New Legislation: Class Rank Exception

Legislative Services is going to spend the next few months writing briefs on the new legislation that was passed at the 2019 convention. You can find all of the changes in one spot here.

Our first three briefs were on the significant changes to the financial aid bylaw and you can find all three parts here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. In our most recent brief we discussed the exciting new Mid-Year Eligibility Opportunity and its implication. That brief can be found here!

This week we are going to address the changes to Article V, Section C, Item 2c, and the new class rank exception. This bylaw does not go into effect until May 1, 2020, and thus cannot be used until the start of the 2020 academic year.



SUBJECT: Initial Eligbility – Class Rank Exception


2.  An entering freshman student must meet two of the three entry-level requirements below. Students not meeting at least two of the three standards shall be denied athletics participation at a member institution for the first full year of attendance (two semesters, three quarters, or the equivalent) that such a student is identified with any institution(s). The three entry-level requirements are as follows:


c.   Rank in the upper half of the student’s high school class, as it appears on the final high school transcript after the student’s date of graduation. The class rank must appear on the student’s transcript, leaving certificate or other academic document. If the student’s class rank does not appear on the above-mentioned documents, the rank can be provided to the NAIA Eligibility Center via the NAIA High School Portal.


EXCEPTION 1: Completion of nine institutional credit hours prior to identification at any institution of higher education can be used if no class rank appears on the final official high school transcript. The credit hours must be completed with a grade of “C” or better. The coursework must be accepted as institutional credit on the certifying NAIA institution’s official transcript. The coursework must also be shown as earned prior to the term in which the student wishes to compete, as indicated on an official transcript. For CLEP or AP credit not applied to the transcript within a term, official documentation issued by the testing service noting the date the exam was taken will suffice.


For purposes of this rule, the NAIA does not recognize a +/- attached to a letter grade. Consequently, a C+, C, and C- shall count as a C.


EXCEPTION 2: As an exception and in accordance with policies found in the Membership Guide to the NAIA Eligibility Center, a letter from the student’s principal or headmaster, assistant or vice principal, guidance counselor or registrar, written on the school’s letterhead and with the school’s official seal, stating that the student meets the class rank requirement can be accepted.

Article V, Section C, Item 2c

This bylaw amendment was submitted by the Council of Faculty Athletics Representatives to hopefully provide an additional avenue towards eligibility for student who come from a school or a situation that does not provide a class rank. This exception cannot be used if a student simply doesn’t meet the class rank exception. To be used there cannot be a class rank on the student’s final official high school transcript. This exception allows students in the above scenario to become eligible by showing they are ready for college by passing at least nine institutional credit hours prior to identifying at any institution of higher learning.

To understand this exception better, you will need to know the definition of “identification” and “institutional credit,” both of which are below in relevant language.

Identification (found in Article V, Section B, Item 8): Representing an institution in an intercollegiate contest or enrolling in 12 or more institutional credit hours with a minimum of nine institutional credit hours at the NAIA member institution in any given term (excluding summer session) as reported by the institution’s registrar on an official transcript based on the institution’s official census date.

Institutional Credit Hour (found in Article V, Section B, Item 9): Any credit hour attributed to a course that is recorded on the transcript with a grade and credit hours earned. Institutional credit hours shall be accepted for eligibility certification purposes only after the instructor submits the completed course grade in the normal manner to the institutional registrar for posting on the transcript.

This exception is for the class rank eligibility option only! Meeting this exception and not having one of the other two options (GPA or Test Score) will not make a student eligible. They still have to have two out of three, with the exception being one.

The hours used to help a student meet this exception can be earned at any time prior to identification at an institution of higher learning. They do not have to all be from the same school and do not have to be earned at an NAIA school. However, the student’s NAIA school MUST accept the hours (as noted on the official transcript) prior to the term in which the student wishes to compete.

A “C-” or a “C+” counts as a “C” for the purposes of this bylaw. So if a student has nine institutional credit hours of C- work that is accepted by their NAIA school, then they can meet this exception. Lastly, AP and/or CLEP courses can be used to meet this exception as long as they are accepted and on the transcript at the NAIA institution. For these courses to appear on the transcript the student must have been deemed to have successfully passed the standard required for awarding credit. Therefore, by default those courses will be deemed to have been passed with a grade of “C.”

Case Studies

*Assume all schools are NAIA institutions unless otherwise noted.

Scenario 1:

Marko graduated from a high school in the spring of 2018 that does not rank their students in any way and no class rank appears on his final high school transcript. Marko meets the GPA requirement but does not meet have the appropriate test score. Marko graduated with 30 hours of dual-credit from multiple local colleges and all 30 institutional credit hours will be accepted by his NAIA institution. Marko got all “As” and “Bs” in his dual-credit classes. The NAIA institution accepts the transfer hours in the summer of 2019 and they show on his NAIA transcript as earned before the fall of 2019. Will Marko meet the class rank exception for fall of 2019?

Answer 1:

NO! The exception does not go into effect until May 1, 2020! Therefore Marko would be ineligible for the fall of 2019.

Scenario 2 (continuation of Scenario 1):

Assume that everything in scenario 1 is the same except Marko graduated in the spring of 2020 and wants to compete in the fall of 2020. Could he now meet and use the exception?

Answer 2:

Yes! Marko would meet the exception since he meets GPA, and has nine institutional credit hours with a “C” or better that has been accepted by his NAIA institution prior to the term in which he wants to compete.

Scenario 3:

Sly graduated from high school in the spring of 2020 with nine institutional credit hours from a local junior college. Sly completed his high school degree with a 3.000 GPA but does not have the appropriate test score. Sly’s high school does not have class ranks on their official transcripts, so he is potentially able to use the class rank exception to be eligible for the fall of 2020. Sly is a football player and wants to compete in the fall of 2020 for his NAIA school. Sly’s NAIA school accepts the institutional credit hours and puts them on his official transcript for the fall of 2020. Would Sly meet the exception and would be he eligible to compete in football in the fall of 2020?

Answer 3:

No. Unfortunately since his NAIA school did not accept the hours prior to the term in which he wants to compete, he would not meet this exception and would not be eligible to compete in football in the fall of 2020.

Scenario 4 (continuation of Scenario 3):

What if Sly wanted to play baseball in the spring of 2021? Could he utilize this exception to be eligible for baseball?

Answer 4:

Yes! Sly would be able to use the exception to be eligible for spring baseball because the hours were accepted by his institution prior to the term in which he wanted to compete. Therefore, since they accepted the hours in the fall, he could be eligible for the spring.

Scenario 5:

Noel also graduated in 2020 from a high school with no class rank. She meets the test score requirement but does not have an appropriate GPA. Noel was able to amass nine institutional credit hours while in high school from the NAIA institution where she wishes to compete. Noel received two “Ds” and one “A” and her GPA in her dual credit classes was a 2.000. (Just go with it!) The NAIA institution accepts these hours on Noel’s official transcript as earned in the summer of 2020. Will Noel meet the exception?

Answer 5:

No! The bylaw exception requires that nine institutional credit hours be earned with “C” or better grades in all nine of those hours. Here Noel only had one course where she received a “C” or better so she would not meet the exception. Her dual credit GPA has no bearing on this exception. The student must pass nine institutional credit hours with “Cs” or better in each of those nine hours.


Please join Legislative Services at noon central on Tuesday for Facebook live, where Legislative Services will discuss this topic in more detail.