Athletic scholarships play a vital role in providing opportunities for talented college and high school athletes to pursue higher education while showcasing their athletic abilities.
However, many students and their families often wonder if these scholarships are truly secure and if they can be taken away. In this article, we’ll explore the realities surrounding athletic scholarships, their risks, and the factors that can lead to their cancellation or reduction.
Can Colleges Take Away Athletic Scholarships?
Athletic scholarships are primarily awarded to college and high school students based on their athletic abilities. They are commonly offered for team sports like football and basketball, but scholarships for individual sports are also available.
Athletic scholarships can be taken away. Student-athletes can lose their athletic scholarships for a variety of reasons
Reason Colleges Take Away Athletic Scholarship
Here are some of the common situations we see for athletes losing their scholarship or having it taken away:
1) Athlete Becomes Ineligible
A school may essentially award an athlete with a scholarship for a specified period, anywhere between one academic year and five academic years. If you’re offered a scholarship, a scholarship agreement must be provided in writing and it will specify the terms of the scholarship. At the end of the scholarship period, a coach might choose to either renew the scholarship or not. Normally, the NCAA doesn’t allow coaches to remove or decrease financial aid during the period agreed upon. For instance, if you received an offer for a one-year scholarship starting in August 2019 and ending in May 2020, a coach will normally not be able to take that away from you.
However, the NCAA does allow for it to happen in some cases, and the first one is if the athlete becomes ineligible. There are several ways an athlete can become ineligible (visa issues for international students, failed drug tests, dropping below-required course hours), and all of them might allow a coach to take your scholarship away from you.
2) Athlete Commits Fraud
The second reason a coach may take away financial aid is if the athlete commits fraud at some time during the agreed time. For athletes to receive scholarships, they must sign an application, a letter of intent, and a financial aid agreement, which pretty much declares that they want to participate in that sport. Now, if the athlete decides to not show up to practices or just show up now and then, a coach might be allowed to remove his or her scholarship.
The third reason is if the university decides that the athlete has engaged in serious misconduct based on the university’s regular student disciplinary authority. What that means is going to be different for any university. It can be from sexual assault, drinking on campus, posting inappropriate pictures on social media, or setting your school up on fire. So be sure to follow your student handbook.
4) Athlete Quits Team for Personal Reasons
This one is pretty straightforward: if you decide to quit the team, you will most likely lose your scholarship. Sometimes you might have a noble reason, but at the end of the day coaches are essentially running a business and they need that scholarship money back. However, it is important to point out that the coach will not be allowed to give that extra scholarship to another athlete during that academic year.
5) Athlete Violates Non-Athletic Documented Policy
If your school follows this Power 5 rule, it means that they might take your scholarship away if you fail to comply with some academic standards or some other rules specified by the athletic department or by the team.
This is where it starts getting a little complicated. If you were awarded a scholarship for an established period, the NCAA states that a coach cannot reduce the scholarship during that time due to “an injury, illness, or physical or mental medical condition” of an athlete.” For schools that don’t follow Power 5 rules, a coach might decide to not renew an injured athlete’s scholarship once the initial scholarship period is over.
For schools that DO follow Power 5 rules, a coach cannot consider that when debating whether to renew the scholarship or not. So if you go to such a school, get a scholarship for a year, and get injured during that year, a coach technically cannot consider that when deciding if he’s gonna renew your scholarship for the next year or not. However, in reality, things do not always happen that way and sometimes coaches might find a way to get that scholarship taken away from you.
7) Not Performing Well
This has the same applications as the injury rule: a coach cannot cancel your scholarship during an established scholarship period due to “ a student-athlete’s athletic ability, performance or contribution to a team’s success.” Power 5 rules establish that a coach cannot consider that when it comes time to decide whether to renew a scholarship or not. So if you get a one-year athletic scholarship, work extremely hard, but still are not able to make the starting team, a coach from a Power 5 school cannot technically reduce or cancel your scholarship because of that. Once again, some coaches might be able to find a loophole and still take your money away from you.
8) New Coach – FOR ALL SCHOOLS
At the end of the day, a coach is the one responsible for making the final decision of how much (and if) an athlete will receive a scholarship. What happens sometimes is that Coach X will bring you in and promise you a certain amount of money for each year. Then, for some reason, Coach is fired or resigns and Coach Y is hired. Coach Y might not see the same potential in you, not like your attitude, or just flat-out be an a-hole. If he’s committed to getting your scholarship taken away from you, he might be able to find a reason to do so.
While athletic scholarships present an incredible opportunity for student-athletes to pursue higher education while showcasing their athletic talents, it is important to understand the risks involved. Athletic scholarships can be taken away or reduced due to factors such as underperformance, injury, or coaching changes.
By conducting thorough research, maintaining clear communication, and prioritizing performance and professionalism, student-athletes can better protect themselves and make informed decisions about their athletic scholarships. It is crucial to remain vigilant and proactive in safeguarding one’s educational and athletic future.
1. How do I know if I’m eligible for an athletic scholarship?
To be eligible for an NCAA or NAIA athletic scholarship, you need to meet each governing body’s minimum eligibility requirements. Those requirements include many core classes, a minimum GPA, and confirmed amateur status. Note that qualifying for eligibility doesn’t mean you’ll be awarded a scholarship. Instead, it’s the minimum need to be eligible for any scholarship and, if your grades are higher, you’ll likely receive more and better scholarship offers.
2. What is a verbal scholarship offer?
A verbal scholarship offer is just that; a scholarship offer that is spoken by a coach, and it may come any time during the recruiting process. However, a verbal scholarship offer is non-binding and means nothing until you sign on the dotted line on a national letter of intent.
3. If I’m awarded an athletic scholarship, can it be taken away later?
As noted above, most athletic scholarships are awarded for one year at a time and are subject to review with each new school year. That means, even if you have a scholarship this year, there’s no guarantee you’ll have it next year. An athletic scholarship doesn’t even guarantee you a spot on the roster.