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Playing the NCAA Game: Rules for Recruitment

By Elisa Kronish

June 03, 2008

Just like the rules and regulations of any sport, the NCAA rules can be confusing. Check out the college recruiting game.

The Recruitment Process

So how do you become what the NCAA calls a “recruited prospective student-athlete”? You must be approached by a college coach or representative about participating in that college’s athletic program. NCAA guidelines specify how and when you can be contacted. Letters, telephone calls and in-person conversations are limited to certain frequency and dates during and after junior year.

The NCAA also determines when you can be contacted by dividing the year into four recruiting and non-recruiting periods:

  • During a contact period, recruiters may make in-person, on- or off-campus contacts and evaluations. Coaches can also write and/or phone you during this period.
  • During an evaluation period, they can only assess academic qualifications and playing abilities; no in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts are permitted. Although letters and phone calls are permitted.
  • During a quiet period, they may make in-person recruiting contacts only on the college campus. Off-campus, recruiters are limited to phone calls and letter-writing.
  • During a dead period, they cannot make in-person recruiting contacts or evaluations on- or off-campus or permit official or unofficial visits. However, phone calls and letters are permitted.

During recruitment, a college coach may ask you to sign a National Letter of Intent (NLI). This document says that you will attend a certain college for at least one year, and it includes a financial aid package. Depending on the sport, there is an early signing period in winter and a late period during spring and summer.

After signing an NLI, you’re bound to that college – with penalties if you don’t follow through. No other college that’s a part of the NLI program can try to recruit you. So if you’re not sure which school you’d like to attend or what sport you’d like to play, avoid signing an NLI. As an alternative, you may ask for just a financial aid agreement. And be on guard: Only your signature is binding. A coach’s verbal promise to offer an NLI or your verbal promise to sign one is not.

Requirements and Restrictions

Keep Your Grades Up No matter how well you keep an eye on the ball, you still need to keep an eye on the books. To be eligible to participate, you must register and be certified by the . Eligibility decisions are based on academic criteria like grade-point averages for core-curriculum courses and scores on the ACT or SAT. The best time to register (a $32 fee) with the Clearinghouse is after your junior year, but before senior year. That way, you’ll know if you’re missing any core-curriculum courses. You can get registration materials from your college counselor or by calling the Clearinghouse at 877-262-1492.

Skip Some All-Star Games Who thought being an all-star could jeopardize your NCAA recruitment? Well, it might – if you play football or basketball. According to NCAA rules, high school athletes in these sports can participate in only two all-star contests in each sport between the end of the senior-year sports season and high school-graduation. The reason is the NCAA wants high school seniors to focus on finishing their high school requirements. After graduation, there is no limit.

Don’t Show Me the Money Ready for the big league? Don’t go pro just yet. Play pro sports and you’ll lose your eligibility to join a college sports team. The NCAA has specific definitions of “professionalism,” which include:

  • receiving any kind of payment or promise of payment for playing in an athletic contest;
  • agreeing to a written or verbal contract with an agent or professional sports organization;
  • putting your name on a draft list;
  • receiving educational expenses from an agent, sports team or college representative to attend a high school or prep college;
  • receiving gifts because of athletic abilities or reputation;
  • using your athletic skills for pay in any way (TV commercials, for example);
  • playing on a professional team; or
  • participating on an amateur sports team in exchange for any kind of payment.

Although you can speak with an agent, you’ll jeopardize your eligibility if you agree (verbally or in writing) to be represented while in high school or college – even if the agreement concerns post-college athletics.

Limits on Visits There are two types of college-campus visits that can help you decide where you’d like to attend: official and unofficial. An official visit is paid for by the college. You pay all expenses for an unofficial visit.

Special rules apply for your official visits:

  • Official visits are allowed after the first day of your senior year of high school and only at the written request of a college (Division I men’s basketball can begin January 1 of junior year in high school).
  • Before the visit, you must send the college your high school transcript and proof that you’ve taken the SAT or ACT (or that you’ve taken the PSAT or PACT).
  • You’re allowed only one expense-paid trip to any one school, and five paid visits total.
  • The visit cannot exceed 48 hours and cannot include special seating at a college sports event.
  • Your student host will be allotted $30 to cover the cost of entertaining you and your family; this money cannot be spent on college souvenirs, like sweatshirts.

If this all seems complicated, keep in mind that the rules are for your benefit. They protect students from undue pressure from recruiters and ensure a level playing field for all student-athletes. For more detailed information, contact the NCAA at 317-917-6222 or visit their .


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