With major reforms continuing rapidly in college athletics, key rule changes are focused on improving the student-athlete experience. The NCAA is committed to providing a fair, inclusive and fulfilling environment for student-athletes and fans.

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Taking Action

The September 2017 announcement of a federal investigation into fraud in college basketball recruiting made it clear the NCAA needed to make significant changes — and do so quickly. In response to the recommendations issued in April from the Commission on College Basketball, the NCAA’s Board of Governors and Division I Board of Directors are implementing the following changes:

These changes promote integrity, strengthen accountability and prioritize student-athletes.

Succeeding After Graduation

To track the long-term outcomes of previous college athletes, the NCAA collaborated with Gallup Inc. to produce a new report on the college experiences and life outcomes of college graduates who competed in NCAA athletics in Divisions I, II or III.  Gallup interviewed nearly 5,000 former NCAA student-athletes about their college experiences and current well-being, and compared the responses to 69,000 non-student-athlete graduates from the same colleges. They also found that NCAA student-athletes engaged in important undergraduate experiences at higher rates than their non-athlete peers and are more likely to be thriving in many post-college domains.

Division I football players now can play in up to four games without using a year of eligibility

In June 2018, Division I passed a rule allowing college athletes competing in football to participate in up to four games in a season without using a season of competition. Division I student-athletes have five years to compete in up to four seasons of competition. The new exception allows football players to preserve a season of competition if they play in no more than four games. Previously, participation in any game counted as a season of eligibility unless the student-athlete suffered a season-ending injury and played in no more than four games. The new rule puts less pressure on student-athletes to play through injuries and allows younger players to ease into college play.

Getting the Most Out of the Full College Experience

In 2017, Division I increased flexibility in eligibility rules to allow student-athletes to more easily pursue internships and study abroad opportunities. Additionally, the Division I autonomy conferences – the Atlantic Coast, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Southeastern – approved several measures to give student-athletes more discretionary time to better balance their athletics and academic commitments. The remaining schools and conferences in Division I can decide individually whether to adopt the changes. Also in 2017, Division II voted to provide student-athletes additional time off when they’re not competing in their season, and Division III voted to allow student-athletes in track and field and swimming to choose their own day off each week.

Covering what scholarships don't

The autonomy conferences – the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern – redefined athletics scholarships to include the federally reported full cost of attendance. That means student-athletes can receive additional funds to cover the difference between what their athletics scholarship traditionally covered and the additional expenses of attending school. The value of those benefits can differ from campus to campus, and all Division I schools can choose to participate.

Additionally, the $80 million Student Assistance Fund is available to Division I student-athletes for essential needs, from flying home for a funeral or buying a winter coat to purchasing a laptop needed for class.

Staying In the Game

Guaranteeing scholarships regardless of athletic performance or injury offers peace of mind. In 2015, the Division I autonomy conferences did just that – ensuring scholarships no longer could be revoked based on athletic performance or injury. While scholarships can be revoked for other reasons, such as behavioral issues, athletic performance or injury are no longer among those criteria at the 65 autonomy schools. This approach has also been adopted by several conferences outside the autonomy group.

Student-Athlete Voice

Student-athletes have a voice in the NCAA decision-making processes. In Division I, three college athletes from each of the five autonomy conferences vote as part of the governance structure, in addition to other student-athlete representation on the Division I Board of Directors, Council and Council subcommittees. In Division II, two members of the national Student-Athlete Advisory Committee have a vote on the Management Council, and the SAAC also has a vote at the NCAA Convention. Division III athletes have similar Management Council voting power.

Fostering Diversity and Gender Equity

The NCAA believes in and is committed to diversity, inclusion and gender equity among its student-athletes, coaches and administrators. To further that mission, the NCAA’s Board of Governors created the Pledge and Commitment to Promoting Diversity and Gender Equity in Intercollegiate Athletics, which commits those who sign it to achieving ethnic and racial diversity and gender equity in hiring sports practices. Developed out of a member concern for the low representation of racial and ethnic minorities and women in coaching and athletics administration at all levels, the pledge has received widespread support since its launch in 2016, with more than 700 university presidents and almost 100 conferences signing on.

More Opportunities

The NCAA creates opportunities for female student-athletes through the Emerging Sports for Women program. Since 1994, the number of female student-athletes has nearly doubled to more than 211,000 participants. In 2015, beach volleyball was approved for championship status, allowing the sport to become the 90th NCAA championship.