Glossary of Key Terms
The NCAA Eligibility Center: The arm of the NCAA responsible for determining the academic eligibility and amateurism status for all Division I and Division II student-athletes. In addition, it also sets the recruiting rules via the NCAA Recruiting Calendars. Previously, this part of the NCAA was called the NCAA Clearinghouse; however, the NCAA Clearinghouse and NCAA Eligibility Center are now the same.
The most important thing to understand as a prospective college student-athlete is that the NCAA is there to determine your eligibility, not to provide guidance on how to get or maintain your college eligibility. It is the responsibility of the student-athlete to understand the academic and amateurism requirements and make sure they are on track to meet those requirements with the help of their high school counselor and school administrators.
Prospective Student Athlete (PSA): Prospective Student-Athlete. A prospective student-athlete is a student who has started classes in the ninth grade. In addition, a student who has not started classes in the ninth grade becomes a prospective student-athlete if the institution provides such an individual (or the individual’s family members or friends) any financial assistance or other benefits that the institution does not provide to prospective students generally.
Recruited PSA: If a college coach contacts you off campus, pays your expenses to visit the campus, or (in Divisions I and II) issues you a National Letter of Intent or a written offer of financial aid, you are considered a recruited PSA.
Walk-On: Someone who is not typically recruited by a school to participate in sports and does not receive a scholarship from the school, but who becomes a member of one of the school’s athletics teams.
Recruiting Calendar: NCAA member schools limit recruiting to certain periods during the year. Recruiting calendars promote the well-being of college-bound student-athletes and ensure fairness among schools by defining certain periods during the year in which recruiting may or may not occur in a particular sport.
Recruiting Shutdown: A recruiting shutdown is a period of time when no forms of recruiting (e.g., contacts, evaluations, official or unofficial visits, correspondence, or making or receiving telephone calls) are permissible.
Contact Period: During a contact period, a college coach may have face-to-face contact with you or your parents, watch you compete, visit your high school, and write or telephone you or your parents.
Recruiting Period—Men’s Basketball: In men’s basketball, a recruiting period is a period of time when it is permissible for authorized athletics department staff members to make in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts and evaluations.
Evaluation Period: During an evaluation period, a college coach may watch you compete, visit your high school, and write or telephone you or your parents. However, a college coach may not have face-to-face contact with you or your parents off the college’s campus during an evaluation period.
Quiet Period: During this time, a college coach may not have any in-person contact with you or your parents off the college’s campus. A coach may not watch you play or visit your high school during this period. You and your parents may visit a college campus during this time. A coach may write or call you or your parents during this time.
Dead Period: A college coach may not have any face-to-face contact with you or your parents on or off the college campus at any time during a dead period. The coach may write and call you or your parents during this time.
Contact: Any face to face encounter between a PSA or the PSA’s family members and a coach during which dialogue occurs in excess of an exchange of greeting.
Off-Campus Contact: A contact that occurs off an institution’s campus (at a high school, a competition site, a camp, or clinic.).
Evaluation: Any off-campus activity designed to assess the academic qualifications or athletics ability of a prospective student-athlete, including any visit to a prospective student-athlete’s educational institution (during which no contact occurs) or the observation of a prospective student-athlete participating in any practice or competition at any site.
Institutional Request List: An institutional request list (IRL) is a list of college-bound student-athletes who an NCAA Division I and/or II school is interested in recruiting. The action of adding a college bound student-athlete to the IRL informs the NCAA Eligibility Center of the school’s interest in having an academic and amateurism certification decision for the student-athlete.
Official Visit: During an official visit, the college can pay for transportation to and from the college for you, lodging and meals (Division I allows for up to three meals per day) for you and your parents or guardians, as well as reasonable entertainment expenses, including three tickets to a Division I home sports event or five tickets to a Division II home sports event. Before a college may invite you on an official visit, you will have to provide the college with a copy of your high school transcript and register for a Certification Account with the NCAA Eligibility Center.
Unofficial Visit: Any visit by you and your parents to a college campus paid for by you or your parents. The only expense you may receive from the college is three complimentary admissions to a Division I home athletics contest or five complimentary admissions to a Division II home athletics contest. You may make as many unofficial visits as you like after the first permissible date in each sport. The only time you cannot talk with a coach during an unofficial visit is during a dead period.
National Letter of Intent: The National Letter of Intent (NLI) is a binding agreement between a student athlete and a participating NLI NCAA colleges and universities in the US. The PSA agrees to attend institution full time for one academic year (two semesters or three quarters). The institution agrees to provide athletics financial aid for one academic year (two semesters or three quarters). An NLI should be accompanied by an athletics scholarship or an athletics aid agreement from the college or university. The institution must list the amount of athletics aid you are being offered for the entire academic year. In Division I, institutions are allowed to offer you multi-year athletics aid.
Official Commitment: When you officially commit to attend a Division I or II college, you sign a National Letter of Intent, agreeing to attend that school for one academic year.
Verbal Commitment: A verbal commitment happens when you verbally agree to play sports for a college before you sign or are eligible to sign a National Letter of Intent. The commitment is not binding on you or the school and can be made at any time.
Financial Aid (Scholarship): Any money you receive from a college or another source, such as outside loans or grants. Financial aid may be based on athletics ability, financial need or academic achievement.
Two-year College: Any school from which students can earn an Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, or Associate of Applied Science degree within two years. Some people call these schools community colleges or junior colleges.
Season of competition: Generally, NCAA rules say that any competition in a season — regardless of the amount of time — counts as having played a season in that sport. If you play any time during a season, regardless of how long you played, it counts as having played for an entire season in that sport. Your season of competition starts when you spend one second in competition on the field, court, gym or track.
Five-year clock: If you play at a Division I school, you have five calendar years in which to play four seasons of competition. Your five year clock starts when you enroll as a full-time student at any college. Thereafter, your clock continues, even if you spend an academic year in residence as a result of transferring, decide to redshirt, do not attend school or attend school part time during your college career.
Ten-semester/15-quarter clock: If you play at a Division II or III school, you have the first 10 semesters or 15 quarters in which you are enrolled as a full-time student to complete your four seasons of participation. You use a semester or quarter any time you attend class as a full-time student or are enrolled part time and compete for the school. You do not use a term if you only attend part time with no competition or are not enrolled for a term.
Full-time student: Each school determines what full-time status means. Typically, you are a full-time student if you are enrolled for at least 12 credit hours in a term, but some schools define a full-time student as someone who takes fewer than 12 credit hours in a term.
International student: An international student is any student who is enrolled in a secondary school outside the United States, U.S. territories or Canada (except Quebec).