May 31, 2023

Chapter Nine – NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA

Colleges and universities with intercollegiate athletic programs are governed by one of three organizations: the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).

These associations establish uniform rules for the sports they govern, run championships and establish eligibility requirements for student athletes.

You will need to know which association governs the college(s) you’re considering and what rules apply to you to ensure that you are eligible.

What does NCAA mean? The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the oldest and largest national sports organization in the United States, and its job is to set guidelines so that everyone plays by the same set of rules.

The NCAA represents thousands of college athletic programs and operates three divisions, Division I, II and III. So, what are the differences between the three divisions? This chapter contains a lot of technical data, and it will answer most of your basic questions.

You, more than likely, are not going to be anxious to read this stuff, but it will be advantageous for you to familiarize yourself with the rules governing the NCAA organization at the school where you are being recruited.

Know this information for yourself; don’t depend on anyone else to interpret it for you. If you are in doubt about any rule as it might apply to you, contact the NCAA at:

The National Collegiate Athletic Association

P.O. Box 6222

Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-6222

317-917-6222 (phone)

317-917-6622 (fax)

NCAA Hotline: 800-638-3731

NCAA Eligibility Center 877-262-1492

Sadly, some coaches, when anxious to recruit you, may not always adhere to the governing rules of the NCAA. The vast majority of coaches and their recruiting staff are honest; however, the few who are not could lead you into an ineligible situation. Make it your business to know the NCAA recruiting rules as they may apply to you. Ignorance of these rules could cost you your scholarship.

NCAA- Division I (326 schools)There are 120 Division I A schools. These schools represent the highest level of competition and the Division I A schools offer the most scholarships. They, as a general rule, have the highest caliber of athletes; and also have larger student populations.

Division I also has 1A and 2A Football. Typically, a student/athlete is required to focus on his or her sport year-around.

A Division I institution must sponsor a minimum of either seven sports for men and seven sports for women or six sports for men and eight sports for women with two team sports for each gender. Each playing season has to be represented by each gender as well.

An institution may award athletic scholarships to student-athletes and the number of scholarships an institution may award varies from sport to sport. Division I schools must meet minimum financial aid awards for their athletics program, and there are maximum financial aid awards for each sport that a Division I school cannot exceed.

Football is the only sport where the NCAA splits its top division into Division I-A and I-AA. Division I-AA has 206 colleges that offer full and partial scholarships. Programs must meet minimum attendance requirements to attain the I-A designation.

Academic Eligibility Requirements: Check with the for the latest requirements.

To be eligible to participate in Division I or Division II athletics, students must register and be certified by the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Center, your counselor, coach or athletic director can obtain registration materials, at no cost by calling the Eligibility Center at 877-262-1492 or you may also register on their website at

In order to be registered with the NCAA eligibility center, you must complete the student-release form and mail or fax the top (white) copy of the form to the eligibility center  along with the $$$$$ registration fee. High school counselors may waive the eligibility center fees if you have previously qualified for and received a waiver of the ACT or SAT fee. Fee-waiver information is specified on the student-release form. Give the yellow and pink copies of the form to a high-school official who then sends the yellow copy, along with an official copy of your high-school transcript, to the eligibility center. Your counselor should keep the pink copy on file at the school. When your high school closes for the summer, your school must send the eligibility center a copy of your final transcript that confirms graduation from high school.

By completing the form, you authorize your high school(s), to release academic information (such as transcripts and test scores) to the Eligibility Center.  If you have attended more than one high school (grades 9-12), you will list those schools to release your transcript to the eligibility center. You do not need to contact previous schools or send them copies of the student release form; the eligibility center will contact the school(s) to get the information they need.

NCAA-Division II (279 schools)

Division II schools are smaller and are sometimes specialty schools. They provide scholarships, as well as financial aid and grants. Division II teams usually feature a number of local or in-state athletes. Many Division II student-athletes pay for school through a combination of scholarship money, grants, student loans and employment earnings. Division II schools do compete with some Division I schools.

Division II schools must sponsor a minimum or four sports for men and women, with two team sports for each gender. An institution may award athletic scholarships to student-athletes, and the number of scholarships an institution may award varies from sport to sport. There are maximum financial aid awards for each sport that a Division II must not exceed.

The Division II schools also require that you be a high school graduate and have a minimum GPA and SAT/ACT scores.

Student/athletes must register and be certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center. Your counselors can obtain registration materials, at no cost, by calling the eligibility center at 877-262-1492 or you may also register on their website at

In order to be registered with the eligibility center, you must complete the student-release form and mail or fax the top (white) copy of the form to the eligibility center along with the $$$$$ registration fee. High school counselors may waive the eligibility center  fees if you have previously qualified for and received a waiver of the ACT or SAT fee. Fee-waiver information is specified on the student-release form. Give the yellow and pink copies of the form to a high-school official who then sends the yellow copy, along with an official copy of your high-school transcript, to the eligibility center. After your high school closes for the summer, your school must also send the eligibility center a copy of your final transcript that confirms graduation from high school


*Achieve a specified minimum SAT score and or ACT score;

NCAA- Division III (420 schools)

Most Division III schools are smaller private schools that place a high priority on academic strengths and pride themselves on their prestigious academic reputations. Therefore, the cost is typically substantially higher than for the Division I and Division II Schools. Often, athletes are recruited only after they have established themselves as serious students.

The obvious benefit to a Division III school is the opportunity to receive an education from one of the top academic schools in the nation while also having the opportunity to continue your athletic career.

Division III schools have to sponsor at least five sports for men and five for women, with two team sports for each gender, and each playing season represented by each gender. Division III athletics departments place special importance on the impact of athletics on the student-athletes rather than the spectators. The athletic participant’s experience is of paramount concern. These schools encourage participation by maximizing the number and variety of athletic opportunities available to students, placing primary emphasis on regional in-season and conference competition.

Division III schools cannot provide athletic scholarships, but can provide academic scholarships, financial aid, grants and work-study programs. These institutions are not allowed to award any type of financial aid based in any way on athletic ability.

If you plan to attend a Division III college, you may receive financial aid up to the cost of attendance (tuition and fees, room and board, books, transportation, and other expenses incidental to attendance) if the aid is based on financial need and is not associated with athletic ability.


Eligibility, financial aid, practices and competition is governed by institutional, conference and other NCAA regulations. However, the NCAA does not establish eligibility requirements for student athletes in Division III schools.

**There are waivers of the initial-eligibility requirements that may be granted based on evidence that demonstrates circumstances in which your overall academic record warrants a waiver. The school that is recruiting you must initiate the request for the waiver.

**The rules for minimum GPA, SAT/ACT, etc are applicable for athletic eligibility. Your admission to a school is governed by the entrance requirements of that particular school.


What are the major differences between Division I, II and III? Typically, as you move up from Division III to Division I etc.; you will find bigger, stronger, faster and more accomplished athletes. A few pounds and inches are usually added with each position. In general the more talented players are found at the higher levels; however, this is not written in stone and many professional athletes have come from smaller schools.

What if I am home schooled, how do I qualify? All prospective student-athletes who are home-schooled will need to have their core-course requirements analyzed by the NCAA Committee on Initial-Eligibility Waivers. The best thing to do is contact the NCAA membership services for information regarding home schooling.

How can I make sure that I’m not doing something to make me ineligible to play? If you are unsure about anything contact the NCAA, NAIA or NJCAA immediately and they will be happy to answer your questions.

I currently compete in two sports in high school and would like to continue playing both sports in college, is this possible? Yes, Division III schools actually have many athletes who are competing in three sports. There are some Division I and Division II schools that have dual-sport athletes. However, it is tougher to compete in two sports at these levels because the demand on your time is more at these levels.

How many years can I receive an athletic scholarship? Student-athletes are allowed up to five years of scholarships, awarded one year at a time.

What is a player-agent and can I use one? The player-agent markets your athletic ability and represents you in contract negotiations or in commercial endorsements. If you are a blue-chip player and one of these individuals contacts you, it should raise a RED FLAG. They see great potential in your athletic abilities and are trying to get their foot in the door early on. They will not represent themselves as agents, but as someone interested in your overall welfare. Please be careful in any meetings you might have with player-agents. If you have concerns about a player-agent, contact your high-school coach, director of athletics or the NCAA national office for assistance. NCAA rules don’t prohibit meetings or discussions with an agent. However, you jeopardize your college eligibility in a sport if you agree (orally or in writing) to be represented by an agent while in high school or college, regardless of whether the agreement becomes effective immediately or after your last season of college eligibility. Also, receiving any benefits or gifts by your family or friends from a player-agent would jeopardize your college eligibility.

NAIA (300+ schools)The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) membership is comprised of approximately 300 fully accredited four-year colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada

The NAIA governs championships in the following sports: baseball, basketball cross-country, football, golf, soccer, softball, swimming and diving. Tennis, track and field (indoor and outdoor), and volleyball. The NAIA has divisions (I and II) for men and women’s basketball, but for all other sports, the schools are classified together.

There are many advantages to competing in NAIA sports. Besides the benefit of close-knit communities and small class sizes on the typical NAIA campus, NAIA offers:· Maximum opportunity to participate in regular season contests and National Championships;

*Flexibility to transfer without missing a season of eligibility.

*Fewer recruiting restrictions.

*Focus on the education and character development of the student-athlete.

The NAIA recruitment process is less cumbersome, with fewer restrictions on the contact a student-athlete and coach can make. More frequent communications aids in assuring that the student-athlete is comfortable with the choice of institution. In the event the student-athlete feels that the school or team is not the right fit, he/she can transfer to another NAIA institution and compete the next season without sitting out a year. While NAIA rules hold strict academic requirements, the process of establishing eligibility is streamlined since there is no eligibility center.

For a copy of the NAIA Guide for College Bound Student, call: 918-494-88 can find out about colleges that belong to the NAIA by clicking on

NAIA ELIGIBILITY REGULATIONS: Click for more detailed regulations.


NAIA Questions

What is the length of my scholarship and what type of scholarship is it? Most institutional scholarships are for only one year. Also, there are some scholarships that cover just tuition (or housing, or books) and others that cover housing, books, tuition, or full-ride scholarships.

Is there financial aid available for summer school?  Some athletes prefer to simply take the necessary course hours to be eligible to play during the season. This could leave you with several credit hours that you may wish to pick up during the summer. However, you may need financial assistance in the summer, so ask whether or not your financial aid packages cover summer expenses.

If I get seriously injured and I am unable to participate, what will happen to my scholarship? Institutions are not obligated to offer scholarships or financial aid past the terms of the agreement. It is important to know what the institution’s commitment to injured athletes is.

May I be employed while receiving a scholarship? Find out if you can be employed while in season, or out of season. Also, find out if you can be employed during vacations without violating your scholarship.

What is a typical day for a student-athlete?  You will learn a typical schedule that will include courses, practices, meal times, study times, etc. This will give you insight as to how to manage your time and assist you with needed adjustments.

What percentage of athletes graduates in four years?  This will tell you about a coach’s commitment to academics. Also, the team grade point average is a good indicator of academic commitment.

Would my major mix well with athletics?  Some majors are more time consuming than others and may require labs or mandatory work outside of class hours. You need to know the demands that will be placed on you within your major, to know if you are spreading yourself too thin by participating in athletics.

Is my degree respected from your institution?  There are some institutions that have stronger programs than others. There are also those institutions that specialize in specific degree programs.

What role will I play on your team?  Many coaches will already have an idea of how they would like to utilize certain recruits. You will be able to find out where the coach sees you fitting in on his/her team and why.

What demands does this sport require physically and what time is required?  It is important to know the physical demands that will be placed on you during your tenure as an athlete. Also, you need to know how much time is spent with this sport so you may manage your study time wisely.

What is your coaching style?   All coaches have different coaching styles and use different techniques for motivation and discipline. It is to your benefit to ask this question to determine whether your learning style and the coach’s style would be a good fit.

NJCAA (510 schools)

The National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) represents over 500 schools that are two-year colleges and are divided into three divisions with scholarships offered only at the Division I and II levels.

Division I colleges may offer full scholarships, and Division II colleges are limited to awarding tuition, fees and books.

Division III institutions may provide no athletically related financial assistance. However, NJCAA colleges that do not offer athletic aid may choose to participate at the Division I or II level if they so desire.

The NJCAA sponsors championships in a variety of sports: fall and spring baseball, basketball, bowling, cross country, football, fall and spring golf, ice hockey, spring and fall lacrosse, marathon, track and field (indoor and outdoor), fall and spring softball (fast pitch), fall and spring soccer, swimming, fall and spring tennis, fall and spring volleyball, and wrestling.

Tuition for junior college is typically much less than for four-year schools. Generally, the class sizes are smaller and if you are not quite ready for a four-year university; this is a wonderful way to get prepared. Recently, some junior college football programs have gotten together and staged an NFL-style combine for four-year coaches to evaluate talent coming out of junior colleges. For information on the NJCAA write: NJCAA, P.O. Box 7305 Colorado Springs, CO 80933-7305 Or go to the NJCAA web site:


Grade Point Average: High school graduate or pass GED Minimum SAT/ACT Scores: Check with admission for each school

Whose rules do I abide by?  Students participating on an intercollegiate level in any one of the certified sports of the NJCAA shall conform to the requirements of the Rules of Eligibility, the rules and regulations of the conference with which the college is affiliated, and also the rules of the college at which the students are attending.

How do I determine my initial eligibility?  Due to the unique academic and athletic situation of each individual, and the complexity of the NJCAA eligibility rules, it is recommended that each potential student-athlete discuss their eligibility with the athletic personnel at the NJCAA college they have chosen to attend. Should the athletic staff have any questions in determining an individual’s eligibility, the college may contact the NJCAA National Office for assistance.

Must I have graduated from high school?  Students must be a high school graduate or must have received a high school equivalency diploma or have been certified as having passed a national test such as the General Education Development Test (GED).

How many seasons may I participate in a sport?  Students are allowed two (2) seasons of competition in any sport at a NJCAA college, if they have not participated at any intercollegiate level during two (2) seasons previously. Playing in one or more regularly scheduled contests prior to post-season competition uses one season of participation in that sport.

What about All-Star competitions? The NJCAA National office must approve student participation in athletic events such as All-Star games. The NJCAA does NOT restrict the number of All-Star games in which a High School student may participate prior to attendance at a NJCAA college.

Must I be a full-time student during the season? Students must maintain full-time status during the season of the sport (s) in which they have chosen to participate (full-time status being 12 credit hours or more).

For more information concerning the
Chapter 1|Chapter 2|Chapter 3

Chapter 4|Chapter 5|Chapter 6

Chapter 7|Chapter 8|Chapter 9

Chapter 10|College Sports Recruiting

Additional Resources

College Athletic Scholarship|College Basketball Scholarships|Baseball Scholarships| How to Get Recruited For College Football|Volleyball Scholarships|Softball Scholarships|

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