Seasons of Competition
A student-athlete uses a season of competition (a.k.a. season of eligibility) for a given academic year as soon as he/she participates in a competition (excluding NCAA-legislated preseason exhibition contests and practice scrimmages) against an outside team (i.e., any team that includes individuals who are not on the institution’s team during that academic year). Any competition during a season, regardless of the amount of time spent, counts as one season of competition in that sport. For example, one play in a football game or one point in a volleyball match counts as a season of competition, just as playing in every basketball or lacrosse game during a season counts.
21-Year Age Rule
There is no age limit on who can participate as a student-athlete, however, a student-athlete who has turned 21 years old and has never attended a college or university as a full-time student will utilize a season of competition for every calendar year beginning with his/her 21st birthday in which he/she participates in organized competition in his/her sport while not being enrolled as a full-time student.
Tennis and Swimming/Diving Rule
In tennis and swimming and diving, a student-athlete has one full year from the date of graduation of his/her high school class to be immediately eligible as well as to retain four seasons of competition. For each calendar year following the one year limit of the matriculation of the student-athlete’s high school class, the student-athlete will be charged with a season of eligibility. Additionally, if the student-athlete has engaged in organized tennis or swimming and diving events, after the one year time limit has passed, the student-athlete must fulfill one academic year in residence before he or she is eligible to compete in their respective sport at the institution.
In tennis, a student-athlete who has yet to enroll full time at a certifying institution following his or her 20th birthday and who has engaged in organized tennis events after this birthday, will be charged with one season of intercollegiate tennis competition for each calendar year following his or her 20th birthday. The student athlete must also serve one academic year in residence upon enrollment at the certifying institution, unless he or she transfers to the institution with 24 semester hours of transferable degree credit.
Five-Year Clock (“Five to Play Four”)
Each student-athlete must utilize all seasons of competition within five (5) years of initially enrolling full-time at a college or university.
Red shirting is not an official NCAA term, but the term is used when a student-athlete does not participate in any competition during a particular academic year (i.e., neither in the championship nor the non-championship segment of the playing season). A student-athlete may be red-shirted at any point in his/her athletic career.
A “medical red shirt” is not an official NCAA term either, but the term is used when a student-athlete is injured after participating in a limited amount of competition during a particular academic year and then qualifies for a Medical Hardship Waiver. More detailed information regarding Medical Hardship Waivers is included below.
Medical Hardship Waiver
If a student-athlete suffers a season-ending injury or illness after competing in a limited amount of competition during a particular academic year, he/she may qualify for a medical hardship waiver which would allow him/her an additional season of competition during the five-year period of eligibility. To qualify for a medical hardship:
(a) the student-athlete’s injury or illness must occur in one of the four seasons of intercollegiate competition or subsequent to the first day of classes in the student-athlete’s senior year in high school;
(b) the injury or illness must occur prior to the completion of the first half of the playing season that concludes with the NCAA championship in that sport and must result in incapacity to compete for the remainder of that playing season; and
(c) the injury or illness must occur when the student-athlete has not participated in more than three contests/dates of competition or 30% of the institution’s scheduled contests/dates of competition in his/her sport (whichever number is greater).