Rules FAQ: Unattached Athlete

Definition of an Unattached Athlete
A topic of discussion at several meetings during the 2004 convention was the proper interpretation and enforcement of the unattached athlete definition found in the NAIA Casebook under Article V, Section A. In the NAIA Bylaws under Article V, Section A it states, "The eligibility rules which follow apply to all students representing their institution in any manner (scrimmages, intercollegiate, etc.) against competitors not directly identified with the institution in any sport recognized by the NAIA." The National Eligibility Committee gave an official interpretation which further clarifies what it means to "represent" an NAIA institution in competition. This official interpretation is the unattached athlete definition.

The unattached athlete definition originally evolved to answer questions regarding those sports such as wrestling and track & field where open competitions regularly take place throughout the season. In many instances a student would not be eligible or choose not to participate for the NAIA institution but could enter these open events on their own. The definition has further evolved to encompass those teams that wish to play together during the year in off-season tournaments or contests but do not wish to represent their institutions or jeopardize their eligibility by competing.

In short, there are seven criteria that MUST be met for a student to be considered "unattached." If the student(s) meets these criteria then they will not be charged a season of competition and the institution does not run the risk of allowing a possibly ineligible student to compete.

The seven criteria are:

1. A coach or representative of the athletics department cannot enter the student(s) in the event;

2. The institution or its representative cannot provide transportation to the event, from the event, or at the event;

3. The institution or its representative cannot provide meals or housing to the student(s) with regard to the event;

4. The student(s) cannot wear an institutional uniform nor use the institution's name in the event;

5. Student(s) competing "unattached" are not covered by institutional athletic insurance;

6. Student(s) must be made aware of the restriction of no athletic insurance;

The competition and participation must conform to NAIA amateur status regulations.  If any one of these seven criteria is not met then a student will be charged a season of competition and a possible eligibility violation may have occurred. If a coach organizes any competition while the student maintains unattached status a practice has still occurred under Article I, Section E, item 6 of the NAIA Bylaws. Please call the National Office if you have any questions regarding unattached competition.