It’s the time of year when the NCAA is starting to publicize proposed rule changes that will be voted on at the annual NCAA Convention in January. I’ll highlight those that will likely be of most interest to student-athletes and families.

Division I

The Division I Council has introduced a proposal to reduce the number of official visits a men’s basketball recruit can take to a Division I university from five to three during each of three periods:

  • Junior year of high school.
  • Senior year of high school.
  • After high school graduation (for a transfer or during a prep school year for example).

The proposal would also reduce the length of official visits in men’s basketball to 36 hours from 48. Members of the Council believe many student-athletes are taking official visits simply because they can and not because they intend to attend a school.

Division II

If approved, the Division II transfer rules will be revised to more closely align with the Division I transfer rules. Perhaps the most important revision would be that a Division II coach or athletic department would not be able to object to a student-athlete’s opportunity to be eligible in their first year at their new university.

The Division II transfer rules would be revised to:

  • Require a transferring student-athlete to view an NCAA-produced educational video before an institution may enter the student-athlete’s information into the NCAA Transfer Portal;
  • Eliminate the previous institution’s ability to object to use of the one-time transfer exception;
  • Require the new head coach and the student-athlete to certify in writing that they had no direct or indirect contact about a possible transfer prior to the student-athlete entering the Transfer Portal;
  • Establish June 15 as the date by which a student-athlete must enter the Transfer Portal to utilize the one-time transfer exception (not applicable to midyear transfers); and
  • Permit institutions to reduce or cancel an athletics aid agreement previously signed for the next academic year.

Division III

The Division III Presidents Council is supporting a proposal that would change the current “season of participation” rule to specify that only actual competition against another institution would trigger the use of a season.

  • A student-athlete would be charged with the use of a season of eligibility if the student-athlete competes at any point during the traditional season in their sport.

Please note that these rule changes are not currently planned to take effect until next June. We will be updating you and confirming the approval of these proposals when that occurs.

In the meantime, if you have questions about any of these proposals, contact us at rick@informedathlete.com or by calling 913-766-1235.

Recently, the General Counsel for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) sent a memo to regional offices indicating that student-athletes are considered employees under the National Labor Relations Act.

The memo from NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo stated that “My intent in issuing this memo is to help educate the public, especially Players at Academic Institutions, colleges and universities, athletic conferences and the NCAA, about the legal position that I will be taking regarding employee status and misclassification in appropriate cases…”

What exactly does that mean, and how might it impact your student-athlete? It’s hard to know at this point.

  • Will college athletes unionize and end up being paid as employees?
  • If so, will they be prepared to pay the appropriate taxes? Will that mean the end of athletic scholarships? (Which aren’t taxed on the portions that cover educational expenses of tuition, fees, books, etc.) Could it also mean the end of Pell Grants for student-athletes?
  • If athletes at a private institution are successful in forming a union, does that mean that all athletes will need to pay union dues?
  • Could that also result in a significant reduction in donations to athletic departments from alumni and boosters that have been used to fund many sports teams and facilities?

It is important to note that the General Counsel’s memo included the statement “…it is my position that the scholarship football players at issue in Northwestern University, and similarly situated Players at Academic Institutions, are employees under the Act.” (She was referring to the National Labor Relations Act.) Therefore, she is initially referring to scholarship athletes at a private institution.

As I skimmed through different media sources after hearing about this, here are a few of the opinions that I came across:

  • Darren Heitner of Heitner Legal pointed out that the National Labor Relations Act only applies to private employers and that public colleges and universities aren’t directly impacted. However, he shared that they may be indirectly impacted as members of private entities (meaning the conferences and the NCAA).
  • Michael McCann wrote for Sportico that while Abruzzo is not a voting board member of the NLRB, she certainly does have influence over future votes by the five-member NLRB Board. He also shared that Abruzzo rejects the term “student-athlete” which has been the standard term the NCAA has used in referring to athletes at NCAA member colleges for many years.
  • University of Illinois law professor Michael LeRoy believes that Abruzzo is “…inviting a petition from players to form a union at a private institution.”

As if we haven’t had enough change over the past few months with the revision to the NCAA One-Time Transfer Rule, and the permissibility of Name, Image and Likeness opportunities, it appears there may still be more to come.

We’ll keep you updated when more specific information about this topic becomes available.

If your son or daughter is on an athletic scholarship, do you have a copy of their scholarship agreement for this year?

It’s very important to read through the scholarship agreement and know what expectations have been placed on your son or daughter.

  • We all know that they’re expected to stay academically eligible, conduct themselves properly, and work hard in practice every day.
  • But how do you know if there are team rules or athletic department policies that could cause them to lose their scholarship if you haven’t carefully reviewed the scholarship agreement?

It’s much better to get a copy of the agreement at the time of signing as it can be an uncomfortable conversation to ask the coach or athletic department for a copy later if:

  • You feel that things aren’t going well for your son or daughter, or if they are being threatened with the cancellation of their scholarship, it will be important to know what is stated in those rules or policies.
  • In addition, if your athlete is thinking about a possible transfer to another university, it can be important to know the impact on his or her athletic scholarship if they decide to enter the NCAA Transfer Portal and when they might do that.

Here are a few potentially concerning examples that I’ve recently seen in scholarship agreements of our clients:

  1. The scholarship can be cancelled if the student-athlete “Refuses to participate or provides a positive test result in the NCAA or University drug-testing program.” (At some universities a positive drug test results in required drug counseling but not necessarily the cancellation of the athlete’s scholarship.)
  2. If an athletic scholarship agreement is written as 100% of a full athletic scholarship for the freshman year but then “0% of a full athletic scholarship” for the three following years, then there will be no notification of a scholarship reduction and no appeal opportunity because the student-athlete knew when they signed the scholarship agreement that there was no scholarship given after the first year.
  3. A student-athlete could have their scholarship cancelled due to “…actions that are deemed detrimental to the team that I am a member of.”But, if the coach does not provide his or her athletes with a detailed list of what those “detrimental” actions are, how can the athlete know that what they may consider a very minor discretion (perhaps being a few minutes late for a team meeting or making a disparaging remark about a teammate) may end up costing them their scholarship?

If you have concerns or questions about your student-athlete’s scholarship agreement or you want to have a proactive discussion about what to look for or be aware of in a scholarship agreement, we can help.

Schedule a confidential Scholarship Strategies Consult online for a confidential 1:1 consultation. We’ll answer your questions and provide accurate information, objective advice and guide you through potential issues that could possibly create problems in the future.

If a student-athlete is injured or becomes ill to the point that they won’t be able to compete any more during the season, it’s possible for them to receive a Medical Hardship Waiver to get that season “over again” even if:

  • They have competed for their team during the season.
  • Or in the case of Division III they’ve continued practicing with their team after the first game of the season.

If your athlete has already received a significant injury or illness early in the Fall season, you may be wondering about the possibility of a Medical Hardship Waiver.

  • It’s important to know that there are specific conditions and restrictions that apply for these types of waivers, and they vary between the NCAA, NAIA and JUCO rules.
  • In fact, even within the NCAA, the conditions and guidelines for such a waiver can differ between Division I, Division II, and Division lII.

Examples of some of the questions we are asked during a confidential consultation about Medical Hardship Waivers include:

  • If I missed out on a large portion of the early-season schedule with my injury but then am re-injured after playing in the second half of the season, can I still receive a Hardship Waiver?
  • What can I do if my doctor hasn’t cleared me to return to competition but our team trainer is telling our coach that I’m able to play?
  • How much medical documentation will I need for my Hardship Waiver to be approved?
  • If I sat out this past Spring season due to injury but couldn’t see my doctor until after the season was over, can I still receive a Hardship Waiver?
  • Is the “off-season” portion of our team schedule included in the calculation of the 30% requirement or the midpoint of the season?
  • Are the requirements the same for a Hardship Waiver for mental health issues?

If you have any of these same or other questions and need objective advice and accurate information, we can help!

Schedule a Waivers & Appeals consultation online, call our office at 913-766-1235 or send an email to rick@informedathlete.com

A question that we often receive early in the school year is whether an athlete can withdraw from some or all of their classes without an eligibility “penalty.”

If your athlete has already started attending their college classes this Fall as a full-time enrolled student, please keep the following in mind:

  • If your athlete withdraws from a class and is no longer enrolled in a full-time course load, it will negatively impact their eligibility.
  • Dropping a course later in the term to avoid a failing grade that will hurt the athlete’s GPA may be OK in some situations, but you should encourage them to finish the semester (or quarter) if possible, instead of withdrawing from their courses.
  • If your athlete withdraws from all courses, they’ll lose all their academic credits for this term which WILL impact future eligibility.

To discuss a potential withdrawal situation and how it could impact your athlete’s eligibility, schedule an Eligibility Consult online, e- mail rick@informedathlete.com or call our office at 913-766-1235.

Student-athletes at NCAA Division III colleges who are preparing to start their fall season should know that the “redshirt” rule is quite different for Division III than it is for NCAA Division I and II athletes.

NCAA Division III rules require that an athlete be charged with one of their four “seasons of participation” if they practice with their team after the first game of the season – even if they never appear in an actual game against another team.

This happened to a client of ours two years ago. The athlete’s father contacted us to ask about his son’s redshirt season because he had left the team after just one week of the season.

However, since he continued practicing with the team after the first game of the season, he was charged with a “season of participation” for that season, and at that time had three seasons remaining rather than the four that the father thought his son had.

For a consultation regarding the NCAA redshirt rules and guidelines, schedule an Eligibility Issues online, send an email to rick@informedathlete.com or call us at 913-766-1235.

Student-athletes who transfer from a two-year to a four-year college are commonly referred to as a “2-4 transfer,” while those who transfer from one four-year college to another are referred to as a “4-4 transfer.”

In most of those 2-4 or 4-4 transfer situations, a student-athlete will have the chance to be eligible for competition in their first year at the new college as along as the academic requirements for a transfer to the NCAA or NAIA university have been satisfied.

However, when an athlete has transferred more than one time, the rules and academic requirements can be more difficult to navigate.

The more times that an athlete transfers from one college to another, the greater the odds are that the athlete won’t be eligible in their first year at the new college. In fact, many of these student-athletes are often given misleading information or don’t have a complete understanding of the transfer rules.

They often learn after arriving at their new university that they won’t be eligible to compete their first year.

I’ve spoken to several families of 4-4-4 transfers who find themselves in this situation.

Had they known the transfer rules and requirements for their specific situation in advance, they would have been prepared and possibly made better and more informed decisions as they navigated through their transfer process.

Of course, the best situation is if you and your athlete are prepared and knowledgeable about how to navigate successfully ahead of time.

However, if your athlete has recently transferred and learned they won’t be eligible this year, we can discuss their specific situation and advise about possible options available to them. Schedule a confidential Waivers & Appeal Consult online to learn what options are available at this point and how to move forward.

If your athlete is considering a transfer and wants to know what their options are before making the decision, we can help. Schedule a confidential Transfer Consult online and we’ll review and discuss best steps to take before proceeding with a transfer.

To learn more about these and other services we offer, call us at 913-766-1235 or send an email to rick@informedathlete.com.

If your student-athlete has been told that they won’t be academically eligible at their NCAA school this year or this semester and you don’t know what to do, Informed Athlete can help.  We’ll discuss the situation with you to advise possible options that your student-athlete may be able to consider.

Possible options – which can be stressful when there’s very little time to make a decision – might include enrolling at a different college, returning to a junior college for another semester, or discussing a possible academic waiver with your athlete’s college.

A waiver may be possible when there is sufficient documentation of a circumstance that impacted your athlete’s academic performance when they have an otherwise strong academic record.

In a confidential Waivers and Appeals consultation, we will answer your questions and explain the directives that the NCAA uses to review waiver applications. We’ll also discuss the type of supporting documentation that will need to be submitted along with the application.

We also routinely assist athletes and their families by reviewing the athlete’s personal statements and suggesting possible revisions to have more impact and make a stronger case for approval.

If you have questions, please call us at 913-766-1235 or send an email to rick@informedathlete.com.

Almost every year, we receive emails similar to the one below two or three weeks AFTER an athlete has started attending classes at their new college:

“I transferred to this new college but wasn’t informed until two weeks into this semester that I didn’t meet the academic requirements to be eligible this year. What options do I have now that I’ve already started attending classes?”

Assuming the university received this athlete’s transcript in a timely manner, someone should have reviewed and notified this athlete of her academic deficiency before the semester started.

Had they done so, this athlete would have had the option to go back to her previous junior college for one more semester to take the necessary courses for eligibility, or she could have considered other options.

Now her options are limited and more complicated:

  • By waiting until two weeks into the semester to inform the athlete of her status, she is stuck at that college and is now ineligible for this academic year. She must now work to earn her academic eligibility to be able to compete next year at this college.
  • Also, because most transferring athletes must be academically eligible when they leave their current school in order to be immediately eligible as a transfer to an NCAA member school, she either needs to stay at this school and work to earn her eligibility there, OR
  • If she chooses to transfer to another NCAA college before she regains eligibility where she is, she may be ineligible for her first academic year at the next college.
  • Another option is that she could possibly transfer to an NAIA college where it would be possible to regain eligibility after one semester.

How can an athlete AVOID this type of situation?

Make sure you are certified academically eligible by the school you are transferring to before classes begin.

In fact, I suggest that you request confirmation in writing prior to the start of classes that the athletic compliance office can confirm that you’re eligible to compete this year! This way, if something goes wrong and you’re later told that you aren’t eligible, you at least have documentation of what you were told that could possibly be beneficial in a waiver situation.

How frequently does this type of thing happen?

More frequently than you would think. These are the type of situations I hate because they could easily be prevented.

How can you prevent this from happening to your athlete?

For “2-4” transfers from a two-year college to a four-year college or “4-2-4” transfers (four-year college to two-year college to second four-year college), there are specific academic requirements that must be completed in order to be immediately eligible.

With a college transcript review, we will:

  • Inform you of the current NCAA transfer requirements,
  • Compare courses you’ve taken with the academic requirements for a transfer athlete,
  • Inform you of any specific subject requirements or limitations for your transfer situation, and
  • Review consequences and options for your situation based on completed courses, deadlines, and any rules that apply specifically to certain sports (such as mid-year transfers in Division I baseball or basketball)

If you have questions about the transfer and eligibility requirements, schedule a confidential Eligibility Issues Consult, or would like to discuss how a college transcript review can help your athlete, contact us by calling 913-766-1235 or sending an email to rick@informedathlete.com.

But first, let’s cover some background reminders.

During the past 15-16 months, almost all college athletes were granted an automatic Extension of Eligibility for one additional year on their college eligibility “clock” and were not charged with a season of competition in their sport.

These exceptions of normal eligibility rules were and are applicable for a college student-athlete in a Spring 2020 sport or a Fall or Winter sport during the 2020-21 academic year. Those athletes have a six-year “clock” to compete in four seasons in their sport.

Beginning with the Spring 2021 sport season, NCAA Division I and II returned to their normal “season-of-competition” rules.

Those rules require that an athlete is charged with one of their four available seasons of competition if they appear in any amount of game competition, even if it’s only for one inning in baseball or softball or one minute of a lacrosse match (as examples).

Exception: NCAA Division I & II spring sport athletes who had a restricted season schedule may be eligible for a season of competition waiver.

Moving forward from this point, starting this Fall student-athletes will have a five-year or 10-semester window of eligibility in which to compete in their sport. It will be possible for student-athletes to receive an extension waiver for an additional year or two semesters of eligibility in one of two ways:

  • An athlete is redshirted in their true freshman year while eligible and then misses one other season of competition due to a documented injury or illness, OR
  • The athlete misses two different seasons of competition due to a documented injury or illness which prevents them from competing in those seasons.

We’re sharing this information with you so you can possibly “plan ahead” if your athlete redshirted as a freshman during the 2021 spring sport season or incurred a season-ending injury or illness.

For a detailed confidential discussion of the rules and guidelines for an Extension of Eligibility Waiver, schedule a Waivers and Appeals Consult online, or contact us at rick@informedathlete.com or by calling 913-766-1235.