NCAA Amateurism and Ineligibility

With everything happening in college football lately, the team at Signing Day Sports felt it necessary to rehash amateurism and what deems a student-athlete ineligible. 

No one wants to lose out on the opportunity to participate in collegiate athletics because of an unfortunate oversight or misunderstanding of rules/regulations. 

Signing Day Sports takes its role as an educator seriously and today’s entry on The Wire will serve recruits who don’t yet have a full grasp on the recruiting process. 

Amateurism Defined

Amateurism is a meticulous, almost feared term in collegiate sports. Defined and regulated by the NCAA, amateurism has long been debated by fans, athletes, journalists, and really anybody with stakes in the NCAA. 

At its core, an amateur is an athlete that is not professional. They don’t get paid. They do not have representation. Of course, lately, NIL rule changes have blurred the lines a bit. But the premise remains. And anybody deemed to be professional instead of amateur is immediately ineligible to participate in the NCAA. 

The NCAA website has lots of resources in order for students and parents to ensure eligibility throughout high school and beyond. But there are a surprising number of things on their website that can impact this. And they should be noted and laid out on a platform like ours in order to proactively educate. 

Potential Situations That Can Lead To Ineligibility

Taking a break between high school/secondary school and full-time collegiate enrollment and continuing to participate in your sport can potentially lead to issues regarding amateurism. For almost every sport sanctioned by the NCAA (all of the ones covered by Signing Day Sports), there’s a grace period after graduating high school. This period lasts one year. 

If a prospective student-athlete exceeds one year after graduating high school while still participating in organized sports, they will forfeit one year of NCAA eligibility. And so on and so forth. This instance doesn’t necessarily infringe on your overall eligibility but is still important to note if you intend to have all four years of eligibility. 

Something that can infringe on your eligibility overall is the usage of a recruiting agency, scholarship agent, or a scouting service. There are specifics, though. Certain services are allowed, and encouraged, but they may not guarantee a scholarship or charge a fee based on receiving a scholarship.

This next point should be common sense in the world of collegiate recruiting. And while it goes without saying, accepting money for any reason whatsoever is against the rules. The NCAA lays out common reasons why high school athletes may be approached regarding payments. 

If you receive money from a sports team to participate with them, you will be considered professional, which means you can no longer identify as an amateur. Receiving funds to offset training expenses is also not allowed, although it may seem like a harmless way for others to offer help. And, of course, receiving money in any way for your athletic performance is off limits in accordance with NCAA guidelines. 

Watch out for entities that try to take advantage of you or lure you into a ruse wherein you will lose your collegiate eligibility. 

The last point listed on the NCAA website is agent representation. Any prospective student-athlete may not receive any benefits or agree with any agent on terms for future representation. This will be viewed as a professional agent giving services illegally. There are agents that operate and comply within the rules that the NCAA puts forth. Here are some of the criteria they must meet:

  • Signed copy of all agreements signed with the agent or agency
  • If the agreement was verbal, a detailed explanation of when and what was agreed upon
  • A detailed summary of all benefits or services provided by the agent or agency.

NCAA Eligibility Center

In addition to all the points laid out by the NCAA above, the eligibility center is an effective, necessary resource for prospective student-athletes to take advantage of. In fact, at some point prior to competing in their respective sport, student-athletes will need to. 

In order for college recruits to be deemed eligible once and for all, they will need to complete their final amateurism certification through the eligibility center. 

Examples of Ineligible Athletes

Sometimes, the language used by the NCAA is a bit confusing or ambiguous regarding what is and isn’t allowed. For example, receiving “improper benefits” implies that there are “proper benefits” that student-athletes can receive. It also is quite vague in what it actually refers to. 

In 2010, Marcell Dareus with the University of Alabama was ruled ineligible for two games after receiving supposed “improper benefits” from an agent-hosted party in Miami. While he didn’t directly receive any money, the party trip was paid for, and Dareus was forced to repay that amount to a charity in addition to missing two games. 

One of the more notable cases of an NCAA athlete (and university as a whole) receiving punishment is that of Reggie Bush. After being shown to have received upwards of $200,000 from a sports agent, the NCAA issued harsh rulings onto Bush himself, as well as the university for playing an ineligible student-athlete. 

Reggie Bush

Reggie Bush

Bush was forced to give back his Heisman trophy. USC’s sanctions consisted of loss of bowl eligibility for multiple seasons, vacating wins from two seasons, and loss of scholarships. Bush’s mistake was clear in that he was breaking clearly written rules. However, with new NIL rules in place, these specific examples aren’t as black and white anymore. So, it’s even more important to stay up to date regarding what’s allowed and what isn’t. 

If our readers take anything away from today’s blog entry, here’s what it should be: it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you’re unsure if something is allowed, or may make you ineligible, ask. There’s no harm in waiting. No prospective student-athlete should be left behind for these sorts of mistakes. At Signing Day Sports, we know that none of our athletes will be put in a position to be exploited or deceived. 

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