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Varsity vs. Junior Varsity

September 20, 2013
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Whether a student-athlete plays for the varsity or junior varsity team of his/her respective sport could have an effect on both that student-athlete as well as the sports program in which he/she participates. It is important to understand the distinction between varsity and junior varsity, and to know the implications that such a designation can have.


Eligibility certification is required for all students before representing the institution against competitors not directly identified with the institution. This requirement applies to all participating student-athletes (varsity, junior varsity and freshman), and those student-athletes must appear on the institution’s official eligibility certificate and certificate of clearance prior to competition in a scrimmage, exhibition or contest.

There are no formal rules on submitting separate varsity and junior varsity official eligibility certificates. Institutions and conferences are encouraged to work together to decide whether varsity and junior varsity teams should be certified together on a single eligibility certificate or separately.

Financial Aid Limits

In accordance with COP Policy XII, the upper limits for institutional financial aid apply only to varsity athletes. Financial aid to junior varsity participants will not count toward the institution’s allowable limits and will not be reported to the NAIA.

In general, if a junior varsity player participates in a varsity competition, even briefly, that student’s institutional aid will be counted in the financial aid limits. However, if a situation arises where a varsity athlete suffers a season-ending injury verified by a physician (M.D. or D.O.) or other comparable personal crisis, not including ineligibility, a provision has been made for an alternate from the junior varsity program to replace the varsity athlete without the junior varsity athlete’s aid counting in the financial aid totals for the team. In such a replacement, a season of eligibility will be used by both athletes.

24-Week Season

Any NAIA sport has a maximum 24-week practice and competition season regardless of a breakdown between varsity, junior varsity or freshman teams. In other words, an institution’s varsity, junior varsity and freshman teams share the same 24-week season. Therefore, a practice or competition by any one of the teams constitutes one of the 24 weeks for the sport.

Scheduling Limits

A student-athlete can play in both varsity and junior varsity competitions, but no individual student may participate in more than the listed contest maximums in Article I, Section F, Item 5.

For example, an institution’s varsity baseball team may play in 55 contests while the institution’s junior varsity team may also play in 55 contests. Student-athletes may play in both varsity and junior varsity competitions, but no individual student may participate in more than 55 total contests.

The sports of basketball and football each have exceptions to this rule. Basketball teams are allowed 30 games, but a student may play in a combination of varsity and junior varsity up to a limit of 40 total games. Similarly, football teams are allowed 11 games, with a student limited to participating in no more than 15 total games.

Designation of varsity or junior varsity status must be made at the time of scheduling for team sports and upon submission of entry forms for individual sports (indoor and outdoor track and field, swimming and diving, wrestling, etc.). Junior varsity games are not considered countable for either individual or team statistics, win-loss records, or coaching records, as described in NAC Policy XXV, Item 12.

Additionally, in individual sports, athletes cannot qualify for postseason competition based on results of contests in which they are designated as junior varsity.