New Legislation: Season of Competition.

New Legislation: Season of Competition.

At the 2018 NAIA National Convention our membership voted on new legislation. Legislative Services is going to break down some of the more substantial changes in our legislative briefs over the next few months. This is the second brief in the new legislation line and a link to the previous brief is below. Today we are discussing the changes to the definition of season of competition found in Article V, Section B, Item 18. The entire change of the bylaw is below and the underlined portions indicate the new language.

New Legislation Briefs:


Article V, Section B, Item 18.

18. Season of Competition:

a. Participation in one or more intercollegiate contests whether in a varsity, junior varsity or freshman program. The NAIA shall count seasons of competition based on intercollegiate participation charged by another intercollegiate athletic association.

b. Participation in any elite-level competition on or after the first day of the thirteenth month following high school graduation. The NAIA shall take at face value seasons of competition based on non-collegiate participation as assessed by another intercollegiate athletic association, including determination of unattached status. Additional seasons of competition, based on non-collegiate participation, will be charged when the student is not enrolled in a collegiate institution, or is enrolled but does not represent the institution in intercollegiate competition.


EXCEPTION 1: An individual who trains or competes as a member of a non-collegiate postsecondary education (i.e. preparatory school) team will not be charged a season of competition.


EXCEPTION 2: The date of a student’s 18th birthday will be used as the date of high school graduation if:

  1. The date of high school graduation cannot be ascertained; or
  2. The student earned a high school equivalency through the GED or other exam(s) without otherwise graduating high school.

EXCEPTION 3: While enrolled as a full-time collegiate student at an NAIA institution, a student will not be charged a season of competition based on participation as an unattached student-athlete. A student is considered to be competing as an unattached student-athlete if the following five criteria are met:

1. A coach or representative of the athletics department does not enter the student(s) or pay the student’s entry fee for the event;

2.  The student(s) does not wear an institutional uniform nor use the institution’s name in the event;

3.  All competition and participation must conform to NAIA amateur status regulations;

4.  Student(s) are academically and athletically eligible for intercollegiate competition, in accordance with all applicable NAIA, conference and institutional eligibility regulations; and

5.  An identified member of the coaching staff does not provide coaching, evaluation and/or feedback to the student(s) on site and/or for the duration of the event.

Key points of this legislation:

  • Effective May 1, 2018.
  • This bylaw change is not retroactive. This means any potential seasons of competition prior to May 1, 2018, would be evaluated under the bylaws in place at that time.
  • The eligibility center will now accept affirmative decisions made by other athletic associations, including if a student-athlete met that associations unattached criteria, at face value.
    • Prior to this change, the eligibility center would only count seasons of competition charged by outside associations.
  • A school can now provide housing and meals for student athletes attempting to compete unattached.
  • A school can now cover a student athlete attempting to compete unattached under the institutional athletic insurance.
  • There are only five criteria that must be met to satisfy this exception.
  • The underlined numbers indicate a reordering and not that the language following is a new addition.
    • For example, what is now number two was previously number three. The language is the same.
  • A representative of an institution cannot pay a student’s entry fee for an event.
  • Unattached student-athletes cannot receive coaching, evaluation, and/or feedback from an identified member of the coaching staff on site.
  • As with all bylaw requirements, this will be up to each athletics department to enforce and track.  


Case Studies

*Assume all schools are NAIA institutions unless otherwise noted.

Scenario 1:

EJ is an NJCAA athlete and wrestles unattached per the NJCAA rules in the fall of 2018. When EJ transfers to an NAIA school for the fall of 2019, the NJCAA does not charge him for his fall 2018 participation due to the fact he met their unattached rule. When EJ comes through the NAIA eligibility center, how will they rule on the 2018 fall competition?

Answer 1:

The eligibility center would take that affirmative decision by the NJCAA at face value and would not charge EJ with a season of competition. Prior to this change, the eligibility center would have done a competitive experience review and EJ could have been charged.

Please note that the intercollegiate association has to make an affirmative decision for the NAIA to take it at face value. If in the above scenario, the NJCAA had no opinion on fall wrestling, then the eligibility center would do a competitive experience review.

Scenario 2:

Danielle travels with her institution’s track team to a multi-day track meet that she entered herself. She wears a generic uniform, has been certified as eligible, and runs in a race on the first day of the meet. That night her coach and her meet at the hotel to discuss her race. Does Danielle meet the unattached exception?

Answer 2:

No, because her coach provided her with coaching during the event. The two of them were off site but the meet was still technically happening as it was a multi-day event. This would mean she would not meet number five. It does not matter if Danielle had completed all of her events in the first day.

Scenario 3:

Imagine that Danielle did not meet with her coach at the hotel and received no coaching until she got back on campus. Would she now meet unattached?

Answer 3:

Yes. The exception to the bylaw only covers coaching on the site of the event and/or for the duration of the event. In this scenario, Danielle waited until the event was completed and she was completely off site before meeting with her coach. Also, identified members of the coaching staff are allowed to watch the event and are not expected to purge their memories of unattached competition.

Scenario 4:

Danielle wants to compete unattached at an upcoming meet but is strapped for cash. She approaches her coach and asks her to pay for Danielle’s entry fee. The coach does so and before the event, Danielle pays back her coach. Would she meet the unattached criteria?

Answer 4:

No. Even if Danielle was to reimburse her coach, the act of paying her entry fee would be “entering” her in the event. Therefore, the coach’s action would violate the first criteria of the exception.

Scenario 5:

Danielle enters herself into a track meet, has been certified as eligible, traveled to the event on her own, and isn’t wearing her school’s uniform. Prior to her race, Danielle is stretched out by a member of her school’s athletic training staff. Would this meet the unattached exception?

Answer 5:

Yes! As long as the person stretching her out is not an identified member of her school’s coaching staff then she would not violate number five.

Scenario 6:

While running unattached, Danielle falls and injures herself. Her school’s athletic trainer and coach both come rushing to her aid. These two people provide medical support and ultimately take Danielle to the hospital. Would this interaction violate the unattached exception?

Answer 6:

No. As long as her coach does not provide her with any coaching or evaluation during the duration of the event, then Danielle could still meet the unattached criteria.


**Example: A wrestler at an NAIA institution decides not to compete for their institution but still hopes to participate during the season. The student is ineligible and thus cannot meet the unattached exception. He wrestles on his own in three elite-level events during the school year. Will he be charged a season of competition?


Yes, the wrestler will be charged a season of competition because he competed in three or more elite-level competitions in a 12-month window. Since he was ineligible he cannot meet the fourth criteria of the unattached exception and therefore will be charged a season.

This week we will be doing our Facebook Live presentation at 9:00 a.m. cst due to our Champions of Character Luncheon.