About Eligibility

Commitment to academic achievement and adherence to member-created rules are vital parts of the NCAA’s mission to integrate athletics into the fabric of higher education. NCAA member schools create rules to ensure that the Association’s 430,000 student-athletes compete on equal footing. Various NCAA committees and the national office staff members work to make sure rules are applied fairly.

Becoming Eligible

Amateurism

Amateurism certification ensures that NCAA amateurism regulations are applied uniformly for incoming student-athletes. The process is a collaborative effort among student-athletes, NCAA member schools and the NCAA Eligibility Center., which determines initial amateur and academic eligibility.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of activities does the NCAA Eligibility Center review?

The following high school athletics activities may be reviewed in determining a college-bound student-athlete’s amateurism status:
  • Contracts with a professional team.
  • Salary for participating in athletics.
  • Prize money.
  • Play with professionals.
  • Tryouts, practice or competition with a professional team.
  • Benefits from an agent or prospective agent.
  • Agreement to be represented by an agent.
  • Delayed initial full-time collegiate enrollment to participate in organized sports competition.

How long has amateurism certification been in place?

The Eligibility Center began certifying amateurism for fall 2007 enrollees to ensure consistency for all members. Before that, individual NCAA member schools made their own determinations about amateurism status, which sometimes led to uneven application of the rules.

What is the role of the NCAA amateurism-certification staff?

The amateurism-certification staff gathers information but may not interpret NCAA legislation. The staff imposes legislatively-prescribed penalties on a limited basis.

What role does the school play in amateurism certification

The NCAA amateurism-certification staff and the school must agree upon the facts of a student-athlete’s case before any interpretive, appeal or reinstatement requests can be made.

Does the process invade the privacy of student-athletes?

The Eligibility Center does everything possible to protect student-athlete privacy. When additional information is needed, the requests are usually limited in scope and the information is protected to the greatest extent possible. The membership has given the amateurism-certification staff the authority to collect this information.

Is organized-competition legislation the same in Divisions I and II?

No. Click here to download the description of how Division II legislation applies.

The amateur-certification process starts when college-bound Divisions I and II student-athletes register with the Eligibility Center. (In Division III, amateur certification is completed individually by the college or university.)

College-bound student-athletes are encouraged to register at http://www.eligibilitycenter.org at the beginning of their junior year in high school.

As part of the process, each college-bound student-athlete is asked to answer several questions regarding his or her sports-participation history. This is to capture a better picture of the prospect’s amateur status and to identify any potential issues that might conflict with NCAA rules. If the answers indicate a possible violation, the amateur-certification staff will work with the school to determine the facts. If the agreed-upon facts indicate a violation occurred, an eligibility penalty will be imposed based on the severity of the violations. Penalties include repayment of money, sitting out a specified number of games or, in rare cases, permanent ineligibility.

Most college-bound student-athletes who complete the amateurism certification process are certified. Less than 1 percent of student-athletes seeking amateur certification receive any sort of amateurism-related penalty. Every year, approximately 180,000 college-bound student-athletes register to have their academic credentials and amateurism status certified. Over 90 percent of those who register are automatically certified. About seven percent every year do not meet the academic standards of the division in which they want to compete and about 600 college-bound student-athletes are not certified because of amateurism issues.

Amateur Athletic Clubs

College-bound student-athletes may participate in amateur sports clubs as long as they do not receive expenses in excess of travel, lodging or equipment for practice or competition. A prospect may accept prize money based on performance in an open competition as long as the prize is awarded by the sponsor of the event and the amount of the prize does not exceed the student-athlete’s expenses to compete in the event. College or university representatives may not help with fundraising efforts for a student-athlete’s amateur club team.

Last Updated: Dec 26, 2013