NCAA & NAIA Eligibility Centers: Everything A Student-Athlete Needs to Know
As a collegiate track and field student-athlete, you’ll hear about “eligibility” on a regular basis. Simply put, an “eligible” collegiate student-athlete is one who meets the academic and amateurism requirements of their athletic association and is able to participate in collegiate sport.
As a recruit (or prospective student-athlete), you’re likely to hear about “the Eligibility Center”. In this article, I outline what the NCAA and NAIA eligibility centers are, who they’re for, why and when to register, associated costs, and how Streamline Athletes can support college-bound track and field/cross country athletes when it comes to navigating eligibility centers as part of their recruitment process.
What is the Eligibility Center?
There are two eligibility centers you should be aware of: the NCAA Eligibility Center and PlayNAIA (the NAIA's eligibility center). It’s important to note that these are separate eligibility centers operated by each governing body. Both eligibility centers serve the same purpose: to determine the eligibility of student-athletes who wish to compete in collegiate sport. These eligibility centers were formerly known as “clearinghouses”.
NCAA Eligibility Center
The NCAA Eligibility Center evaluates academic and amateurism qualifications of student-athletes looking to join an NCAA Division I, II, or III athletic program. In track and field/cross country, that’s well over 1,000 colleges and universities.
The NCAA Eligibility has three different types of accounts: Free Profile Page, Amateurism-Only Certification, and Academic and Amateurism Certification (the “Who is the Eligibility Center for?” section below covers who should register for each type of NCAA Eligibility Center account).
PlayNAIA is the eligibility center of the NAIA. PlayNAIA evaluates academic and amateurism qualifications of student-athletes looking to join an NAIA athletic program. In track and field/cross country, that’s about 229 colleges and universities.
Who is the Eligibility Center for?
The NCAA Free Profile Page account is for:
- Younger high school or middle school student-athletes (high school freshman/grade nine/year nine) or below
- Athletes who aren’t yet sure what NCAA division is right for them
- Athletes who are planning to compete in NCAA Division III and have only attended a US high school
The NCAA Amateurism-Only Certification account is for:
- International student-athletes planning to compete in NCAA Division III
- Some college transfers planning to enroll for the first time at an NCAA Division I or II school
The NCAA Academic and Amateurism Certification account is for:
- Athletes looking to compete in NCAA Division I or II
- Athletes planning to take official visits
- Athletes planning to sign a National Letter of Intent
PlayNAIA is for:
- Any athlete looking to compete at an NAIA school
Why register for the Eligibility Center?
If you are an American or international student-athlete planning to attend a school that competes in any of the three NCAA divisions or in the NAIA, at least one eligibility center registration is required. In the most basic terms, to compete in the NCAA or NAIA, you need to be eligible; the eligibility centers are your pathway to your required status.
When to register for the Eligibility Center?
If you are in middle or early on high school, it’s helpful to register for a free NCAA Eligibility Center account. By registering now, you may receive some helpful information from the NCAA and you’ll familiarize yourself with the Eligibility Center well ahead of time.
If you’re a high school sophomore (grade/year 10 or beyond), it’s time to register for the right NCAA Eligibility Center account for you and/or PlayNAIA.
How much does the Eligibility Center cost?
- The NCAA Free Profile Page account: FREE
- NCAA Amateurism-Only Certification: $70 (USD)
- NCAA Academic and Amateurism Certification (Domestic, including Canadians): $100 (USD)
- NCAA Academic and Amateurism Certification (International): $160 (USD)
- PlayNAIA (Freshman from the US and Canada): $90 (USD)
- PlayNAIA (Transfers from the US and Canada): $135 (USD)
- PlayNAIA (International students): $150 (USD)
Eligibility Center support
Do you have questions about eligibility centers that weren’t answered in this article?
Like many aspects of the recruitment process, understanding what the NCAA Eligibility Center and PlayNAIA mean to you as an individual is important. But, a lot of the information you can find online (including this article!) is not personalized to your specific situation.
Recognizing this, my colleagues and I at Streamline Athletes are available for one-on-one personalized advising to support you with navigating the eligibility centers. I promise you we’ll remove any confusion you may have and leave you with your questions answered and next steps planned.
Here’s the link to book your virtual advising session(s) with us. We’re both track and field and recruitment experts; you’ll be in good hands.
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