Can it actually be better to be a non-recruited walk-on to an NCAA Division I baseball, basketball, or football team compared to a player who’s been actively recruited to join that team?
It can be when that athlete desires to transfer from one Division I program to another!
As many of you know, in Division I baseball, basketball, and football, a transfer directly from one program to another is required to “sit out” (can practice but not play) a year at the second school before he can be eligible for competition.
There is an exception, however, for a player who was not on scholarship and was not recruited by the first school. A player in that situation MAY transfer from one Division I program to another and be immediately eligible to play upon transfer (as long as they meet appropriate academic requirements). This exception also applies for men’s ice hockey.
The requirement of this exception that trips up most players is how the term “recruited” is defined by the NCAA. A “preferred walk-on” might not be “recruited” in NCAA terms.
A prospect is “recruited” by a particular school:
- If they’ve been contacted off-campus by one of the coaching staff members,
- If they’ve made an official visit to campus,
- If they’ve signed a National Letter of Intent or athletic scholarship agreement, or
- If the coaches have contacted the prospect by phone more than one time to recruit them to the program.
Another possible “advantage” to being a non-recruited walk-on can be found in situations in which a prospect receives a scholarship from, for example, their high school booster club or a local civic club, such as Kiwanis or Rotary.
If their athletic achievements are the primary reason that a prospect wins such a scholarship, a non-recruited walk-on can accept the scholarship with no consequences.
A recruited walk-on, however, would be considered a “counter” and the value of their outside scholarship may count against the baseball team’s limit of 11.7 scholarships. This could result in the prospect being required to decline the scholarship so that its value does not cause the baseball team to exceed their scholarship limit.
Keep in mind that regardless of whether an athlete was recruited or not recruited:
- If they desire to transfer from a Division I program to a Division I or II program, the athlete will still have to request permission from the first school to talk with other institutions about a transfer.
- That request should be made in writing to the compliance office (after talking with the coach), especially in cases where you believe the coach may want to withhold or restrict that permission for contacting other schools. The schools have deadlines within which they must provide an athlete with an answer to their request to contact other schools (Division I – 7 days, Division II – 14 days).