Can You Trust a Coach’s Scholarship Offer?

We often hear college athletes and parents tell us that their coach isn’t honoring their promise of a “guaranteed” scholarship or an increasing scholarship that was given by the coach when the athlete was being recruited.

Furthermore, we also hear too frequently that a coach will tell an athlete:

“I need to reduce your scholarship because your performance isn’t justifying the scholarship that we’ve given you.”

The NCAA Division I and II scholarship rules specify conditions under which a coach is permitted to cancel an athlete’s scholarship or to not renew it for the following year(s).

The most common conditions that are permitted include:

  • When an athlete becomes academically ineligible.
  • When an athlete has been involved in a student misconduct situation or has violated a team or athletic department rule.
  • When an athlete enters the NCAA Transfer Portal. (Although in this situation, the scholarship must be allowed to continue through the end of the semester or quarter in which the athlete entered the Portal.)

NCAA Division I and II coaches are not permitted to reduce an athlete’s scholarship based on athletic performance or contribution to the team’s success during the “term of the award” (whether it’s a one-year scholarship or a multi-year scholarship).

Even in situations when a coach is not permitted to reduce an athlete’s scholarship, a coach may still tell an athlete “We can’t continue you on scholarship given your performance. You need to agree to a reduction in scholarship or you’ll need to transfer.”

There is no fool-proof way to prevent this from happening, but we suggest this:

  • When making an official or unofficial visit to a campus, try to talk with current players on the team to ask them if the coach has a history of reducing scholarships or forcing athletes to transfer.
  • Also, keep in mind that coaches will usually arrange to have recruits talk with current players who they know will say only positive things about the program.
  • Try to connect with an athlete who isn’t getting much playing time and ask if they feel that they’re being treated fairly. Ask them if they feel like the walk-ons are being treated equally to the scholarship athletes.

Do You Need Advice?

If you have questions about scholarships and about the rights that an athlete has when a coach is threatening to cancel a scholarship, schedule a Scholarship Strategies Consult online, contact us at or call 913-766-1235.