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Case Study: Amateurism

Legislative Services receives a lot of calls regarding amateurism as it seems to be one of the most confusing sections of the bylaws. All of the case studies below are similar to actual questions we have received over the past year about amateurism. We understand that Amateurism can be tricky, so please do not hesitate to call or email Legislative Services with any questions you might have.

Here are some past briefs that you might find beneficial or informative and are similar to today’s topic.

  • The first brief comes from February 2017, and outlines acts that would not cause a student to lose their amateur status. The brief provides examples of things that student-athletes can do and still maintain their status as an amateur in their respective sport.
  • The second document comes from 2011 and provides some excellent background on the amateurism portion of our bylaws and how it is applied. There have been two major changes to the bylaw since this article was written so please refer to the current bylaw when assessing your student’s amateurism. (Section B, Item 8, was added in 2014-2015; and Section C was rewritten in 2015-2016). Despite being a little out of date the article still provides excellent information.

Case Studies

*Assume all schools are NAIA institutions unless otherwise noted.

Scenario 1:

Earl is a golfer at an NAIA school and just completed his first season of competition in the spring of 2017. In July of 2017, Earl is invited to compete in a PGA tour event, in which he will not be representing his school. Earl will meet all of the amateurism rules of the United States Golf Association (USGA), golf’s governing body, and will not receive any prize money. While competing Earl makes a hole-in-one winning a brand new Range Rover. Can Earl accept his prize?


Yes! Earl would be able to accept his new car. The key points in this scenario are: he is competing in the summer; he is not representing his, or any institution; and he is meeting all amateurism rules of his sport’s governing body. Article VII. Section C, Item 2, states that a student competing in the summer and not representing his/her institution shall adhere to the sport’s governing body’s amateurism rules. The USGA says that an amateur can receive a hole-in-one prize and still maintain their amateur standing.

Scenario 2:

Maggie is a basketball player at an NAIA school and has a very popular Instagram account with thousands of followers. Maggie does not mention her school or athletic career at all on her social media page. A clothing company reaches out to Maggie and wants to send her some dresses for her to wear on her Instagram account. In addition to the free dresses the company will also send Maggie $1,000.00, which is standard in the industry. Can Maggie accept the dresses and the money?


Yes! Maggie can accept the money and the dresses. This would meet the language of Article VII, Section B, Item 8, which states in relevant part: a student can accept reasonable compensation for use of name or likeness as long as the student’s athletic participation isn’t mentioned, the school isn’t mentioned, and the pay is reasonable. Here, she makes no mention of her school or athletic participation, and the compensation is reasonable for the industry.

Scenario 3:

Bridget is a soccer player at an NAIA school and competed in her third year of competition in the fall of 2017. Bridget is also a soccer official and wants to become a member of the National Intercollegiate Soccer Officials Association (NIOSA). Can Bridget join this professional organization and could Bridget officiate intercollegiate soccer games?


Yes, Bridget could join the organization. The casebook example in Article VII, Section B, Item 3, specifically states a student would not jeopardize their amateur standing by joining an official’s association. Bridget could also officiate an intercollegiate match, if she could get the assignment. This is not prohibited in the bylaws as long as she is receiving reasonable compensation.

Scenario 4:

Andrew is a track athlete at an NAIA school and is originally from a very small country. Andrew is a great albeit not a world class sprinter, however he is his country’s only shot at making it to the next Summer Olympic Games. His country does not have a training system in the United States but wants to send him money directly to help him train. Can Andrew accept this money from his home country?


No, Andrew cannot accept this money as it would violate Article VII, Section D, Item 1, which states that a student cannot receive more than actual expenses of travel, meals, and lodging. This would also violate Article II, Section B, which states that, “under no conditions may an individual or organization provide direct financial assistance to a previously enrolled or prospective student.”

Applicable Bylaws:

The bylaws/policies that mention or discuss amateurism are listed below. Please note that there are could be more bylaws relevant to specific situations, but they are not listed here. Please refer to our Official Handbook for a complete listing of all NAIA Bylaws and Policies.

Article II, Section B

Assignment of scholarships, grants in aid, or student loans shall be controlled by the faculty through the regularly constituted committee on student loans and scholarships.

Any financial aid or assistance to prospective or enrolled students in money or in kind, except that which comes from members of their immediate family or from those upon whom they are legally dependent, shall be administered by the institution under policies and procedures established by the institution through its regularly constituted committee on student loans and scholarships. Under no conditions may an individual or organization provide direct financial assistance to a previously enrolled or prospective student.

Scholarships, grants in aid, and student loans shall be awarded on such bases as will not discriminate for or against presumed or recognized athletes. Athletes and non-athletes shall be required to maintain the same minimum academic standing to qualify for such scholarships.

All donations to the general athletics program and/or the athletics scholarship fund by outside organizations shall be deposited in an institutional fund and be administered by appropriate institutional committees under the control of the chief executive officer.
A member institution shall award no more financial aid to a student-athlete than the actual cost of:
1. Tuition;
2. Mandatory fees, books, and supplies required for courses in which the student-athlete is enrolled; and
3. Board and room for the student-athlete only, based on the official board and room allowance listed in the official institutional publication.
Further financial assistance to a student-athlete by a member institution, other than listed above, is prohibited.

Article VII, Section B, Item 3

Receiving reasonable compensation for officiating or coaching in amateur, recreational or interscholastic programs. A student may solicit and be paid reasonable compensation on a lesson basis.

Article VII, Section C, Item 2

An individual participating as a recognized amateur under the rules of a sport’s national governing body shall adhere to the amateur award regulations of the national governing body of that particular sport when the individual is not institutionally identified or when such events are held during the summer in which the individual is not representing an institution.

Article VII, Section D, Item 1

The following acts will cause a student to lose amateur standing for participation in intercollegiate competition recognized by the NAIA in the sport in which any or all such acts occur.
1. Receiving (directly or indirectly) expense reimbursement beyond actual expenses of travel, meals and lodging only. Expenses must be itemized and properly documented.

Please tune in at noon central time on Tuesday, as Lendsey Thomson and Jared Shafer will dive into these scenarios even further.