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Eligibility Center Determinations, Exceptions, and Invitational Sports Status

July 10, 2017

In this week's brief, we will discuss at what point in time a student must receive an Eligibility Center determination as a new NAIA sport moves through invitational sport status to a championship sport. Knowledge of which students need a determination will ensure proper certification and eligibility of new student-athletes as they are introduced into the NAIA.

New sports in the NAIA are introduced to the membership through a series of steps that include emerging and invitational “status” until they become a championship sport.  To learn a little more about these steps, please visit the brief titled, “Emerging and Invitational Sport Status”.

As discussed in the previous brief, there is a key turning point prior to the second year of invitational status for a new sport within the NAIA. Going into year two of invitational status, a sport and their student-athletes must transition into being certified under the NAIA bylaws and policies.  In order to not inundate the National Eligibility Center with new student-athletes who have already been certified on campus, the Council of Faculty Athletic Representatives passed an exception for student-athletes who do not need an Eligibility Center determination; meaning, they are “grandfathered” into the Eligibility Center.  

Under section III, item number 5 of the Council of Faculty Athletic Representative's Policy (found in the NAIA handbook), lists the criteria for an exception to receiving an Eligibility Center determination prior to the sport's second year of invitational status and thereafter. In order for student-athletes who are in year two of invitational status not be required to receive an Eligibility Center determination prior to competing, the students must meet the following four points:

1) The student's eligibility for participation was certified under the applicable eligibility rules governing the sport in its first year as a recognized invitational sport;

2) The student represented an NAIA institution in an intercollegiate contest in the applicable sport's first year as a recognized invitational sport;

3) The student's institution sponsored the applicable sport as a varsity intercollegiate sport as defined by NAIA bylaws and submitted a Declaration of Intent noting the sport's varsity status; and

4) The student is properly certified as meeting all other NAIA eligibility requirements listed in NAIA Bylaws Article V.

FAQ's with the exception found in the CFAR policy:

Q: What if the student competed two years ago, while the sport was considered an emerging sport, but sat out last year during the sport's first year of invitational status.  Will they need to go through the Eligibility Center?

A: Yes. The student can only meet the exception if they competed in the first year of invitational status.  If they did not compete in the first year of invitational status, they will have to go through the Eligibility Center.

Q: What if the student competed in only a scrimmage during the first year of invitational status, but sat out the remainder of the season. Do they need to go through the Eligibility Center?

A: No. The exception states that a student must compete in an intercollegiate contest.  NAIA bylaws Article V, Section B, Item 10, defines an intercollegiate contest as any athletic competition. This includes a scrimmage.

Q: What if the institution only sponsored the sport as a club sport in prior years. Would the student need to go through the Eligibility Center?

A: Yes. The student must compete at a varsity level during the sport's first year of invitational status in order to meet the exception.

Q: What if the student competes as a varsity participant in an intercollegiate contest for an NAIA institution during the first year of invitational (and properly certified on campus) and then transfers to another NAIA institution prior to year two of invitational status. Would the student need to go through the Eligibility Center?

A: No. Since the student was properly certified and competed as a varsity participant in an intercollegiate contest during the first year of invitational status, the student may transfer to another NAIA institution and will not need an Eligibility Center determination prior to competing.  

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