Rules FAQ: Amateur Status Rules

Amateur Status Rules
Note:  As of August 1, 2005, all students must comply with NAIA "competitive experience" rules in addition to these "amateur status" rules.

Over the past few years, the NCC has dealt with an unusually large number of cases involving students with which a question of professionalism has arisen.  It has become apparent that while the majority of our member institutions are interpreting the bylaws correctly, a significant number have misinterpreted, misconstrued, or ignored some bylaws and have interpreted some bylaws as being in conflict with others.  The following document has been drafted to clarify any misconceptions and to answer some questions that have arisen regarding professionalism as defined by the NAIA bylaws.

It is important to note that this document does not contain any new bylaws or changes in interpretation of existing bylaws.  It merely summarizes existing bylaws and how they should be used.  It should be consulted as a supplemental guideline when certifying the eligibility of any athletes that have participated in any athletics outside a high school or intercollegiate framework.

The overriding principle governing all NAIA bylaws related to professionalism is the definition of an amateur in the bylaws - i.e. "a student who engages in athletic contests for educational values, personal pleasure, satisfaction, and for the love of the sport, not for monetary nor material gain" (Article VII., Section A,  Item 1 of the NAIA Bylaws).  While this might be a nebulous guideline by itself, it clearly indicates the intent behind the ensuing sections and provides a framework for understanding them.  In general, one can deduce from this intent that any individual who has either supported himself/herself or who has been supported for any length of time primarily through participation in a sport will have a very difficult time establishing amateur status in that sport.

Pursuant to the above definition, Article VII, Section C and Article VII, Section D provide specifics on acts or situations that result in loss of amateur status.

The most common violation which has been noted relates to the statement in VII. C. 1 that "cash awards or certificates redeemable for cash shall cause a student to lose amateur status within the NAIA."  There is no modifying clause to this statement.  If a player has played for and won a cash prize, he/she has become ineligible regardless of the size or disposition of the cash prize or award.  Various incorrect interpretations of this statement are discussed below.

"The cash prize was not as great as the expenses, thus it was considered reimbursements for expenses as described in either Article VII, Section B, Items 2&5 and/or Article VII, Section D, Items 1&3."
Actual rule: The term "cash prize" is not and has never been synonymous with the term "reimbursement for expenses."  "Reimbursement" is typically provided for eligible athletes from separate funds from those earmarked for cash prizes and is not dependent on performance at a given level.  Winning a cash prize defines a player as a professional under NAIA guidelines

"The player won a cash prize, but did not keep it - it was turned over to [his/her parents, the sponsoring club, the doubles partner, etc.] to reimburse (that entity) for sponsoring expenses or to retain amateur status.
Actual rule: As mentioned above, it is the act of playing for and winning a cash prize that triggers the classification.  No form of disposition of the prize will ameliorate this.

"The amount of the cash prize or the circumstances under which it was won did not make the player a professional in the eyes of the governing body for that sport, thus the player retains amateur status in the eyes of the NAIA."
Actual rule:  NAIA regulations do allow for using the professional/amateur rules of the governing body for the sport in certain limited circumstances (see exception to Article VII, Section C, Item  2), however, the specific statement at the end of the exception states "provided such awards do not conflict with item 1 of this section."  This clearly indicates that accepting any cash prize, at any time, is not allowable under NAIA regulations.

"The player did not actually win a cash prize, but received an award for being the [most valuable player in the league, most outstanding player in a tournament, outstanding infielder (goalie, setter, etc.)]."
Actual rule:  If the award is a cash award, this situation is specifically covered in Article VII, Section  C, Item 1, which includes cash awards as well as cash prizes, and is not permitted.

Another area where some misconceptions have been noted involves the regulations involving allowable reimbursements that are not related to cash prizes.  Article VII, Section B, Items 2 & 5 and Article VII, Section D, Item 1 relate to reimbursements for allowable expense.

"The player was a member of [a club, semi-pro, company, etc.] team and was provided only housing, meals and travel during the season.  He/she did not receive any actual payment for playing."
Actual rule(s):  Reimbursable expenses are consistently described in the bylaws as "travel, meals and lodging only from the immediate city to the event."  On-site living expenses not associated with travel to a specific event remote from the site are not permitted.  (Note that the exception to Article VII, Section C, Item 2 previously mentioned may apply to some athletes if they are not identified with an institution.  However, the exception does specifically relate to "a recognized amateur event" and specifically omits Article VII, Section C, Item 1 from the exception.  Athletes that have been provided housing and meals by their team or other organization must have played in amateur events only and not won prize money.)

"The player was provided a per diem of $ (any amount) to cover meals, etc."
Actual rule:  Reimbursable expenses are consistently defined as actual expenses.  Any reimbursement funds must be justified by actual receipts for the expenses, and any funds provided to the player above actual expenses must be returned by the player.  The practice of providing each player with "meal money" on a trip or a per diem does not meet the requirements of the bylaws.

A final comment is that almost all sports entities (in most countries) have websites where prize money lists and annual and/or career stats are displayed.  If a player appears on such a list, it is highly unlikely that he/she can be certified as an eligible amateur without supporting documentation, and the national office should be consulted in such a case.  It is always wise to check thoroughly the background of all students who have a gap in their eligibility.

Information on "Employment of Students" and how that relates to amateur status may be found in the NAIA Handbook Casebook under Article VII, Section B.