibility for practice and competition are set by the college and the college's participating athletic conference.
The rules for recruiting are determined by the division of the college. To become a recruited prospective student-athlete, you must be approached by a college coach or rep about participating in athletics at that college. Once you become a prospective recruit, you and the college's athletic department must abide by the rules of the NCAA. Some of the main rules involve:
The recruiting calendar. There are certain designated times when a college coach can contact you. These periods vary depending on the sport for which you are recruited.
Contact. A contact is any face-to-face encounter between you or your parents and a college coach or athletics representative during which any dialogue occurs, other than an exchange of greetings. There are specific limits to the number of contacts a coach can make. These vary depending on the division and the sport for which you are recruited.
Phone calls. You and your parents can call a coach or staff member at any time. However, they cannot call you until July 1st after your junior year for most sports. Some exceptions and inclusions apply.
Official visits. You may make only one official visit per college and up to a maximum of five official visits to Division I colleges. There is no limit to official visits to Division II colleges.
National Letter of Intent (NLI). The National Letter of Intent (NLI) is used to establish your commitment to attend a particular college. By signing an NLI, you agree to attend the designated college for one academic year; and in return, you will receive an athletics financial aid package for one academic year. After signing an NLI, you are bound to that college. No other college in the NLI program can try to recruit you, and there are penalties if you don't follow through on your agreement.
Due to the scope of this article, the information mentioned above is just a brief overview of some of the NCAA guidelines. For more specific information on becoming an NCAA athlete, please visit www.ncaa.org and refer to the NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete.