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NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant Program

The NCAA is committed to making policy decisions based on quality research data about the experiences of student-athletes, member colleges and universities, and others involved in college athletics. While the NCAA research staff conducts national research for its members on a wide variety of topics, including academic performance, student-athlete well-being, finances of intercollegiate athletics programs, gender-equity and diversity issues, it also recognizes and supports external research initiatives addressing these and other topics. Ongoing efforts in the cultivation of external scholarship on intercollegiate athletics include the NCAA data-sharing initiative and the NCAA Graduate Student Research Grant Program, which awards over $20,000 annually.

In 2014, the NCAA begins a new initiative, the NCAA Innovations in Research and Practice Grant Program. While other NCAA-affiliated research efforts address student-athlete health and safety, in the current cycle this new grant program will support research and data-driven pilot programs designed to enhance student-athlete well-being and mental health. Potential topics include, but are not limited to, managing transitions (e.g., from recruit to first-year student; transferring between universities; adapting from youth sports to college sports environment; developing independence from parents), identity development, stress management, substance use, bystander intervention, cultivating healthy relationships, career exploration and sport exit strategies. The NCAA will award $100,000 in grants for the 2014 calendar year to scholars or practitioners conducting studies or piloting on-campus programs that benefit student-athletes and NCAA member institutions. Grant recipients will be invited to present their work to hundreds of key stakeholders in intercollegiate athletics and members of the media in January of 2015 at the NCAA Convention in Washington, D.C.

Proposals will be judged on their originality, feasibility, clarity and, most significantly, the potential to result in campus-level programming that can positively impact student-athlete well-being and mental health at a range of member institutions (e.g., across divisions, geographic regions and resource availability levels). The final work will belong to the researchers/practitioners to publish in appropriate venues with acknowledgement of the NCAA as a funding source.

Reports to the NCAA membership should be prepared for a broad audience of administrators in intercollegiate athletics and educators working with student-athletes. They should also directly address steps to practically implement findings in a campus-based setting.

Proposals may be original scholarship that furthers knowledge of an aspect of student-athlete well-being or data-driven pilot programs designed to impact student-athlete well-being at the campus level. Either of these formats will be assessed on an equivalent basis for quality, innovation and applicability to NCAA member institutions.

Levels of grants

Two tiers of grants will be considered. One tier will be considered for funding up to $50,000 based on the quality of the proposal and the justifications in the proposed budgets. The second tier will receive awards up to $10,000 based on the same criteria.

Eligibility and Restrictions

Principal investigators (PIs) must be affiliated with NCAA member institutions. Interdisciplinary proposals (those bringing together athletics department administrators, student-athlete affairs practitioners and scholars) are encouraged. The PI(s) and project team members will be responsible for coordinating reviews of their work with Institutional Review Boards on their own campuses as applicable.

Proposal Format

The proposal narrative should be detailed but concise (2,000 words or less is encouraged) and should include the following elements:

  • Problem statement identifying the research question(s) or the conditions that the pilot program is designed to address. This section should provide the context for the problem/issue in light of the current landscape of intercollegiate athletics.
  • Literature review (can span various disciplines). 
  • Conceptual framework that discusses and perhaps visually depicts the theory underlying the project.
  • Data and methodology section.
    • Research studies can be qualitative or quantitative in nature, and should be designed for publication in peer-review academic journals or policy venues. For such projects, this section should include a description of sampling, dataset (and the criteria for selecting data/participants), research instrument or design, and data analysis.
    • Pilot programs should discuss the relevant data and research guiding the proposed program and discuss how key findings will be applied in a practical environment or educational setting.
  • Campus-level programming implications section. The proposal should explicitly identify, create and/or support specific programs at the institutional level that have the potential to improve student-athlete well-being.


Supplemental materials required

  • Biosketch/resume of the PI(s), limited to two pages.
  • Proposed budget. Grants may be used for salary support, research travel, data collection, research assistant support, equipment and miscellaneous expenses such as software and books. Indirect costs, living expenses and conference registration fees and travel will not be supported. Separate funding will be provided for grant recipients to attend the 2015 NCAA Convention.

Submission Instructions

Please send a single PDF document containing the proposal with all of the above information to Those submitting proposals will receive an e-mail within five business days confirming the receipt of the proposal.

Funding disbursement

Funding will be linked to the grant schedule. More specifically, two-thirds of the total award will be disbursed at the beginning of the grant period, one-sixth upon the acceptance of the interim report, and one-sixth upon the acceptance of the final report.


January 15, 2014 Announcement of grant program
March 1, 2014 Deadline for proposals
April 15, 2014 Announcement of winners
September 1, 2014 Interim report due
January 9, 2015 Final report due
January 14-17, 2015 NCAA Convention and presentation of grant findings

Review process

A committee of NCAA Research staff, NCAA Research Committee members and independent reviewers will evaluate proposals once they have been vetted for completion. Successful and unsuccessful PIs will be notified when the committee has made its decision.

Restrictions, Acknowledgment of Support and Disclaimer

Grant recipients may not disseminate or publish findings from grant research prior to the NCAA Convention in January 2015, but subsequent publications and presentations are encouraged. Such should include the following acknowledgment and support:

“Research for this project was conducted with the support of the NCAA. Any opinions, findings and conclusions are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.”

The 2015 NCAA Convention may include a recording of the research presentations. In conjunction with the Convention presentations, the NCAA may publish the final report for each presentation on its website. In exchange for the final payment, grant recipients give right to the NCAA to disseminate each PI’s final report and a recording of the Convention presentation.

Grant recipients retain legal rights to intellectual property developed during grant funding. The development and dissemination of future deliverables beyond the 2015 NCAA Convention are strongly encouraged, and grant recipients are expected to make results available to the policy and research community concerned with American intercollegiate athletics and student affairs research.


Please direct any questions to Dr. Lydia Bell, Associate Director of Research, at