When an NCAA DI head coaching change occurs, it frequently results in a change to a student-athlete’s scholarship status.

Sometimes the change happens immediately; in other cases it might occur long after the new head coach is hired and comes onboard.

Student-athletes who believe they are “safe” because they have a four-year “guaranteed scholarship” that cannot be reduced for athletic or medical reasons may be in for disappointment and frustration when a coaching change happens.

The NCAA Division I rule addresses the status of an athletic scholarship in this situation in Bylaw 15.5.1.7 “Aid After Departure of Head Coach.”  

Basically, this rule says that when a head coach who recruited and provided a scholarship to a DI student-athlete is replaced, the new head coach has the right to not invite an athlete back to the team the following year.  The athlete may, however, be given the right to stay at the school on scholarship until the athlete graduates with their degree.

The benefit of this rule for the athlete is that they can continue to receive their scholarship while working to complete their degree.  The benefit to the new coach is that the athlete’s scholarship won’t count against the team limit in that sport so the coach can use that scholarship to recruit another athlete.

Here’s the actual rule and subsections:

“NCAA Division I Bylaw 15.5.1.7 Aid After Departure of Head Coach. A student-athlete who receives athletically related institutional financial aid in subsequent academic years after the departure of a head coach from the institution is not a counter in a year in which he or she does not participate in intercollegiate athletics, provided:

(a) The student-athlete participated in the applicable sport and received athletically related institutional financial aid during the coach’s tenure at the institution; and

(b) The student-athlete does not participate in the applicable sport beyond the next regular academic year (including completion of the championship season in spring sports) after the departure of the head coach.

DIvision I Bylaw 15.5.1.7.1 Subsequent Participation. If the student-athlete subsequently participates in the applicable sport at the institution, the student-athlete shall become a counter for all years during which athletically related institutional aid was received.”

We’ve seen this rule used in two ways to the disadvantage of student-athletes – one way when they’re told about it and another way when they’re not told about it.

Situation 1 – The first way is when a new D1 head coach tells a student-athlete that he or she won’t be allowed to continue on the team but can continue at the school on scholarship until they graduate.

The original intention of this rule was to benefit student-athletes who are close to finishing their degree requirements and want to stay at their school in order to graduate – an athlete who values the scholarship to complete their degree over transferring to another school where they will have an opportunity to continue in their sport.

However, what is becoming more common is that some newly-hired head coaches will use this rule against sophomore and even freshman athletes so that the coach can “claw back” the value of an athlete’s scholarship and then recruit a new athlete for his or her roster.

In those cases, many athletes are choosing to transfer to continue competing in their sport rather than give up their goal of playing at the Division I level in order to complete their degree. We’ve helped a number of those athletes and families navigate a transfer to another university.

Situation 2 – Coaches and athletic departments notify the student-athlete that their athletic scholarship isn’t being renewed for the upcoming year and don’t inform the student-athlete about this rule.

This usually happens at schools on tight budgets that don’t want to fund a scholarship to allow the student-athlete to complete their degree – even if it’s the right thing to do for the student-athlete.

The school is hoping that the student-athlete won’t appeal the loss of their scholarship or will lose their appeal.

Do You Have Questions & Need Help?

If your athlete is in this tough situation, we understand the frustrations, concerns, and insecurities that you’re feeling.  In a confidential consultation, we will answer any questions you have and discuss specific options available so that you and your athlete can make a fully informed decision that’s in their best interest.

Schedule your confidential Scholarship Strategies consultation online or call 913-766-1235 to arrange a time that works best for you.