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Use of an Ineligible Student-Athlete in Competition

July 24, 2017
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As we are getting closer to a new academic year, it is important to ensure that all student-athletes who will be representing an NAIA institution in competition are properly certified to compete.  Not properly certifying a student-athlete to compete could lead to implications such as forfeits of competition(s), penalties to the student-athlete, and penalties to the institution.

This brief will focus on the forfeits required and the seasons of competition charged to an ineligible student-athlete who competes in competition(s).  Additional penalties such as warnings, reprimands, and probation may be addressed to the institution's athletic department. These penalties will be discussed in a separate brief.

When an ineligible student-athlete has competed in competition(s), the institution must self-report the violation to the conference or A.I.I. eligibility chair.  The conference or A.I.I. eligibility committee will review the violation that took place and provide a recommendation for penalties to the National Eligibility Committee (NEC).  The NEC will review the violation that occurred along with the conference or A.I.I. eligibility committee's recommendation and provide penalties that are in line with the NAIA bylaws Article VI, Section B, Item 9.

The first penalty outlined in the bylaw requires that forfeits or letters of notification must be submitted to all institutions in which an ineligible student-athlete competed. Letters of notification and forfeiture of contests won shall be sent to the athletics director of the offended institution with copies of the letter to the appropriate eligibility chair and the National Office. More information on how to file a required forfeit may be found in this legislative brief.

The second and third penalties outlined in Article VI, Section B, Item 9 state that an ineligible student-athlete must be charged a season of competition for participating while ineligible. Additionally, the bylaws state that a student may incur an additional season of competition if the ineligible student reestablishes eligibility within the same season the student was declared ineligible, and participates after reestablishing eligibility. When such circumstances call for a student to be charged an additional season of competition, NEC may provide an alternative penalty.

The NEC has utilized a framework for allowing leniency for violations which call for an additional season of competition being charge to the student-athlete. The committee may permit the student to sit out two competitions for each one competition the student competed in while ineligible instead of being charged an additional season of competition.

There are times in which forfeits may not be required when an ineligible student-athlete competes in a competition. In order for forfeits not to be required, the institution must show that due diligence was practiced as outlined in Article VI, Section B, Item 9g, Note 2. More information on due diligence may be found in this legislative brief.

Moving into this upcoming academic year, we encourage our membership to use the many resources we have through the Eligibility Center and Legislative Services to ensure all student-athletes are being properly certified to compete. 

  • Visit so that all first time NAIA participants may receive an eligibility center determination prior to competition. Additionally, this page through provides valuable information regarding when and how to request updated decisions through the Eligibility Center.
  • If a student-athlete has received an Eligibility Center determination, but may need to be reactivated due either receiving an ineligible decision or not using the decision in the term in which it was granted, you may visit this brief and this brief on information regarding reactivation.
  • Finally, all NAIA members will be required to certify student-athletes through the new Eligibility Certificate Process. Information on the ECP certification process and webinars may be found here.

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