Eligibility and Compliance, Fact and Fiction

It's become increasingly clear to me lately that there are a number of different perceptions floating around about eligibility requirements for Division I prospective student-athletes, and about university compliance. A lot of these perceptions are based on fact but probably just as many are not, so hopefully this will clear up a few of the possible misconceptions. I recently did some independent research and then interviewed Mr. Eric Baumgartner with Clemson's Compliance Services. He was gracious enough to answer all of my questions, and here are the results:

Test your knowledge of NCAA rules… are each of the following 22 statements fact or fiction?

In order to be classified a "qualifier", a prospective student-athlete (prospect) is required to graduate from high school, successfully complete a curriculum of at least 13 designated "core" academic courses, and have a core-course grade-point average (based on a maximum of 4.0) and a combined score on the SAT verbal and math sections or a sum score on the ACT based on the qualifier index scale.

FACT. This is directly from the 2000-01 NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student Athlete.

In order to be classified a "partial qualifier", a prospect has not met the requirements for a qualifier but is required to graduate from high school, successfully complete a core curriculum of at least 13 designated "core" courses and present a core-course grade-point average (based on a maximum of 4.0) and a combined score on the SAT verbal and math sections or a sum score on the ACT based on the partial qualifier index scale.

FACT. A different index scale is used to determine eligibility for qualifiers and partial qualifiers.

A partial qualifier is eligible to practice with a team at its home facility or on the road during his or her first year at a Division I school.

FICTION. Partial qualifiers are allowed to practice only at their school's home facility, and are not permitted to travel with the team during their first year.

A partial qualifier is eligible to receive an athletics scholarship during his or her first year at a Division I school and then has three seasons of competition remaining.


A partial qualifier may earn a fourth year of competition, provided that at the beginning of the fifth academic year following the student-athlete's initial, full-time college enrollment, the student has received a baccalaureate degree.


A nonqualifier shall not be eligible for regular-season competition or practice during the first academic year in residence but then has four seasons of competition remaining.

FICTION. A nonqualifier is only eligible for three seasons of competition but may earn a fourth year, provided that at the beginning of the fifth academic year following the student-athlete's initial, full-time college enrollment, the student has received a baccalaureate degree.

Courses taken after a prospect's senior year (summer school) can help satisfy core-course requirements.

FICTION. In Division I, generally only courses completed in grades 9-12 may be eligible for consideration as core courses. Courses taken in summer school after the eighth semester may not be used to satisfy core-course requirements.

For Division I institutions, if a student repeated an entire regular term or academic year of high school, they could use appropriate courses taken during that term or year to fulfill the core-course requirements.

FACT. However, if the repeated term or year occurs after graduation, the core courses used must be taken from the high school from which the student graduated. If core courses are completed beyond the eighth semester, the initial full-time college enrollment cannot occur until the next academic year.

Non-qualifiers who decide to attend prep school after graduation usually are trying to prepare to attain a higher SAT or ACT score or are students with a learning disability tring to achieve the minimum eligibilty reqirements.


In Division I it is not permissable to substitute the grades earned in postgraduate high-school work in place of grades attained before graduation.


A student's core-course grade-point average is not calculated using the 13 best grades from courses that meet the core-course distribution requirements if more than 13 are available.

FICTION. Additional core courses (beyond the 13 required) may be used to meet the core-course grade-point average if the distribution requirements are met.

In Divisions I and II, a prospect must achieve the minimum required SAT or ACT score before their first full-time college enrollment.

FACT. In addition, a prospect must gain admittance to the university before being eligible to participate in practice sessions, which for football occur before fall enrollment takes place.

If a student takes the SAT, the minimum required score must be achieved on one testing date.

FICTION. The highest scores achieved on the verbal and math sections of the SAT from two different national testing dates may be combined in determining whether a student has met the minimum test score requirement. Also, if a student takes the ACT, the highest scores achieved on the individual subtests from more than one national testing date may be combined.

Nonstandard test procedures are available for students with handicaps or disabilities.

FACT. However, there are specific guidelines which must be followed (refer to NCAA Guide).

If a student intends to participate in Division I or II athletics as a freshman, they must register and be certified by the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse.

FACT. It is the responsibility of the student and the student's family to register with the Clearinghouse. Registration materials may be obtained from the student's high school or a college or from the NCAA. Technically there is no deadline for registration, however registration is recommended pursuant to the completion of the student's junior year. Only the university may request a student's eligibilty status from the Clearinghouse.

There is no distinction between a "prospective student-athlete" and a "recruited student athlete".

FICTION. A student becomes a prospective student-athlete upon starting ninth-grade classes. A student becomes a recruited student-athlete at a particular college if any coach or representative of the college's athletics interests (including boosters or representatives) approaches them or a member of their family about enrolling or participating in athletics at that college. Activities by coaches or boosters that cause a student to become a recruited prospect are:

  • Providing them with an official visit
  • Placing more than one phone call to them or any member of their family
  • Visiting them or any member of their family anywhere other than the college campus.

No alumni, boosters or representatives of a college's athletics interests can be in any way involved in a prospect's recruiting.

FACT. Here are some example of activities by boosters or representatives which are technically prohibited:

  • Phone calls or letters to prospects. This includes by electronic means such as email.
  • Contact with recruits other than incidental. This prohibition includes (but is not limited to) examples such as talking to prospects at high-school games, contact during official visits, and discussion with prospects or family members on college website messageboards. Essentially, no contact whatsoever is allowed other than incidental which is essentially defined as a greeting in passing.
  • Providing any benefit, inducement or arrangement such as cash, clothing, cars, improper expenses, transportation, gifts or loans to encourage a prospect to sign a National Letter of Intent or attend an NCAA college.

One exception to the contact prohibition is that full-time reporters or journalists are allowed to conduct interviews of prospects regardless of school affiliation.

FACT. Professional conduct is required and reporters must be neutral while contacting recruits. Part-time journalists, however are not allowed to contact recruits.

College football coaches are permitted to phone or contact prospective recruits at any time after July 1 after completion of a prospect's junior year.

FICTION. There are very specific and numerous guidelines which must be followed concerning contact periods for coaches and prospects.

Every college and university bears the responsibility of institutional control over its athletics boosters, alumni and representatives.

FACT. Universities are responsible for educating their representatives about compliance and are held responsible by the NCAA for their actions. In fact, even websites which unofficially represent a college or university are considered representatives of that institution and the owners/operators of such websites are held accountable as representatives.

Clemson is not undertaking any steps to improve education and understanding of NCAA rules.

FICTION. The athletics department will begin sending out information to all IPTAY members yearly, and the Compliance office will have information accessible through Clemson's official athletics web site clemsontigers.com in the very near future.

NCAA rules are created by and agreed upon by its member institutions and the NCAA acts as a governing body to protect the interests of these instituitions as well as the interests of prospective student-athletes.


How many did you get right? If the answer is all 22 you probably work for the Compliance office.

Thank you to Mr. Baumgartner for helping to provide me with this information. I certainly learned a lot through my research and I encourage anyone who has an interest in college athletics to obtain and read a copy of the NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete and to consult the Clemson Compliance office or the NCAA (by phone or at ncaa.org) with any questions.

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