Skilled high school athletes may begin to attract the attention of NCAA Division I and Division II schools toward the end of their high school careers. College coaches interested in your abilities may begin to call, send brochures, and invite you to visit their campuses the summer before you junior year of high school. This article will answer any questions you may have about the NCAA recruitment process, what’s allowed and what isn’t, and help you understand the process of committing to an institution.


Recruitment

Recruitment is the process by which a college coach entices a student-athlete to attend a certain school and play on its team. It varies depending on NCAA division and the student’s year in school. Recruiting occurs in a variety of ways: mailed college and athletic program brochures, questionnaires, phone calls, emails, invitations to officially visit the campus, and/or a coach coming to a high school game to evaluate a student’s performance. The NCAA has strict rules governing the type of recruitment that can begin at each stage of a student’s high school career. The most in-depth rules govern Division I recruitment, while Division II and Division III coaches get more free reign when it comes to contacting potential students.

Division I

  • Sophomore Year:
    • Coaches can send mailed publications about the school, the athletic program, and the NCAA to students. Men’s ice hockey players cannot receive these materials until after January 1 of their sophomore years and men’s basketball players cannot receive these materials before June 15 after the completion of their sophomore years.
    • Students can call coaches at any time.
    • Coaches generally cannot call students, but there are a few exceptions for specific sports (men’s basketball, women’s ice hockey, and men’s ice hockey).
    • Students and coaches cannot meet in person if they are not on the college’s campus.
    • Official visits, where the visit is paid for by the school, are not allowed, but students can make unofficial visits if they choose to do so. Unofficial visits cannot take place during dead periods (times when coaches and recruits are not allowed to have in-person contact).
  • Junior Year:
    • Coaches can send dedicated recruiting materials to most prospective student-athletes beginning September 1. Men’s basketball players may begin to receive these in the summer before their junior year, and men’s ice hockey players may receive these materials starting in the winter.
    • Students may begin receiving emails, texts, and faxes from coaches on September 1 of their junior years (with the exception of men’s basketball players who can receive electronic correspondence over the summer and men’s ice hockey players who can receive electronic correspondence during their sophomore years). All exchanges must be between the student and the coach until the student commits to the school in writing.
    • Students can continue to call coaches at any time.
    • Coaches can begin to call students; calls may be limited in number.
    • Coaches and students can meet in person off campus within NCAA guidelines, with the exception of football players.
    • Men’s and women’s basketball players can make official visits to colleges. No other sports are permitted official visits at this time. Student-athletes can visit up to five Division I colleges, but cannot visit the same college twice. Students can, however, visit as many Division II colleges as they’d like.
    • Students can continue to make unofficial visits, provided the visits do not take place during dead periods.
  • Senior Year:
    • Students can continue to call coaches at any time.
    • Coaches for men’s and women’s basketball can make an unlimited number of calls to prospective student-athletes. Football coaches are permitted to call students once per week starting on September 1; calls are unlimited after a student signs a National Letter of Intent (agreement to attend an institution) or during a contact period. Women’s ice hockey coaches are permitted to call prospective students once per week beginning the summer before the student’s senior year. All other coaches are permitted to contact student-athletes any number of times provided the student has signed a National Letter of Intent, received a written offer of admission, received a written offer of financial aid, or submitted a deposit to the college.
    • Off-campus meetings between coaches and students are allowed for all sports, but, the number of in-person meetings is limited. Basketball players and coaches can meet up to seven times, football players can meet coaches up to six times, and players of all other NCAA sports can meet coaches up to three times. After a National Letter of Intent is signed, an offer of acceptance is received, an offer of financial aid is accepted and signed, or a deposit is paid to the college, meetings are unlimited.
    • All students-athletes can be invited on official visits to colleges. Student-athletes can visit up to five Division I colleges, but cannot visit the same college twice. Students can, however, visit as many Division II colleges as they’d like.
    • Students can continue to make unofficial visits, provided the visits do not take place during dead periods.

Division II

  • Students can receive brochures, campus publications, and NCAA publications at any time.
  • Coaches cannot send dedicated recruiting materials until June 15 after a student completes his or her sophomore year.
  • Coaches can call students any number of times following June 15 after a student completes his or her sophomore year.
  • Students can call coaches at any time.
  • Coaches and students can meet off campus starting June 15 after a student’s sophomore year. Meetings are unlimited.
  • Students can make unofficial visits at any time except during dead periods.
  • Official visits are authorized on or after June 15 during the summer before the student’s junior year. Students can make one official visit to each college, visiting up to five Division I schools. Visits to Division II schools are not limited.

Division III

  • Students may receive brochures and other mailed publications at any time.
  • Coaches can call student-athletes any number of times at any point during their high school careers.
  • Students can call coaches at any time.
  • Coaches can have off-campus meetings with students who have finished their junior years of high school. Meetings are unlimited.
  • Students can make unofficial visits at any time. Official visits are authorized after January 1 of a student’s junior year. Students can make one official visit to each college, visiting up to five Division I schools. Visits to Division III schools are not limited.

Scholarships

Over $2.7 billion in athletic scholarships are offered to student-athletes by both NCAA Division I and Division II schools each year in order to entice student to join one of their teams. Scholarships may be full or partial, meaning that they cover the entire cost of attendance or just a part of the total cost, and may work in conjunction with other financial aid. For instance, students from low-income families may qualify for Pell Grants and get partial athletic scholarships on top of that. Provided that the total amount of scholarship money does not exceed the cost of attendance at a university (tuition, room and board, and fees and supplies), students can accept all aid offered by multiple sources.

Scholarships may be offered as multiyear scholarships, or they may have to be renewed each year. Students who are not offered multiyear scholarships will be notified if the amount of financial aid that they will be receiving is going to change from year to year.

Division III schools are not permitted to offer athletic scholarships, but may offer merit- or need-based scholarships. All student-athletes, including those playing at the Division III level, who need financial aid have options.

How to Commit to a School

Student-athletes can choose to sign a National Letter of Intent in which they agree to attend a Division I or Division II school for at least one year in return for at least one year of some athletic scholarship aid. This is contingent on the student’s admittance to the school and eligibility for NCAA financial aid (students are typically required to be enrolled full-time and have NCAA-eligibility remaining). The National Letter of Intent is a legally binding agreement, and a student-athlete will lose a season of eligibility if he or she does not follow through and attend the institution in question. Additionally, after a National Letter of Intent has been signed, recruitment by other institutions is no longer allowed. Students (who are not transferring or applying early) will sign their National Letters of Intent between April and August before their initial college enrollment, if not earlier. If a student does not receive an athletic scholarship, he or she is not permitted to sign a National Letter of Intent.

Students who do not receive athletic scholarships can still try out for NCAA sports. Typically, athletic scholarships are reserved for student-athletes who are recruited, but there are often more spots on the team than there are allowed scholarships. This creates a discrepancy and a need for more students, just without the financial aid. Though they weren’t recruited and given athletic scholarships, some students may still qualify for either need- or merit-based financial aid. Learn more here.

Page last updated: 10/2017