The NCAA is a voluntary association of over 1200 colleges and universities, sports organizations, and athletic conferences.

How Is the NCAA Organized?

The NCAA is broken up into three divisions: Division-I (D-I), Division-II, and Division-III. Each division has contest and participant minimums as well as scheduling criteria for each sport:

  • Division I – Division I member institutions have to sponsor at least seven sports for men and seven for women (or six for men and eight for women) with two team sports for each gender
  • Division II – Division II institutions have to sponsor at least four sports for men and four for women, with two team sports for each gender, and each playing season represented by each gender
  • Division III – Division III institutions 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.

The NCAA exists primarily to promote amateur sports. Thus, if the NCAA finds an athlete to be a professional, the association takes away his or her eligibility.

How Does the NCAA Determine if an Athlete Is Professional?

An athlete is deemed a professional if the athlete:

  • Uses his or her athletic skills for pay in any form in that sport
  • Accepts a promise of pay even where the promise is to be fulfilled at a later date
  • 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 and knows (or had reason to know) that the team is a professional athletics team
  • Enters into a professional draft or an agreement with an agent or other entity to negotiate a professional contract

What Is Pay?

The NCAA defines "pay" to include:

  • Salaries
  • Educational expenses outside those permitted by the NCAA
  • Expenses for parents
  • Payment based on performance, prizes, and preferential treatment, benefits or services

What Can You Do if You Have an Eligibility Dispute with the NCAA?

Consulting with a business lawyer familiar with NCAA bylaws and rules could help you resolve a claim. Sports lawyers specialize in the art of negotiation and can help you better understand your options.