Official visits can now be offered by most NCAA Division I sports programs to high school juniors graduating in 2020.

The only Division I sports that can’t yet offer official visits to 2020 high school graduates include:

  • Men’s basketball (not until January 1 of the recruit’s junior year),
  • Women’s basketball (not until the Thursday after the Women’s Final Four), and
  • Football (not until April 1 of the junior year).

For unofficial visits, high school athletes in all Division I sports (other than basketball and football) are not allowed to participate in a campus visit that includes involvement by the athletic department until after September 1 of their junior year.

Previously, there were no restrictions on when an athlete could make an unofficial visit (even as early as 7th or 8th grade) to meet with the coaches or tour athletic facilities.

  • Women’s basketball and football still have no restrictions on the first opportunity for an unofficial visit to a Division I campus.
  • Men’s basketball recruits can’t take an unofficial visit before August 1 at the start of the sophomore year of high school.

If you’d like more information about the changes to NCAA Division I recruiting rules and how they could affect your athlete, contact us at rick@informedathlete.com or 913-766-1235.

The NCAA transfer rules at this time require that student-athletes must request and obtain “permission to contact” from their current college before coaches at other NCAA colleges can speak with them about a possible transfer.

If you are thinking about requesting this “permission to contact” in the middle of your Fall sport season, we strongly encourage you to contact us for a transfer consultation so we can explain the steps in the process and inform you what to say, and NOT say, to your coach and athletic department.

Effective October 15, the NCAA transfer process will change and those changes will be somewhat different depending upon whether you are attending an NCAA Division I, II, or III institution. The transfer procedures will change for NCAA Division I and II (but not in the same way), but won’t change at all for Division III athletes.

NCAA Division I athletes will no longer need to request “permission” to contact coaches at other colleges, but instead will simply inform their current university that they want to speak with other colleges about a transfer. Their college will then add the athlete’s name and contact info to a “transfer database” being established by the NCAA.

Once a Division I athlete informs their university of their plan to transfer, the university has the right to cancel the athlete’s sport scholarship at the end of the semester. It’s also possible that the coach will immediately remove the athlete from their team.

NCAA Division II athletes will still need to request and receive permission from their current college to speak with coaches at other schools about a transfer. If/when that permission is granted, athletes at Division II colleges will have their name added to the same “transfer database” mentioned above.

When a student-athlete’s name is added to the transfer database, their contact info will be visible by any other NCAA college. Athletes who know specifically what college they plan to transfer to (or have a very short list) can ask their college to indicate in the new transfer database that they don’t want to be contacted by other colleges.

The compliance office at an athlete’s college will then complete a Transfer Tracer Form (or Transfer Questionnaire) and will upload it to the Transfer Database where it will be visible to other institutions, even those that an athlete has no interest in transferring to or ones to which their transfer has been denied.

It’s important to note that the rules regarding whether an athlete can be immediately eligible for competition at their new university have NOT changed.

To discuss a potential transfer and the steps to follow, as well as the academic requirements for eligibility, schedule a confidential phone consult or email consult online, send an email to rick@informedathlete.com or call us at 913-766-1235.

Tyler Johnson (no, not the TB Lightning forward) should be getting ready for his second season of NCAA Division I hockey at the University of Maine.

But for 10 minutes and 26 seconds when he was 16 years old.

Instead, the 6-foot-3 goaltender is toiling as an Ontario Hockey League backup, the result of running afoul of NCAA eligibility rules in pursuit of his hockey dream.

NCAA eligibility should be a straightforward proposition for student-athletes — make the grades and the test scores, you play. But, for young hockey players looking at options including junior hockey, the route to college pucks is littered with potential missteps that could sideline a college career.

Cautionary Tale

Johnson was playing in the Tier I amateur High Performance Hockey League in 2014 when he was taken by Plymouth in the seventh round of the Ontario Hockey League’s draft. Like its Canadian Major Junior peers, the OHL is considered a pro league by the NCAA — but being drafted isn’t enough to impact eligibility.

Only when Johnson answered Plymouth’s call for an emergency start — the club was down two goalies at the time — did he become a pro in the NCAA’s eyes. The facts that he was still more than a month shy of turning 17, faced 11 shots, allowed three goals and then returned to amateur play — where he would remain through the 2015-16 season — did nothing to sway the NCAA when Johnson and Maine petitioned the organization to reinstate his eligibility.

Johnson played in 2017-18 for the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds after returning to that league with London in ’16-17.

CHL vs. NCAA

Those events didn’t derail Johnson’s chances of getting his education paid. The CHL has a scholarship program that essentially pays a year of school for every year you play in the league. There are restrictions on where you can go and what is typically covered (tuition, books, etc.), but it is a perk that might sway some players on the CHL/NCAA fence.

Remember, though, that you could get cut after two CHL seasons, be left without college eligibility and only two years of school covered. Of course, the NCAA route — where partial scholarships are common — doesn’t always cover the complete bill, either.

Still, if the NCAA is even a possible option, young hockey players must know how to protect their eligibility.

The Basics of Eligibility

Essentially, most college sports programs are governed by the NCAA, an association whose reach extends to more than 1,200 colleges, universities and organizations across Divisions I, II and III. Its most basic requirements cover academics and amateurism:

Academics: In Division I or II, student-athletes must meet minimum criteria based on high school grades in core courses, and scores on the SAT or ACT. Weighted on a sliding scale, those scores are used to determine initial eligibility.

Prospective student-athletes must:

  • Take 16 “core courses,” including 10 before the seventh semester of high school, and achieve a minimum GPA in those courses.
  • Take either the SAT or ACT. Many athletes take it more than once, and can combine subscores from multiple test dates to achieve a qualifying score.
  • Submit transcripts and test scores to the NCAA Eligibility Center.

Amateurism: Though there are exceptions, the basic rule is that student-athletes can’t have played for money prior to enrollment. The NCAA (at eligibilitycenter.org) offers plenty of guidance on this issue; but, in the main:

  • Do not accept payment or gifts based on your athletic ability.
  • Do not sign a contract with a professional team or agent.
  • Do not allow your amateur team to cover any expenses beyond those deemed as actual and necessary.
  • Cover your own expenses when attending camps with pro teams (there’s a 48-hour exception to this rule, but if Day 3 rolls around, you’d better be paying your way home).

Knowledge Is Power

Ultimately, if you want an education through hockey, first educate yourself. Not knowing the requirements is a sure way to fall short of them. Not knowing your options is a great way to choose the wrong one. The key for junior hockey players is to protect all your options until the best path is obvious.

Guest Author bio: AJ Lee is Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey gear. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3, and hasn’t put it down yet.

If you’d like more information or personal assistance regarding how the NCAA rules specifically affect your student-athlete’s situation, schedule a confidential consult online, call Informed Athlete at 913-766-1235 or send an email to rick@informedathlete.com