Navigating the recruiting landscape can be overwhelming to many, especially when considering there are so many different rules. Here is a brief overview of the rules associated with the recruitment of student-athletes directly from high school and as transfers into a NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) institution.
NAIA Compared to NCAA
The main differences between the NCAA and the NAIA are marketing, focus, and recruiting rules. The NCAA is much more of a known association because of the resources spent on sport with regards to funding programs at member institutions, as well as those spent on marketing or television contracts. NAIA is much more of an ethically based approach to sport and how sport can positively impact the lives of student-athletes, as well as how those participants can positively impact their communities. Lastly the ability to freely communicate with most prospective student-athletes is significantly different for NAIA members from their NCAA counterparts. Similar to the NCAA, the NAIA hosts conference and national championships. There are 261 Women’s volleyball programs and 53 (and growing) Men’s with the ability to provide scholarships opportunities.
All forms of communication are permitted for NAIA coaches and prospective student-athletes with no regard to age. NAIA Coaches are not limited in the same way as NCAA coaches, which allows us to get to know our recruits over a longer period of time. This can be a huge benefit when the recruit contacts the coaching staff early in the process. On and off campus recruitment can take place for students of any age.
Initial Eligibility for Athletes Directly from High School
A prospective student-athlete must graduate from an accredited high school and be in good standing to have the chance to compete in the NAIA. A prospect must also be declared eligible by the NAIA Eligibility Center prior to any competition against individuals or teams that are not part of the university. In order for a student-athlete to be found eligible to compete at the NAIA level in his/her first year of college he/she must meet two of the three criteria: 1) GPA equal or greater than 2.0; 2) SAT score equal or greater than 970 or ACT score equal or greater than 18; 3) Rank in the upper half of graduating class.
Transfers from Two-year or Four-year Institutions
Recruitment of student-athletes that have been identified with a different institution can be recruited as long as the following criteria have been met. A student-athlete that attends a two-year college must complete his/her first year of attendance in order for the communication channels to reopen similar to when he/she was in high school. A student that has been identified with a four-year college cannot be recruited by an NAIA coach. The only exception to this is if the student-athlete contacts the NAIA coach about the possibility of transferring. If this happens the Athletic Director or Faculty Athletics Representative must contact the administration from the initial school within 10 days of contact. Once this occurs the communication channels reopen.
Athletic aid is similar to that of NCAA Division II. Some institutions are capable of awarding full scholarships, while others can only offer partial aid. This is typically awarded as part of a total financial aid package which includes academic aid, university grants, along with other types of institutional awards. Some member institutions are limited in how they can award athletic aid. The best way to find out what an institution is capable of doing from a financial perspective is to ask the coach or admissions team at the institutions they are researching.
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About the Author
Greg Reitz is the Head Men’s and Women’s Volleyball Coach at Lourdes University in Sylvania, OH. He started the Women’s program in 2009 and currently has a 184-117 record in 10 seasons. In 2012 he started the Men’s program and currently has a 160-64 record in 9 seasons.