So let’s assume that your son had multiple D1 offers on the table and decided, with the help of this post on what makes a good scholarship offer, to take the sweet 65% Percentage-of-COA offer.
But wait… you forgot to ask how long his scholarship was good for? Is it year-to-year? Four years? Or something different? How does it work if he gets injured? What if his coach leaves and the new regime would rather roster “their” guy instead? You suddenly break-out in a cold sweat.
Guaranteed Multi-Year Scholarships for Athletes
In January of 2015, the NCAA narrowly passed a measure (50-29-1) that guaranteed multi-year (four-year) scholarships for athletes. This new rule went into effect for the Power 5 conferences (SEC, ACC, Big10, Big12, PAC-12) and Notre Dame. The design of the rule was to protect the D1 student-athlete from having their athletic scholarship canceled, reduced, or not renewed for any athletic reasons, including performance or lack thereof.
Other D1 schools, like the Group of 5 Conferences (AAC, Conference USA, Mid-American, Sun Belt, Mountain West), are not required to follow this rule and the player might still receive a one-year scholarship which the coach could decide not to renew for the following academic year. You really need to ask these coaches if they offer multi-year guarantees.
Surprisingly, there were some athletes that were not in support of the new rule. Their argument was that coaches should be allowed to cut or reduce scholarships of poor performing player because their scholarship is based on athletic performance, not academic performance. They also felt that it would make the landscape more competitive and push players to work harder to improve their level of play.
On the other hand, another group of athletes argued that for student-athletes, the student aspect should come first with a long-term view that’s not dependent on athletic performance. They also argued against the inherent unfairness of getting injured, losing your scholarship, and not being able to attend school any longer. Or when the team gets a new coach who doesn’t see the same things in your son as the previous coach and decides to cancel or reduce his scholarship thus forcing him to withdraw from school due to financial reasons.
When Can A School Take Away Your Scholarship?
So if the new rule doesn’t allow a coach to cut or reduce a scholarship for any athletic reasons, what other situations would allow a coach to cut or reduce a scholarship? The NCAA rules allow a coach to cut or reduce a scholarship if the student-athlete:
- Is ruled ineligible for competition (think grades);
- Provides fraudulent information on an application, letter of intent, or financial aid agreement;
- Engages in serious misconduct that rises to the level of being disciplined by the college’s regular student disciplinary board;
- Voluntarily quits their team; or,
- Violates a university policy or rule which is not related to athletic conditions or ability.
Here’s an article by the NCAA regarding the same.
The fourth bullet point seems self-explanatory but understand how this decision might be influenced. You’re a sophomore pitcher that hasn’t performed. The coach takes you out of the starting rotation and moves you to the pen. It isn’t very long until you figure out that he isn’t calling your number. It’s been weeks since you last pitched. A new crop of All-American pitchers is coming to campus next year. The writing’s on the wall. You’re done. The head coach and you discuss options. He knows a very successful D2 head coach (i.e. friend) that will get you into the starting rotation next season. Plus its closer to home and the money is about the same. Pro scouts will be all over the D2 team given their talent. What happens next? The player voluntarily quits the team after the season and transfers to the D2 college in the fall. Coaches will still have a way to manage their roster.
The fifth bullet point leaves some room for interpretation. What if the player violates a university policy on class attendance or an athletic department policy regarding proper conduct on a team trip? What if he does or says something on social media that could be construed as breaking a rule or policy? Given all the university policies or rules, what if a player violates a very minor rule? Breaking a minor rule might not have any consequences, but nevertheless, it’s a violation. Does this now give the coach a license to revoke the player’s athletic scholarship?
Time will tell. I can tell you that I certainly asked the head coach for the college that my son committed to and he was very open to say that it’s four-years guaranteed provided he doesn’t screw up his grades or becomes a discipline problem. But I would advise obtaining a copy of the university policies and the athletic department policies before he arrives on campus.