Within the past few weeks, we’ve consulted with at least three families regarding situations in which their athlete has been dismissed from a team or penalized in other ways primarily for their political beliefs.

While these situations are certainly unfortunate and unfair, decisions as to who a coach keeps on their roster are left to the discretion of the coach by most athletic directors. If a coach removes an athlete from their team, the athlete may have no choice but to transfer to another school.

However, if an athlete is receiving an athletic scholarship, the NCAA rules limit the ability of a coach or athletic department to cancel the scholarship in the middle of the academic year.

Midyear cancellation of a scholarship is only possible if an athlete:

  • Is ruled ineligible for competition
  • Provides fraudulent information on an application, letter of intent, or financial aid agreement
  • Engages in serious misconduct that rises to the level of being disciplined by the university’s regular student disciplinary board;
  • Voluntarily quits their team; or
  • Violates a university policy or rule which is not related to athletic conditions or ability (such as a university or athletic department policy on COVID-19 restrictions, which is a very significant concern in the current environment).

Also, in NCAA Division I, an athlete entering the Transfer Portal could possibly lose their scholarship at midyear.

My advice to athletes and parents

Review very carefully any athletic department or university rules and policies that spell out the non-athletic reasons that can be cited for the cancellation of an athletic scholarship.

Contact us directly at 913-766-1235 or rick@informedathlete.com for or schedule online a confidential scholarship consultation to discuss a situation in which your athlete’s position on their team or their scholarship is being threatened by a coach for their political beliefs, or for alleged violations of policies.

November 11th is the first opportunity for high school seniors (and JUCO athletes) to sign an NCAA National Letter of Intent with an NCAA Division I or II program in sports other than football.

Here are a few mistakes when signing an NLI that have been noted by compliance directors on Division I and II campuses across the country. Don’t make these same mistakes when you or your athlete sign the NLI. A mistake could cause the NLI to be invalid if not caught and corrected.

  • Forgetting to include the time that the NLI was signed.
  • Signing the NLI prior to 7 AM your local time on the initial signing date.
  • Not signing the NLI within 7 days after the date it was issued to you.
  • Names are printed on the NLI instead of an actual signature.
  • The Parent or Legal Guardian box is not checked.
  • Poor scan quality when you return your signed copy to the university.

If you have questions about signing a NCAA National Letter of Intent or an NJCAA Letter of Intent, schedule a confidential Scholarship Strategies consult online. Or you can send an email to rick@informedathlete.com or call 913-766-1235 to schedule a session.

NCAA National Letter of Intent:

November 11 is the initial signing date for an NCAA National Letter of Intent in all sports other than football.

  • An athlete can only sign one NLI with one NCAA Division I or II university.
  • An NCAA National Letter of Intent must be accompanied by an official athletic scholarship agreement from the university your athlete is signing with.
  • When the athlete signs the NLI, they are committing to attend that university for at least one full academic year in exchange for receiving the athletic scholarship.
  • It is not a requirement that the prospective student-athlete sign the NLI, but not doing so could cause the coaching staff recruiting the athlete to question the athlete’s commitment to their team.

See our article for reasons why an athlete may not want to sign the NLI, especially this year if they’ve been recruited during an NCAA Dead Period. https://informedathlete.com/should-your-recruited-athlete-sign-an-ncaa-national-letter-of-intent/

NAIA Letter of Intent:

There actually is no Letter of Intent that is recognized or acknowledged by the NAIA. In other words, there are no NAIA rules or requirements that apply to a Letter of Intent that an NAIA college offers to an athlete. Each college acts on their own regarding scholarships.

There is no NAIA signing date or deadline, and an athlete can sign with more than one NAIA college if they choose to do so. They could sign multiple offers from NAIA schools and then choose to wait until later on to decide which NAIA college they will actually attend.

One downside to the NAIA having no standard Letter of Intent or scholarship rules is that if an NAIA athlete loses their scholarship, there are no NAIA rules that require that an appeal opportunity be made available to them.

NJCAA Letter of Intent:

November 1st was the initial signing date for an NJCAA Letter of Intent in all sports other than football. An athlete can only sign one LOI with one NJCAA program.

  • An NJCAA LOI can be issued to a prospective student-athlete even if no athletic scholarship is being offered to the athlete.
  • Each NJCAA team has a limit on the number of LOI’s that can be signed in any given year, including those for which no scholarship is provided to the athlete.
  • Similar to the NAIA above, there are no NJCAA rules that require that an appeal opportunity be made available to an athlete who loses their scholarship while attending an NJCAA college. Any opportunity to appeal would depend on the policies of that particular college.

Do you have questions or need guidance?

If you have questions about any of this information, schedule a confidential Scholarship Strategies consult online. Or you can send an email to rick@informedathlete.com or call 913-766-1235 to schedule a session.

NCAA scholarship student-athletes who are considering “opting-out” from participating in their sport this year, should make it very clear that they are “opting-out” rather than voluntarily withdrawing from their sport.

These two phrases – “Opting-Out” and “Voluntary Withdrawal” mean two different things in NCAA terminology.

The NCAA has given student-athletes the right to “Opt-Out” of their sport this year if they have concerns about COVID.  The benefit to scholarship athletes is that it protects their athletic scholarship from being cancelled by their athletic department.

When an athlete informs their university that they are “Voluntarily Withdrawing” from the team, that means the same as that they are quitting their team. In this situation, the coach or a staff member in the athletic department will tell your athlete that they need to sign a Voluntary Withdrawal Form.

It’s also somewhat common for a coach or staff member to tell an athlete that they need to sign a Voluntary Withdrawal Form if they are planning to transfer.

My Advice to NCAA Scholarship Student-Athletes

Don’t sign a “Voluntary Withdrawal Form” unless you are certain that you are leaving your team. Signing a Voluntary Withdrawal Form gives the university the right to cancel your scholarship!

If you have questions and want to discuss how various situations could impact your athletic scholarship,  schedule a confidential Scholarship Strategies Consult online, or by calling us at 913-766-1235 or sending an email to rick@informedathlete.com.

High school and junior college athletes being recruited by Division I coaches have not been able to visit D1 campuses or have face-to-face discussions with coaches (except via Zoom or FaceTime) since mid-March.  In fact, the NCAA DI Dead Period has been extended through January 1, 2021.

With this in mind, do you feel comfortable having your athlete sign a National Letter of Intent with a Division I university when the signing period begins on November 11 for all sports other than football?

While accepting a scholarship may be very valuable to your athlete, signing the NLI locks them in to attending that university for at least one full academic year even though they might never have visited the campus and toured the facilities, let alone met the coaching staff in person.

It’s a common misperception that when a recruit is presented with a National Letter of Intent that they must sign that document.

  • However, the NLI is actually a separate document from a school’s official scholarship agreement.
  • The NLI can’t be offered to a recruit unless it is accompanied by that scholarship agreement.

It’s possible for a recruit to sign the school’s scholarship agreement without signing the National Letter of Intent. But what does that actually mean for your athlete?

For one thing, signing the scholarship agreement with a college is a “guarantee” that the college must provide you with that scholarship if you are accepted for admission to that college, enroll and attend classes there, and are certified as eligible by the NCAA.

The potential upside of signing the scholarship agreement but NOT the NLI is that your athlete would not be subject to the NLI penalty for not attending that college for one full academic year should they choose to transfer after just one semester.

An example of why an athlete might choose to transfer after one semester is if the coach who has been the primary recruiter for your athlete leaves for another job before your athlete ever arrives on campus.

On the other hand, the potential downside of not signing the NLI is that it can potentially harm your athlete’s relationship with the coaching staff who recruited them before your athlete ever arrives on campus. The coaching staff might question the athlete’s intentions and full commitment if they don’t sign the NLI. Is there a way to minimize that possibility?

Here are a couple of suggestions for dealing with the uncertainty of the times we are in the midst of when your athlete is being asked (and perhaps pressured) to sign a National Letter of Intent.

One possible option is that your athlete can ask the university recruiting them if they can sign only the scholarship agreement when the signing period begins on November 11. Your athlete can then offer to sign the NLI at a later date AFTER they have had a chance to visit the campus, tour facilities, and meet the coaches in person.

Another possible option is to ask the university if they will provide a written assurance to grant your athlete a full release from the NLI if the athlete changes their mind after visiting campus, or if there is a change in the coaching staff before your athlete enrolls at the university.

Do you have questions?

If you would like to discuss the options described here in a confidential phone consultation, schedule a Scholarship Strategies consult online. Or you can send an email to rick@informedathlete.com or call 913-766-1235 to schedule a session.

Recently, the NCAA Division I Council extended the recruiting Dead Period through January 1, 2021.

A brief review of social media indicated that many athletes and coaches (high school, travel ball, and college coaches) are extremely frustrated with this decision. We completely understand that frustration.

The decision was made at least in part because NCAA leadership was concerned about coaches traveling across the country, as well as recruits traveling to visit campuses, and thereby increasing the spread of COVID-19.

Also, for what it’s worth, the last sentence of the NCAA press release about the dead period states:

“The majority of coaches associations also supported the extension of the dead period.”

So while a lot of frustration is directed at the NCAA, there had to be a number of coaches associations for different sports that were hesitant to travel or to have recruits visiting campus.

As a result of this action, coaches in all Division I sports are only allowed to:

  • Recruit by phone or video calls, text messaging, email, and other direct messaging.
  • Coaches can also review film and gather information on recruits by speaking with high school, junior college and/or club coaches, but are prohibited from leaving campus for recruiting purposes and can’t have face-to-face interaction with recruits or their family members.

It’s also not permissible during this Dead Period for Division I universities to offer complimentary admission for recruits or for high school or junior college coaches to a football or basketball game, or any other sports event that may take place on campus during this period.

Do you have questions and need assistance?

If you have questions about your athlete’s specific situation, we provide confidential phone consultations to answer questions and discuss options available to your athlete. Schedule a confidential Scholarship Strategies consult online, or you can send an email to rick@informedathlete.com or call 913-766-1235.

Student-athletes at NCAA Division I and II universities who receive notice that they have been awarded a “hometown” scholarship or one from other “outside sources,” such as from their local civic club or from mom’s or dad’s employer, should inform the compliance office at their university.

In most cases, there won’t be negative consequences for receiving such a scholarship.

  • However, athletes who are already receiving a full scholarship from their university may be prohibited from accepting the scholarship (or may need to have other scholarships adjusted) so that they don’t receive more than their university’s “cost of attendance.”
  • Also, student-athletes in NCAA Division I who are receiving scholarships from “outside sources” such as those examples above may be limited to accepting no more than $1000 during an academic year, depending on the various criteria for selected scholarships.

For questions about the combination of athletic scholarships with other scholarships, whether academic or from “outside sources”, schedule a confidential scholarship strategies consult, contact us at rick@informedathlete.com or call us at 913-766-1235.

The FAFSA form (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) for the 2021-22 academic year becomes available on October 1st

Should I fill out the FAFSA?

Yes! Here’s why. Whether you believe you won’t qualify based on family income or because your athlete is being offered a substantial athletic scholarship, you should know that some coaches and athletic departments require that the FAFSA be completed by all student-athletes.

That’s because those coaches and athletic departments are trying to stretch their scholarship allotments for each sport as far as possible.

Having their athletes qualify for other types of scholarships and aid assistance that might be available is a way for them to do this. That’s true in any year, but even more true now with loss of revenue and fewer donations from alumni at many colleges and universities.

Furthermore, to maximize their financial aid “reach” some colleges have policies that prohibit ALL students (not just athletes) from accepting more than one scholarship or grant so that more students can receive financial assistance.

When your athlete’s recruitment is becoming “serious” with a coach, be sure to ask about campus scholarship policies during a recruiting call or when you’re on a campus visit.

Note also that some states award financial aid on a first-come, first-served basis so the earlier you apply the better your chances might be to receive some aid.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Issues Can Be Confusing!

For more information on scholarships and financial aid agreements, visit our website: https://informedathlete.com/how-we-help/scholarship-strategies/

If you have questions about your athlete’s specific situation, we provide confidential phone consultations to answer questions and discuss options. Schedule a confidential Scholarship Strategies consult online, or you can send an email to rick@informedathlete.com or call 913-766-1235.

We encourage athletes receiving athletic scholarships (and their families) to review all scholarship documents, as well as any athletic department student-athlete handbooks and/or team policies regarding the conditions under which an athlete’s scholarship can be reduced or cancelled during the academic year.

Once the academic year begins, an NCAA athletic program can only cancel an athlete’s scholarship for limited reasons.

Because a “violation of team rules” can be vague and open to interpretation, it will be important for athletes and families to be knowledgeable about any athletic department or team rules provided to the athletes.

Here’s a recent example of some key wording from a scholarship agreement issued to one of our clients from an NCAA university:

“I am aware the amount of my athletics grant may be immediately reduced or cancelled during the period of the award if:

  • I miss an excessive number of classes, fail to complete an excessive number of academic assignments, fail to take examinations, miss meetings with the Academic Service Coordinator for Student-Athletes or otherwise neglect my academic responsibilities;
  • I break team rules, miss treatment sessions with the Athletic Training Staff, violate the Student-Athlete Code of Conduct, do not fulfill the terms of a behavioral contract or engage in serious misconduct bringing disciplinary action from XXX University.”

Need Advice?

If you have questions about your athlete’s scholarship agreement or other questions, schedule a confidential scholarship strategies consult online, or by calling 913-766-1235 or sending an email to rick@informedathlete.com.

Decisions and rulings issued by the college athletic organizations – especially the NCAA – are occurring frequently and will differ from one organization to another and from one division to another.

Here’s a list of general reminders that we want to provide for college athletes and families (in no particular order):

  • Before your athlete decides to opt out of participation or take a semester off from college attendance, make sure they check with someone – whether that is their college compliance director or through our Informed Athlete services. Making an uninformed decision could have consequences for their remaining athletic eligibility.
  • If you are receiving a scholarship for your sport, be sure you review the conditions under which your coach or athletic department can take away your scholarship. This is especially true if you are considering not taking classes this Fall due to Covid-19. Will your scholarship still be available for the Spring semester?
  • Check with your college to ask if you need to re-apply for admission if you take the semester off from classes and plan to return in the Spring. Also, what will be the impact on any academic scholarship or need-based financial aid that you will be receiving?
  • Because many colleges and universities won’t be conducting competition this Fall, be careful about engaging in any organized competition as an individual or for an outside team not affiliated with your college. There are rules regarding outside competition during the academic year and those rules vary between NCAA divisions as well as with the NAIA. (NCAA Division I approved a waiver for outside competition recently, but certain conditions must be satisfied to participate in such competition.)
  • Starting to attend classes this Fall as a full-time student, even if you drop to part-time status a few days later, will cause this semester to count as one full-time semester toward your ten-semester limit for NCAA Division II, III, or NAIA. Also, if you are an incoming freshman starting at a Division I university, attending classes as a full-time student will start your “5-year clock.”
  • An athlete who participates in organized practice sessions at their college or who begins the semester as a full-time student but then chooses to leave for another college will be considered a transfer student-athlete and will be required to satisfy the transfer rules to be eligible at their new college.

If you have questions about any of these reminders or any other issues that concern you, schedule a confidential eligibility consult online, via email at rick@informedathlete.com or by calling 913-766-1235.