An overview of the NCAA recruiting rules can assist student athletes with understanding the recruitment process and eligibility requirements. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a non-profit organization that regulates the methods colleges can use to recruit athletes to ensure that athletes are treated fairly, and sets the standards athletes must meet to be eligible for recruitment. Specific rules, such as the number of times a recruiter can contact an athlete, vary by division and sport, but there are general guidelines that apply to all athletes.
Technically, the recruiting process starts during student athletes’ freshman year of high school, because they must fulfill requirements during the academic year to meet eligibility requirements. NCAA rules prohibit Division I and Division II schools from sending students recruitment materials or contacting them until after their sophomore years. This means that if you contact a Division I school athletic recruiter during your freshman year, he or she cannot respond to you. However, Division III schools can contact students, and send recruiting materials as early as freshman year. Following sophomore year, on a date determined by the sport, Division I and Division II schools can send students recruitment materials, and begin contacting them by phone once per month. The majority of the recruitment process occurs senior year, when schools are able to send recruiting materials, make frequent or unlimited phone calls to students, and sponsor official visits (fully paid for by the school).
Students must meet certain academic standards in order to be recruited by colleges. These standards vary depending upon whether the school recruiting you is part of Division I, Division II, or Division III. Students interested in Division I schools must maintain a certain GPA in 16 core courses, including English, math, and science. However, a sliding scale allows students with lower GPAs and higher SAT and ACT test scores to qualify for recruitment. Students recruited by Division II schools must meet GPA requirements in 14 core courses, as well as test score minimums. Academic requirements don’t apply to the Division III recruitment process. Students who don’t meet the academic requirements cannot be recruited, play a sport, or receive athletic scholarships. Once you reach your junior year, you can confirm that you meet the academic eligibility requirements by registering with the NCAA eligibility center. To register, send your transcripts to the NCAA, along with the required registration fee.
Once an athlete selects a college or university to attend, he or she typically signs a National Letter of Intent (NLI), which ends the recruiting process. The letter of intent cannot be a verbal agreement, and it must be signed by the date stipulated by the NCAA, which varies depending upon the specific sport. The letter obligates the student athlete to attend the selected institution for at least a full academic year and obligates the school to provide athletic financial aid for this period. If a student athlete transfers schools after signing a NLI, they’re banned for a season and must attend the next school for at least a year to again become eligible to play.