The annual NCAA Convention was held recently in Indianapolis. While much of the publicity over the last few months regarding the Convention was regarding the work of the Constitution Committee to propose a new draft of the NCAA Constitution, I doubt that work will really impact the day-to-day life of NCAA student-athletes – at least not in the near future.

Here’s a brief rundown of some topics of interest for NCAA DI, NCAA DII, and NCAA DIII.

NCAA DI

For women’s basketball, recruiting rules were revised in several different topic areas, including telephone calls, official visits and the recruiting calendar. Due to the number of changes, contact us directly if you desire information regarding those changes.

In men’s basketball, the number of recruiting-person days (number of total days the men’s coaching staff could be off-campus recruiting) was reduced from 130 to 100. Two coaches recruiting on the same day equals two recruiting-person days.

For both men’s and women’s basketball, a proposal to allow student-athletes to appear in up to four regular season games without being charged with the use of a season of competition was defeated.

Football spring practice opportunities for full contact practice sessions will be reduced. They won’t be allowed on consecutive days during spring practice and won’t be allowed for more than 75 minutes in any practice session (other than a scrimmage).

New guidelines for transfer waivers that were set to go into effect in 2022 will be delayed until January 2023. This means that athletes transferring to a Division I university who need a waiver to be ruled eligible will have a wider range of acceptable reasons and circumstances that can be cited as a factor in the waiver decision as compared to the new waiver guidelines.

Those guidelines – which are now postponed a year – basically limit acceptable waiver reasons as:

  • An athlete has a diagnosed learning disability which was not sufficiently supported at the previous university OR
  • An athlete has faced a “real and imminent health and safety” threat at the previous university.

NCAA DII

The Division II One-Time Transfer Exception was changed to more closely align with the Division I One-Time Transfer Exception. The key aspects of the new Division II rule are:

  • The school from which an athlete is transferring will not have the opportunity to object to the athlete’s transfer.
  • Athletes will be required to view an educational video or online module regarding the transfer rules before their name will be entered into the Transfer Portal.
  • Athletes will be required to provide written transfer notification to their school by June 15 to have the chance to be eligible during the upcoming academic year.
  • A transferring athlete and the head coach at the new school to which they are transferring will be required to certify that they had no direct or indirect contact regarding a transfer prior to the student-athlete entering the Transfer Portal.

NCAA DIII

The proposal which would have had the most direct impact on Division III student-athletes was not voted on, but instead was referred to the Division III Interpretations and Legislative Committee for additional analysis and consideration.

If it had been approved at the Convention, it would have allowed Division III student-athletes to participate in a full season of practice with their team and still claim a “redshirt season” if the athlete did not compete in any games against another university.

As a result, the current Division III rule is still in effect. That rule charges a student-athlete with a “season of participation” even if they only practice with their team beyond the first game of the season but even if they don’t appear in a game against another opponent.

 

If you have questions about any actions taken at the NCAA Convention, contact us directly via e-mail at rick@informedathlete.com or by calling 913-766-1235.

We recently provided one of our Transcript Review Assessments for a high school athlete who is in the middle of her senior year of high school.

This athlete is short of having the required number of core courses to be eligible as a freshman and won’t be eligible for NCAA Division I if the athlete can’t change her course selection for this semester.

This athlete’s father informed us that he learned about the NCAA academic eligibility requirements from our website, not from their high school guidance office.

If you’d like to ensure that your high school athlete is on pace to meet the academic requirements to be eligible as a freshman at an NCAA Division I or II university, schedule a confidential Eligibility Issues Consult online.

We’ll discuss your student-athlete’s current situation, talk about all the academic eligibility requirements, and if needed, suggest a Freshman Transcript Review Assessment. You’re also welcome to call our office at 913-766-1235 or send an email to rick@informedathlete.com

Like many organizations, the National Association for Athletic Compliance (NAAC) has an online chat room where members can share ideas and information, and ask their peers for assistance with questions. As a past President and member of NAAC, I keep up with those discussions to stay current with issues and discussions.

Recently, the following post appeared in the chat room:

“I am new to compliance and was wondering if there were any resources anyone can point me to so that I can learn/study compliance outside of the Manual or LSDBi.”

This was posted by the primary compliance contact for an NCAA Division II program!

I don’t mean to speak negative of this person. Rather, my concern is with the Division II school that would hire an inexperienced person for the primary compliance position.

If an athlete or family in your circle of friends isn’t confident in the information they are receiving from their compliance office, or if they aren’t comfortable posing their questions to their coach or compliance office, encourage them to contact us at 913-766-1235 or rick@informedathlete.com with their questions.

We recently learned of student-athletes at an NCAA Division I university who have created GoFundMe pages to openly request donations for their living expenses.

This type of solicitation is NOT permitted as part of the NCAA’s new Name, Image and Likeness policy. In fact, the student-athletes described above have received an impermissible benefit and will likely need to repay the value they have received to a charity to have their competitive eligibility reinstated by the NCAA.

A student-athlete must provide some type of service or “deliverable” in exchange for receiving an NIL payment.

Examples can include a wide variety of activities, from doing a TV commercial for a car dealership to signing autographs at a store’s grand opening to appearing at a child’s birthday party for photo opportunities.

The NCAA has recently updated their Question and Answer document regarding the NIL policy.

  • This document includes an update addressing the type of situation I’ve described above, as well as emphasizing that NIL agreements are not to be intended as a recruiting inducement (e.g., a booster guaranteeing an NIL opportunity once a recruit enrolls at their favorite university).
  • The update also includes a recommendation that international student-athletes check with their designated school office for all international students regarding any potential tax implications and impact on their immigration status if they participate in NIL opportunities.

The Q and A document can be viewed through this link:

https://ncaaorg.s3.amazonaws.com/ncaa/NIL/NIL_QandA.pdf

This article is written to give junior college athletes a heads-up to potential eligibility issues that can create huge problems if they plan to transfer to an NCAA school.

And even worse, if the eligibility issue isn’t discovered until AFTER the JUCO transfer has already started attending an NCAA school, the athlete won’t be eligible to compete in their first year at the new university.

My advice to avoid these headaches and problems is to be clearly informed and knowledgeable about the academic requirements they must meet in order to transfer to an NCAA school.

Please keep in mind that student-athletes who start their college career at a junior college can have differing academic requirements when it comes time to transfer to an NCAA school.

For example:

  • Was the Junior College Student-Athlete a “qualifier” or “non-qualifier” coming out of high school? The answer to this will affect what a junior college transfer athlete must achieve academically to be eligible to compete at an NCAA DI or DII school.
  • How many semesters did the Junior College Student-Athlete attend the junior college as a full-time student?
  • Was the Junior College Student-Athlete required to earn their Associates Degree to be academically eligible upon transfer to an NCAA school?

These are the types of issues that can derail a Junior College Student-Athlete’s athletic and academic career and end up costing them personally and financially.

If a Junior College Transfer Athlete has not satisfied all necessary NCAA academic requirements BEFORE they begin attending their new university, they won’t be able to compete during their first academic year of attendance and may also not be qualified to receive an athletic scholarship!

Knowing your eligibility status ahead of time can allow a student-athlete to make the adjustments that are needed to avoid disappointment and possibly financial problems down the road.

If you are a Junior College Transfer Athlete (or parent of one) and you are uncertain about your NCAA academic eligibility status, Informed Athlete can help:

If you have questions, contact Rick Allen at 913-766-1235 or send an email to rick@informedathlete.com.

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.