Last week, I listened to a records conference call tin which NCAA Division I representatives provided updates and answered questions for a group of Division I athletic directors and conference commissioners.

Key takeaways from the conference call

On March 30, the NCAA Division I Council will vote on these issues:

  • Whether all Division I spring sport student-athletes will be able to receive an additional season of eligibility. They had previously agreed in principle to the “concept” of all Division I spring sport athletes receiving an additional year of eligibility, but no official decision has been made at this point.
  • Whether Division I winter sport student-athletes will be able to receive an additional season of eligibility.
  • Whether the scholarship limits for Division I spring sports will be increased for next year, and whether a 6th year of eligibility will be offered to all spring sport athletes or only to those who are currently in their last year of their “five-year clock.”
  • They will also address the impact of an additional year of eligibility for those student-athletes who transfer to an NCAA Division I university from another college level.

Will NCAA “Dead Period” be Extended?

Based on input from the NCAA’s Chief Medical Officer and the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel, we should expect that the current NCAA “Dead Period” prohibiting in-person recruiting activity will be extended beyond the current imposed date of April 15. We should learn more about that after another NCAA conference call scheduled for April 1.

Transfer Waiver Issue

Discussion of a possible Transfer Waiver which will allow scholarship athletes in Baseball, Basketball, Football and Men’s Ice Hockey a one-time opportunity to transfer and be eligible the following year at another Division I school has been pushed back from the NCAA Division I Council’s April meeting to their June meeting.

Over the last few years, there has been much more attention and awareness on the subject of mental health issues that impact student-athletes.

Based on some of the questions raised and concerns being expressed by families we speak with, two points about mental health concerns are the most commonly discussed:

  • Student-athletes, especially male student-athletes and even more for those in contact sports, are reluctant to reveal mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression.
  • For those student-athletes who choose to reveal their mental health concerns, some coaches respond as if they don’t want to hear it, or they take some kind of action which only makes the student-athlete feel worse, such as isolating them from the rest of the team, or telling them “maybe you’re not cut out for college athletics at this level.”

What we are seeing is a pattern of athletes who missed a season of competition because of poor performance related to depression, anxiety, etc. and then when they try to get that season “over again” through a hardship waiver, it isn’t approved. That’s because at the time they were dealing with their issues, they didn’t want to divulge a “weakness” to their coaches or athletic trainers and therefore they don’t have the required documentation of a “season-ending” mental illness.

The Importance of Medical Documentation for Mental Health Issues When Applying for a Medical Hardship Waiver

If a student-athlete is hoping to receive a “medical redshirt” (or what is officially called a Medical Hardship Waiver) in order to get a season of competition “over again” for limited participation, the proper documentation will be even more important than it is when a physical injury is involved.

As we all can understand, if an athlete has undergone Tommy John surgery or has had a torn ACL, there will usually be sufficient medical documentation to support a request for a Medical Hardship Waiver.

However, a student-athlete dealing with mental health concerns like anxiety or depression may not have revealed to their medical professional that it is severely impacting their ability to perform at the level that they need to.

Or, even if they have shared this with their medical professional, the student-athlete may be reluctant to share a note from their doctor with the coaching staff that they should be withheld from competition.

I certainly understand that when a student-athlete is dealing with a mental health issue the last thing on their mind is probably whether they will have an extra season of eligibility later on in their college career.

But for families who may be dealing with such a situation, it can be important to share with the doctor/therapist how the mental health issue is impacting their athlete.

If the student-athlete doesn’t think they can continue through the rest of their season at their best, they should consider asking whether the doctor or therapist believes that their situation is serious enough to be considered “incapacitating” or “season-ending” in its severity. If so, it may help them to gain back a season later on if the student-athlete’s situation meets the other criteria for a hardship waiver.

As stated in the NCAA guidelines for a Medical Hardship Waiver:

“Contemporaneous medical documentation from a physician or medical doctor that establishes the student-athlete’s inability to compete for the remainder of the playing season as a result of an injury or illness shall be submitted with any hardship-waiver request…..For circumstances involving psychological or mental illnesses, the required contemporaneous or other appropriate medical documentation may be provided by an individual who is qualified and licensed to diagnose and treat the particular illness (e.g., psychologist).”

Do you Have Questions?

If your student-athlete is struggling in their sport because of mental health issues, we can help. In a confidential Waivers & Appeals Consultation, we’ll discuss your student-athlete’s situation and inform you if they meet the criteria for a Medical Hardship Waiver. We can also advise on how best to navigate through the Medical Hardship Waiver process and assist with things like helping you write or edit your personal statement, and reviewing your medical documentation.

Schedule your confidential Waivers & Appeals Consult online or by sending an email to rick@informedathlete.com or calling us at 913-766-1235.

This post includes the latest updates we have regarding college athletic organizations and the impact on current student-athletes as well as on high school or junior college recruits.

NCAA Spring Sport Competition

All winter and spring championships have been cancelled by the NCAA. Some individual conferences could choose to still conduct a portion of a spring sports schedule, but that seems unlikely given the directive from the CDC to limit the size of any public gathering to no more than 50 people for the next 8 weeks.

In fact, some conferences, such as the Big Ten, have not only banned all competition for spring sports, but have also banned practices and other “organized team activities” for all sports until at least April 6 (at which time the ban will be re-evaluated).

Be sure to check with your athlete’s school or conference by monitoring their website and social media accounts for current updates.

NCAA Additional Season of Eligibility

NCAA leadership has stated that all student-athletes who have participated in spring sports should receive “eligibility relief” from being charged with the use of a season of eligibility. They also stated that “additional issues with NCAA rules must be addressed” and they will be finalizing details in the coming weeks.

However, some coaches and athletic departments may choose to apply this “eligibility relief” selectively.

For example, the parent of a Division I athlete has informed me that the athletic director at that particular university has informed some teams that only seniors will be granted an additional year of eligibility. I’m sure this statement was made in large part due to uncertainty as to whether the NCAA will increase scholarship limits for next year in reaction to athletes being granted another year of eligibility.

Special Note for NCAA DII and DIII Athletes Currently In Their 10th Semester

Those of you familiar with Division II and III know that instead of the “five-year clock” that is used in Division I, the “ten-semester/15-quarter rule” is used by Divisions II and III.

If your athlete is currently in their LAST semester or quarter under this rule and will be granted an additional season of eligibility for next Spring, it is highly likely that they won’t be able to attend college as a full-time student next Fall. This is because they may only be granted one additional semester or quarter and will need to “save it” for next Spring.

I posed that specific scenario to an NCAA staff member last week via Twitter and was told “That is accurate.” It’s possible that things could change in the coming weeks or months but be sure to keep this in mind until I can provide a more detailed update.

NCAA Recruiting

Division I and II coaches are banned from any in-person recruiting activity until at least April 15. No on or off-campus recruiting activity and no official or unofficial visits to campus by recruits during this time.

However, phone calls as well as written and “electronic communication” are still permitted (emails, text messages, social media messages as allowed under the recruiting rules for Division I and II based on a recruit’s sport and year in school).

As a result of the recruiting ban noted above, the NCAA National Letter of Intent can’t be issued to recruits or signed until April 15 at the earliest. NLI’s that had already been issued to recruits and signed prior to March 16 are still valid.

The Division I football signing period which is normally available until April 1 will be extended by 30 days. The Division I basketball signing period which would normally begin on April 15 will be considered during the next few weeks and an update will be provided.

NAIA Current Student-Athletes

All NAIA spring sport seasons are cancelled, as are any remaining winter championships. No spring sport student-athlete will be charged with a season of competition.

“Any spring sport student-athlete who was enrolled full-time in 2020 will be awarded two additional semester terms of attendance” according to a March 16 release.

NJCAA Student-Athletes & Recruits

The NJCAA announced yesterday afternoon that the Division I and II men’s and women’s NJCAA basketball championships, as well as all spring sports competition and practices, have been cancelled.

On and off-campus recruiting for all NJCAA sports “…will be halted until April 15…” with further consideration at that time.

No spring sport student-athletes will be charged with a year of eligibility. Also, because many student-athletes will be returning for another year that had not been expected, scholarship limits for the 2020-21 season will be increased, with details to be “…vetted by the Eligibility Committee.”

CCCAA Current Student-Athletes

The CCCAA men’s and women’s basketball championships have been cancelled. All spring sports competition as well as practices have been suspended indefinitely.

No determination has been made regarding student-athlete eligibility, but it is a “…central question facing the association.” The CCCAA is working with the NCAA, NAIA, and other associations to determine next steps.

A Special Note for Junior College Athletes

  • If an athlete is currently attending a junior college and receives an additional year of eligibility from the NJCAA or the CCCAA, be aware that the additional year might not be automatically honored by the NCAA (or NAIA) when a junior college athlete transfers to an NCAA or NAIA program.
  • Also, academic eligibility at an NCAA program often depends upon the number of semesters that an athlete attended a junior college as a full-time student. Attending a two-year college for an additional year or semester could possibly have negative consequences on your academic eligibility when you transfer to join an NCAA athletic program.

Advice to Consider

  • Be sure that your athlete maintains their focus on their academic coursework to ensure that they have a chance to be eligible next year. While some athletes may become depressed or lose focus on their academics as a result of losing their season, if they don’t successfully complete their classes this semester, it can damage their eligibility for next year.
  • Some bedrock NCAA and NAIA rules won’t change if your athlete returns for an extra season next year. For one, they will need to be taking a full-time course load to be eligible for practice and competition next year. Will they be willing and able to pay for another year of college if they’ve already graduated and were originally planning to start their post-college life?
  • Because many colleges are moving classes online, make sure that your athlete takes steps to save all of their assignments and can track when an assignment or test was submitted. The last problem you want them to have is an eligibility issue because the professor didn’t receive a test or assignment by the required deadline or didn’t receive it at all.
  • In the very unlikely anticipation that schools might possibly “wipe out” their stats for this season, you may want to take a screenshot or photo of the team’s stat sheet on the athletic website to record how many games your athlete appeared in and how many total games were played by the team this season in case that’s needed for a waiver to get another year of eligibility.
  • Follow the social media page(s) for your school’s athletic compliance office as they will be posting updates for student-athletes at that particular college. (By the way, you can follow us on Twitter @InformedAthlete or on our Facebook page.)
  • If an athlete is currently attending a junior college and receives a waiver for an additional year of eligibility from the NJCAA or the CCCAA, be aware that such a waiver may not be automatically honored by the NCAA (or NAIA) when a junior college athlete transfers to an NCAA or NAIA program. For example, academic eligibility at an NCAA program often depends in part upon the number of semesters that an athlete attended a junior college as a full-time student.

Do you Need Assistance?

If you have questions about how your student-athlete is affected by the current situation, they’re considering a transfer or have questions about their eligibility, we can answer all your concerns and provide options and a scenarios in a confidential consultation.

Schedule a scholarship strategies consult online or by calling us at 913-766-1235 or sending an email to rick@informedathlete.com.

This has obviously been a shocking week as the tremendous impact of the coronavirus continues to unfold. We’ve been receiving a lot of questions about the impact on the eligibility of college student-athletes as their sport seasons are being cancelled – in some cases right before or even during a game (Big East Conference basketball tournament)!!

What I Believe and Know Right Now

I do believe it’s quite possible that the NCAA and NAIA will grant a “blanket waiver” for student-athletes to have an additional season of eligibility if their season has been completely cancelled. However, that may depend upon how many games have been played and whether the season is completely cancelled or is “suspended” until further notice.

I was told yesterday that some smaller colleges were apparently “suspending the season indefinitely” but might return to play for the last 3 or 4 weeks of the season. They announced at that time that they may resume the season if they return to classroom instruction after a few weeks. In a case like that, I’m not sure what the NCAA will do.

In fact, as I was writing this I saw a tweet that “…no decision has been made yet by the SEC about the baseball season after March 30, despite the NCAA announcement to cancel the College World Series.”

Potential Impact on Athletic Scholarships

Let’s start with this underlying assumption (although I can’t guarantee that the NCAA and NAIA will treat this situation as I expect):

If an athlete meets the standard guidelines and conditions for a “regular” hardship waiver, I expect that the NCAA will grant those athletes another season of eligibility.

As a reminder, those conditions are that an athlete hasn’t appeared in more than 30% of their team’s games, hasn’t appeared in a game after the midpoint of the season, and wasn’t able to complete their season due to “circumstances beyond their control.”

But then if another season of eligibility is granted to a large number of athletes from a team, we have the ripple effect with questions such as:

  • How will that impact NCAA or NAIA scholarship limits in baseball and all other spring sports?
  • If scholarship players who the coach thought would be finishing their eligibility this year are able to return for another year, does he or she renew their scholarship?
  • Or do they tell some incoming freshman that their scholarship isn’t going to be available because of too many current players returning?? (After all, an NCAA National Letter of Intent signed by a recruit is a contract that basically means “I have the right to receive the scholarship value that was listed in the agreement I signed with your university as long as I am admissible to your university and meet all NCAA eligibility requirements.”)

What I’ve Learned from NCAA and NAIA So Far

There are obviously many unknowns about this situation. This situation has been described by some as “very fluid” with some changes being announced within hours of a previous announcement.

As I’m writing this, here is an excerpt from a recent statement from the NCAA legislative staff:

“…questions have related to a wide range of regulations including eligibility, membership requirements and student-athlete benefits.

Most importantly, conferences and institutions are encouraged to make decisions and take action in the best interests of their student-athletes and communities. Conferences and institutions should not be concerned about the application of NCAA legislation when decisions are being made in response to COVID-19.”

In my opinion, that statement means that we all need to be patient because the NCAA will be considering many factors and won’t be making quick decisions on these questions.

Also, my contacts at the NAIA national office told me:

We have to meet with our governing bodies to begin discussing any exceptions that may occur due to these circumstances. We will have phone calls starting tomorrow afternoon and I’m sure they will move into next week. Not sure when we will be able to share any news.”

Advice to Consider

  • Be sure that your athlete maintains their focus on their academic coursework to ensure that they have a chance to be eligible next year. While some athletes may become depressed or lose focus on their academics as a result of losing their season, if they don’t successfully complete their classes this semester, it can damage their eligibility for next year.
  • Some bedrock NCAA and NAIA rules won’t change if your athlete returns for an extra season next year. For one, they will need to be taking a full-time course load to be eligible for practice and competition next year. Will they be willing and able to pay for another year of college if they’ve already graduated and were originally planning to start their post-college life?
  • Because many colleges are moving classes online, make sure that your athlete takes steps to save all of their assignments and can track when an assignment or test was submitted. The last problem you want them to have is an eligibility issue because the professor didn’t receive a test or assignment by the required deadline or didn’t receive it at all.
  • In the very unlikely anticipation that schools might possibly “wipe out” their stats for this season, you may want to take a screenshot or photo of the team’s stat sheet on the athletic website to record how many games your athlete appeared in and how many total games were played by the team this season in case that’s needed for a waiver to get another year of eligibility.
  • A “blanket waiver” issued by the NCAA or NAIA will apply to all student-athletes who fall within the guidelines and requirements of the conditions stated in such a waiver.
  • For waivers that are specific to a particular student-athlete when their situation doesn’t fall under a “blanket waiver” the student-athlete will need their university to submit the waiver to the NCAA or NAIA on their behalf.
  • Follow the social media page(s) for your school’s athletic compliance office as they will be posting updates for student-athletes at that particular college. (By the way, you can follow us on Twitter @InformedAthlete or on our Facebook page.)
  • If an athlete is currently attending a junior college and receives a waiver for an additional year of eligibility from the NJCAA or the CCCAA, be aware that such a waiver may not be automatically honored by the NCAA (or NAIA) when a junior college athlete transfers to an NCAA or NAIA program. For example, academic eligibility at an NCAA program often depends in part upon the number of semesters that an athlete attended a junior college as a full-time student.

What’s Next

While it could be days or even weeks before we start to receive some definite guidance from the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA, we will be happy to provide as much advice as we can for those of you who are interested in a confidential consultation.

In a private consultation, we will discuss your athlete’s specific situation and provide options and scenarios so you’ll be informed and ready to move forward as things play out.

Schedule a confidential Scholarship Consultation online or by calling us at 913-766-1235 or sending an email to rick@informedathlete.com.

With March Madness quickly approaching, we remind all that while many states have now legalized sports gambling, it is still expressly prohibited for those participating or working in NCAA athletic programs.

An NCAA student-athlete’s participation in sports gambling, or sharing information that can be used by sports gamblers, can result in being ruled ineligible by the NCAA. The rule also impacts coaches and athletic staff members at NCAA universities.

What the NCAA Gambling Rule Covers

The prohibition on betting includes not only college sports but also professional sports if that same sport is a recognized NCAA-sponsored sport. For example, betting on horse racing, while it may be frowned upon, is not prohibited, while betting on professional baseball, basketball, football, etc. is absolutely prohibited.

The NCAA gambling prohibition also extends to fantasy leagues that provide a prize based on the outcome of league standings.

Participation in a “pool” as is common with the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament is also prohibited for those in NCAA athletics.

Student-Athletes, coaches, and staff members of NCAA athletic programs must also be very careful not to share information that can be used by gamblers, such as key players being unable to play in an upcoming game due to injury, illness, or other reason.

Do You Have Questions?

As more states across the country legalize sports betting, the NCAA monitoring of athletes, coaches and athletic staff is becoming more difficult but I expect the NCAA to become more vigilant with penalties when caught.

If you have any questions regarding the NCAA rules on sports gambling, send an email to rick@informedathlete.com or call us at 913-766-1235.

If you are a parent of a high school athlete who is taking online courses of any kind, we advise you to make sure that those courses will be accepted as “Core Courses” by the NCAA Eligibility Center so that the athlete can be classified as a Qualifier.

We were recently contacted by the parent of a high school senior who just learned that nearly all of the courses that his daughter took online will not be accepted by the NCAA Eligibility Center.

Do you Have Questions?

For questions about NCAA core course requirements, schedule a confidential Eligibility Consult online, contact us at 913-766-1235 or send an email to rick@informedathlete.com.

We can also provide our Freshman Transcript Review Service to provide a written report on your athlete’s progress toward becoming a Qualifier to be eligible for a scholarship, practice, and competition as a freshman.

With the changes to the NCAA Division I transfer rules that have been implemented over the last 18 months, starting with the introduction of the Transfer Portal starting in October 2018 and continuing through to recent changes, some student-athletes have assumed that they can transfer and “automatically” be eligible to compete in their first year of attendance at another university.

Student-athletes who are or have been on an athletic scholarship at their previous school must remember that in order to use the One-Time Transfer Exception, or to receive a waiver from the NCAA to be immediately eligible, it is necessary that the previous school not have an objection to the student-athletes’ transfer.

Also, even for those student-athletes who have never received an athletic scholarship, there are certain academic requirements that they must satisfy to be eligible for competition in their first year of attendance at another university.

Do you Need Assistance?

Schedule a confidential consult online, call us at 913-766-1235 or send an email to rick@informedathlete.com to understand ALL the things your student-athlete should be aware of before considering a transfer to another university.

The NCAA Division I Transfer Waiver Working Group recently announced that they will likely propose a change to the Division I transfer waiver considerations.

If adopted by the Division I Council in April, scholarship athletes in the sports of baseball, basketball, football, and men’s ice hockey will essentially be able to use the One-Time Transfer Exception to be immediately eligible at their new university.

Currently, scholarship athletes in the Division I sports noted above can’t use the One-Time Transfer Exception that is available to student-athletes in all other sports. However, they can still seek waivers for immediate eligibility when they transfer due to “…extenuatlng and extraordinary circumstances.”

The Transfer Waiver Working Group noted that the large number of waivers being processed has “…strained the waiver process” hence the proposed change to the waiver criteria.

If adopted, such transfer waivers could be approved as long as the transferring student-athlete:

  • Receives a transfer release from their previous university,
  • Leaves their previous university while academically eligible,
  • Meets the academic requirements to maintain their academic progress at their new university, and
  • Is not under disciplinary suspension when they leave their previous university.

There are a couple of key points to keep in mind.

  • First, a student-athlete’s previous university will need to provide a transfer release as noted above. The university will still have the right to object to an athlete’s transfer. If they do so, they will be required to offer an opportunity for an appeal to the student-athlete.
  • Second, the Transfer Waiver Working Group will be seeking feedback from Division I student-athlete representatives, coaches associations, athletic directors, and conference offices prior to the Division I Council’s April meeting. Given the concerns of some high-profile coaches and athletic directors, it’s quite possible that additional conditions could be required of transferring student-athletes, such as a minimum GPA.

If adopted by the Division I Council at their April meeting, the new waiver criteria will be available for scholarship student-athletes to be immediately eligible when transferring to a Division I baseball, basketball, football, or men’s ice hockey program for Fall 2020.

We’ll be sure to keep you updated as we learn of new developments.

To discuss a possible transfer for your athlete, schedule a confidential transfer consult online or contact us at 913-766-1235 or by sending an email to rick@informedathlete.com.