Only an amateur student-athlete is eligible for intercollegiate athletic participation in a particular sport (NCAA Bylaw 12.01.1).
An individual loses amateur status and thus shall not be eligible for intercollegiate competition in a particular sport if the individual:
- Uses his or her athletics skill (directly or indirectly) for pay in any form in that sport;
- Accepts a promise of pay even if such pay is to be received following completion of intercollegiate athletics participation;
- Signs a contract or commitment of any kind to play professional athletics, regardless of its legal enforceability or any consideration received
- Receives, directly or indirectly, a salary, reimbursement of expenses or any other form of financial assistance from a professional sports organization based upon athletics skill or participation, except as permitted by NCAA rules and regulations;
- Competes on any professional athletics team (per Bylaw 12.02.4), even if no pay or remuneration for expenses was received;
- Subsequent to initial full-time collegiate enrollment, enters into a professional draft (see also Bylaw 18.104.22.168.1)
Prohibited Forms of Pay
"Pay" as used above includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Salary, Gratuity or Compensation. Any direct or indirect salary, gratuity or comparable compensation.
- Division or Split of Surplus. Any division or split of surplus (bonuses, game receipts, etc.)
- Educational expenses not permitted by the governing legislation of this Association (see Bylaw 15 regarding permissible financial aid to enrolled student athletes).
- A prospective student-athlete may receive educational expenses (i.e., tuition, fees, room and board, and books) prior to collegiate enrollment from any individual or entity other than an agent, professional sports team/organization or a representative of an institution's athletics interests, provided such expenses are disbursed directly through the recipient's educational institution (e.g., high school, preparatory school).
- Educational expenses provided to an individual subsequent to collegiate enrollment by an outside sports team or organization that are based in any degree upon the recipient's athletics ability [except as specified in Bylaw 22.214.171.124-(h)], even if the funds are given to the institution to administer to the recipient.
- A student-athlete may receive educational expenses awarded by the U.S. Olympic Committee (or, for international student-athletes, expenses awarded by the equivalent organization of a foreign country) pursuant to the applicable conditions set forth in Bylaw 126.96.36.199.
- A student-athlete may receive educational expenses awarded by a U.S. national governing body (or, for international student-athletes, expenses awarded by the equivalent organization of a foreign country) pursuant to the applicable conditions set forth in Bylaw 188.8.131.52.
- Excessive or improper expenses, awards and benefits.
- Cash, or the equivalent thereof (e.g., trust fund), as an award for participation in competition at any time, even if such an award is permitted under the rules governing an amateur, noncollegiate event in which the individual is participating. An award or a cash prize that an individual could not receive under NCAA legislation may not be forwarded in the individual's name to a different individual or agency. Exception„Prospect's Educational Institution. A financial award may be provided to a prospect's educational institution in conjunction with the prospect being recognized as part of an awards program in which athletics participation, interests or ability is a criterion, but not the sole criterion, in the selection process. Such an award must also include nonathletics criteria, such as the prospect's academic record and nonathletics extracurricular activities and may not be based on the prospect's place finish or performance in a particular athletics event. In addition, it is permissible for an outside organzation (other than a professional sports organization) to provide actual and necessary expenses for the prospect (and the prospect's parents or other relatives) to travel to a recognition event designed to recognize the prospect's accomplishments in conjunction with his or her selection as the recipient of a regional, national or international award. An individual (prospective student-athlete or student-athlete) may also accept funds that are administered by the United States Olympic Committee pursuant to its Operation Gold program.
- Expense incurred or awards received by an individual that are prohibited by the rules governing an amateur, noncollegiate event in which the individual is competing.
- Expenses received from an outside amateur sports team or organization in excess of actual and necessary travel, room and board expenses, apparel and equipment for competition and practice held in preparation for such competition.
- Payment to individual team members for unspecified or unitemized expenses beyond actual and necessary travel, room and board expenses for practice and competition.
- Actual and necessary expenses or other form of compensation to participate in athletics competition (while not representing an educational institution) from a sponsor other than an individual upon whom the athlete is naturally or legally dependent or the nonprofessional organization that is sponsoring the competition.
- Any payment, including actual and necessary expenses, conditioned on the individual's or team's place finish or performance or given on an incentive basis, or receipt of expenses in excess of the same reasonable amount for permissible expenses given to all participants involved in the competition.
- Preferential treatment, benefits or services because of the individual's athletics reputation or skill or pay-back potential as a professional athlete, unless such treatments, benefits or services are permitted under NCAA regulations.
- Participation for pay in competition that involves the use of overall athletics skill (e.g., "superstars" competition) constitutes a violation of NCAA amateur status and would render the individual ineligible for intercollegiate competition in all sports.
- A student who accepts pay in any form for participation in "road racing" is ineligible for intercollegiate competition in cross country or track.
Individual Participating in Competitive Events that Award Prize Money
An individual jeopardizes his or her eligibility if the individual accepts pay in the form of cash that is based on or tied to the individual's place finish or performance in the competitive event, even if such earnings do not exceed the individual's actual and necessary expenses to participate in the tournament. Thus, nonprofessional sponsors of competitive events that wish to make funds available to cover the actual and necessary expenses of amateur participants in the event may do so provided the expenses are a uniform, reasonable amount to cover the participant's actual and necessary expenses and are not based in any manner on the individual's place finish or provided directly out of the individual's prize money earnings in the event. It is advisable for such an agreement to be included either in the application or entry form for the event or for some arrangement to be made with the individual prior to participation in the event. Thus, the individual will understand that he or she will be receiving a uniform, reasonable amount of funds to cover actual and necessary expenses for each day of participation in the event, regardless of how well he or she performs in that event. Such an arrangement will not jeopardize the individual's amateur status in the applicable sport.
- This information was prepared by the NCAA Legislative Services staff and distributed to the Chief Executive Officers of National Governing Bodies. This information was a result of many individuals participating in individual tournaments (e.g., tennis, golf, track & field) and accepting prize money based on their place of finish. Many individuals assume that so long as the prize money does not exceed the individual's expenses related to the competition then it is ok to accept the prize money. THIS IS COMPLETELY INCORRECT. An individual will lose their NCAA amateur status if they accept any prize money based upon their place of finish. Please check with the athletics compliance office prior to participating in any event.
- EXCEPTION: Student-Athlete Not Regularly Enrolled. Awards received by a student-athlete participating in an event while not enrolled as a regular student during the academic year, or received during the summer while not representing his or her institution, shall conform to the regulations of the recognized amateur organization that governs the competition and may not include cash. Such awards may include gift certificates and items that are not personalized, provided the awards are permitted by the rules of the amateur sports organization.
Professional in Another Sport
A professional athlete in one sport may represent a member institution in a different sport. However, the student-athlete cannot receive institutional financial aid in the second sport unless the student-athlete:
- Is no longer involved in professional athletics
- Is not receiving any remuneration from a professional sports organization
- Has no active contractual relationship with any professional athletics team