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NAIA Eligibility and Recruiting Rules: An Overview

If you are getting recruited by an NAIA school or if you want to play in the NAIA, you need to understand the NAIA eligibility and recruiting rules. In this article, I break down the rules of academic eligibility, transfers, contact periods, and amateur status.

Written by

Lars Blenckers

Understanding NAIA Eligibility Rules

To be eligible to compete in NAIA athletics, student-athletes must meet certain academic and amateurism requirements. Here are the key factors to consider:

Academic Requirements

In order to be eligible, student-athletes must graduate from high school and meet two out of three of the following requirements: a minimum 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale, a minimum ACT score of 18, or a minimum SAT score of 860. It's important to note that individual NAIA institutions may have higher academic standards, so it's crucial to check with the specific college or university for their requirements.


NAIA student-athletes must maintain their amateur status. This means they cannot receive payment or benefits for participating in their sport, and they cannot have a professional contract or compete on a professional team.

Eligibility Center

All prospective NAIA athletes must register with the NAIA Eligibility Center. This allows the NAIA to determine if the student-athlete meets the necessary eligibility requirements before they can compete for an NAIA institution.

NAIA Eligibility and Recruiting Rules

NAIA Eligibility Rules For Freshmen

For incoming freshmen student-athletes, there are some additional eligibility rules specific to the NAIA. Here's what you need to know:

Eligibility Clock

In the NAIA, student-athletes have a five-year period called the "eligibility clock" to complete their four seasons of competition. This clock starts ticking on the first day of full-time enrollment at any college or university.

Full-Time Enrollment

To be considered a full-time student, athletes must be enrolled in at least 12 credit hours per semester. It's essential to maintain full-time status to maintain eligibility.


NAIA allows student-athletes to participate in a competitive event during their freshman year without losing a season of eligibility, as long as it falls under the NAIA's specific criteria for redshirting.

Transfer Rules

If a student-athlete transfers from one NAIA institution to another, they must meet certain transfer eligibility rules, including sitting out one competition season in their new institution. However, there are exceptions and waivers available in some cases, so it's important to consult with the NAIA Eligibility Center for guidance.

NAIA Women's Soccer - Point Park University
NAIA Women's Soccer - Point Park University

The NAIA Recruiting Rules

NAIA recruiting rules regulate how coaches can communicate and recruit potential student-athletes. Here's an overview of these rules:

No Contact Period

During specific periods, coaches and athletes cannot have any in-person meetings, phone calls, or off-campus contact. These "dead periods" are designed to give athletes a break from the recruitment process and allow them to focus on their academics and other activities.

Contact Period

Outside of the designated dead periods, coaches can communicate with prospective student-athletes through phone calls, texts, emails, and in-person meetings. However, it's important to note that these regulations may vary by sport and division within the NAIA.

Recruiting Materials

Coaches are allowed to send recruiting materials to student-athletes, such as letters, brochures, and questionnaires. However, certain restrictions may apply based on the athlete's year in high school or college, so it's crucial to stay informed about these rules.

Unofficial and Official Visits

Prospective student-athletes can make unofficial visits to NAIA institutions at their own expense. During these visits, athletes can meet with coaches and tour the campus. Official visits, on the other hand, are offered to recruits by the institution and may include travel expenses and other benefits.

NAIA Transfer Rules

Transferring from one NAIA institution to another comes with its own set of rules. Here's what you need to know:

Transfer Eligibility

Student-athletes who transfer to another NAIA institution must meet eligibility requirements set by the NAIA Eligibility Center. This includes academic and amateurism requirements similar to those for incoming freshmen.

Sit-Out Period

In most cases, student-athletes who transfer from one NAIA institution to another must sit out one competition season before they become eligible to participate in their new program. However, waivers may be available depending on individual circumstances.

NAIA National Letter of Intent

Similar to the NCAA, the NAIA has its own version of the National Letter of Intent (NLI). The NLI is a binding agreement between a prospective student-athlete and an NAIA school stating that the athlete will attend the institution for one academic year and participate in their chosen sport.

Signing the NLI is voluntary, but it solidifies the commitment between the athlete and the school. It's important to carefully review and understand the terms of the NLI before signing, as it is a legally binding contract.

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