Recruit Me Monday - Academic Requirements Division III, NAIA, NJCAA

For the high school athlete looking to play at the collegiate level, the recruiting process can be one of the most exciting times of their life. It can also become one of the most confusing and difficult processes for parents and players if they are unaware and unprepared for everything the process entails. Over the next few weeks we will be posting a news story once a week with information covering the recruiting process and what to expect and prepare for. We will cover the following areas: Eligibility/Academics, Important dates for prospects and college coaches, D1 scholarships, Financial Aide outside of athletic scholarships, communications with college coaches, and college visits, and much more. 

In our final post dealing with academic eligibility, we will look at the Division III, NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics), and NJCAA (National Junior College Athletics Association – aka JUCO) rules and regulations.

Division III
Athletes do not have to be certified by the NCAA Eligibility Center to attend and play sports at an NCAA Division III school – if you are admitted to the college, you are eligible.

  • Division III schools do not have athletic scholarships, however, many are small private schools with generous academic scholarships and other types of financial aid resources to off-set your costs.
  • You can receive recruiting materials and e-mail from a Division III coach at any time.  They can also call you anytime without restrictions on the number of calls.
  • After your junior year of high school has been completed a Division III coach can have in-person, off-campus contact with you or your parents at any time.
  • You may make an unlimited number of unofficial visits to Division III schools.
  • When classes start for your senior year you can take an official visit to a Division III school and there are no limits on the number you can take. 

NAIA
The NAIA manual clearly states that their organization has no recruiting rules - their coaches can do whatever they want whenever they want in terms of phone calls, recruiting materials, visits, etc.

  • When it comes to initial eligibility to compete as a freshman a prospect must graduate from an accredited high school and be accepted by the college as a regular student in good standing.  In addition, they must meet two out of the three of the following:
  1. Minimum 18 ACT or 860 SAT (Math + Critical Reading)
  2. Minimum overall high school GPA of 2.00 on a 4.00 scale.
  3. Be ranked in the top 50% of your graduating class.
  • Prospects may commit to play sports at an NAIA school at any time and each school can create their own system for Letters-of-Intent or not use them at all.
  • If a prospect signs with an NAIA school it doesn’t prevent them from talking with coaches from other schools, including NAIA schools. 
  • A National Letter-of-Intent signed with an NCAA school is completely separate from any type of signing an NAIA school might set up.  A prospect could sign with both an NAIA school and an NCAA school and attend whichever one they want and play sports.  As we will cover next in this email, the National Junior College Athletics Association (NJCAA) is also a separate organization – so one prospect theoretically could sign with an NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA school and decide later on which one to actually attend as none of the Letters-of-Intent are recognized by the other organizations.
  • NAIA baseball programs are allowed to offer up to 12 full athletic scholarships and can distribute these 12 however they want – they could give 12 full scholarships to 12 players, spread the 12 out over a team of 40 scholarship players and so on and so forth.

NJCAA
The National Junior College Athletics Association (NJCAA) governs two-year (junior/community college athletics) across the United States.  Their rules structure is very simple and straightforward:

  • The NJCAA recruiting rules only deal with visits – an NJCAA school can pay for one visit per prospect to their campus and it can’t last longer than two days and two nights.  There are no phone call, recruiting materials, email, off-campus contact, etc., restrictions for two-year coaches.
  • A freshman is eligible to practice, play and receive a scholarship from a NJCAA school if they graduate from high school or receive a General Education Diploma (GED) AND meet whatever admissions requirements the school has set for incoming students.
  • A baseball prospect can sign a Letter-of-Intent with an NJCAA school starting on January 15 of their senior year in high school.  This Letter-of-Intent is only honored by NJCAA schools – so technically you can sign with an NJCAA school and then sign with an NCAA and/or NAIA school and attend whichever one you want to.
  • NJCAA baseball programs can hand out 24 total athletic scholarships – in any form they have available.  Most NJCAA schools do not have 24 full scholarships and, therefore, give out 24 or fewer partial awards. 
  • Most two-year schools have very low tuition, room and board costs compared to four-year schools.  In addition, many times they also have generous financial aid options outside of athletics aid (academic awards, need-based aid, out-of-state waivers, etc.).  There are no restrictions on combining athletics aid with other forms of aid per the NJCAA rules. 
  • With inexpensive tuition costs compared to four-year schools the Federal Pell Grant maximum of $5,645 goes a lot further at most two-year schools.

The goal when attending a two-year school is to someday play at a four-year school after your freshman or sophomore year.  With this in mind, make sure you take courses that will someday transfer into the type of school you wish to attend after the two-year school. 

When transferring to an NCAA school the eligibility rules center around how many hours you have towards your degree so if you plan on majoring in something other than general studies you must have a plan for your coursework starting your freshman year at the two-year school.  The only issues with recruiting guys from two-year schools are transcripts with not enough courses to transfer in and be eligible at the four-year school. 

The coaches at two-year schools are normally part-time and also have to teach or hold some type of full-time job at the school in addition to coaching - they don’t have much time available to monitor your academic progress in most cases.  So, it’s quite possible you will have to take the initiative on your own to make sure you are on track.

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