Current State:

Seasons of competition are currently charged for any singular moment of participation in an intercollegiate contest. An exception is in place for students who compete “unattached.”

Layers of non-linear rules (e.g., 12-month window, summer competition after May 15, different thresholds of charging for individual vs. team sports, unattached exception, Post-Secondary Amateur Year (PSAY), in-progress seasons) make application of the competitive experience regulations quite complex, time consuming and difficult to understand or predict the outcome. These factors make it difficult for campuses to apply the rules correctly and consistently for continuing students.



A student must compete in at least 20% of the scheduling limitations (contests or dates as listed in NAIA Bylaws Article I, Section G, Item 1) to be charged a season of competition for NAIA intercollegiate participation. The unattached exception would be eliminated, as the underlying intention of the exception would be satisfied by the 20% allowance of competition.



To remove the complexities and inequities surrounding unattached competition while enabling institutions to provide opportunities for student-athletes to participate. Such opportunities support student-athlete recruitment, retention, experience, and wellness.


Purpose Statements this supports:

  • Simplification and transparency.
  • Ease of application.
  • Strengthen recruitment opportunities for NAIA institutions against NCAA DII and DIII institutions.
  • Support student recruitment, retention, enrollment, graduation rates and student experience.

21 Responses to “Minimum Participation Requirements for Intercollegiate Seasons”

  1. One of the toughest things we have to do is to explain to a first year player that you played 1 inning of a jv game or 2 varsity games and our being charged a season of competition for it when they ask about red shirting. If that young man can red shirt and still have 4 years of eligibility it helps with enrollment and helps feel he can still have a successful career on the diamond

  2. Amy Engilis says:

    I worry about the record keeping of it all. I imagine looking back retroactively at seasons to determine the 20% will be time consuming. Will an athlete need to request not being charged a season? Or will we have to not charge a season for all athletes who did not hit that 20% mark? Will this count in addition to redshirt years where athletes were not eligible to play and sat out? Will there be a time limit for the request? For example, can a senior come to us and say “I didn’t play 20% of games my freshman year so I can have another season?”
    Sorry, mostly questions and not comments, but I wonder about logistics.

    • Ellen Ramsey says:

      Q: Will an athlete need to request not being charged a season or will we have to not charge a season for all athletes who did not hit that 20% mark?
      A: The 20% minimum would be tracked and applied by the institution. A separate request would not be required.

      Q: Will this count in addition to redshirt years where athletes were not eligible to play and sat out?
      A: Students who do not compete are not charged a season of competition and that would not change with this proposal. Medical hardships would remain in place, although NAIA staff recognizes that additional discussion is needed to determine exactly how medical hardships and the proposed minimum participation requirements could potentially affect each other.

      Q: Will there be a time limit for the request? For example, can a senior come to us and say “I didn’t play 20% of games my freshman year so I can have another season?”
      A: The committee would still need to determine an effective date for the proposal. The effective date will determine whether students could possibly be awarded back seasons of competition from past experience. If the effective date is only for competition that occurs from a certain date moving forward, students would not be able to regain previously used seasons of competition.

  3. Kevin says:

    Though tracking participation would be cumbersome, I am in favor of this proposal but with a change to increase the percentage from 20% to perhaps 25%-30%. At the NCAA D1 level in the sport of football one may participate in 4 games and not have the season count against him. This is a much higher percentage of participation that 20%. Also, at an increased percentage then the need for having legislation on hardships may be a moot point.

  4. I support this concept, but maybe we put actual numbers for each sport like we do for the number of total contests. The number could be around that 20% mark. I like the idea of four football games, seven basketball games and seven volleyball games etc. That would be a more clear number and we could get that information from coaches/SIDs each season.

  5. Mike Lee says:

    I look at this from a few different angles… Baseball/Softball – you have a pitcher that only participates in 10 games, which is below the 20% threshold, can still be a significant contributor to the team’s season. He/She may be the mid-week starter for over two months and accumulate 5-60 innings without being charged a season. Position players are obviously different… Other sports I think it hits the mark by allowing some participation, helps retain a level of enthusiasm for school and sport, and as long as it stays within the 4 season/10 semester rules, I think it can help graduation rates as well.

  6. KP says:

    Although I am in favor of this, percentages can be tricky, especially if we consider outdoor sports. Would the 20% be of the original schedule, the actual schedule, or the maximum allowable for each sport? There could be instances where a coach has the intention of playing a student-athlete in less than 20% of the season, but if weather doesn’t allow games to be played, that student-athlete could be charged.

  7. Jon says:

    I am a fan of this. 20% is a good number. Hopefully this would also mean that the student-athlete’s participation would not count against Institutional Aid Limits? To me, the issue is not the season of competition, it’s more the institutional aid limits. Having something similar to the “Rule of 3” in all sports would benefit institutions and help with retention. Let a student-athlete play in up to 20% of the season and not count toward institutional aid limits. Whether they are charged a season of competition or not is of less importance. By not counting it towards institutional aid, you let student-athletes participate in some games, and might be more likely to stay in school.

  8. I 100% believe this would be a positive change for NAIA student athletes. My only concern would be the tracking process. A major issue would be JV schedules and JV players. How would we track if they played in JV games? Most schools do not list statistics for JV games. My recommendation is to not charge student athletes a season of competition for playing JV games. Does it really give them a competitive advantage? They still need to follow the 10 semester rule for varsity. The only drawback is a student athlete could play 5 seasons total if one season played was JV only. This would create niche at the NAIA level and promote retention within each institution.

  9. Erin says:

    This sounds favorable, but the NAIA will need to convert this to an exact number of competitions per sport to prevent. Is it 20% they can compete in or is it 20% of the season? (Ex: baseball would be 11 games, can they compete in that 11th game?) Also, how will play dates be handled like in softball and volleyball?

  10. Adrian says:

    Agree 20% is a much better standard than “1 play. 1 snap, 1 Pitch” Believe 20% allows for a positive impact on a students ability to truly fulfill a true college experience

  11. Pat Atwell says:

    I really like this idea.

    Would this apply for only varsity contests? Can a student-athlete compete in JV or reserve contests without burning a season of competition or would the 20% rule be enforced for these JV contests as well?

    Clarifying that is a question. Once that is done I think the spirit if this rule is a positive move for the NAIA.

    • Ellen Ramsey says:

      At this time, the committee’s proposal would be to count any intercollegiate contest toward the 20%, including junior varsity.

  12. Ed Lehotak says:

    I am in favor of the rule. Do have a question though. How does this rule apply to outdoor sports. Is the 20% on actual games played or games scheduled?

    • Ellen Ramsey says:

      The minimum participation requirement would apply only to NAIA intercollegiate participation. This component of the recommendation would not affect how outside seasons of competition are charged.

  13. Jesse says:

    The intent of the proposal is a positive as “Such opportunities support student-athlete recruitment, retention, experience, and wellness.”

    The wording “A student must compete in at least 20% of the scheduling limitations” should be reworded to “greater than 20%” to avoid the confusion of whether participation equal to 20% is a trigger. The intent of the proposal appears to be a 20% allowance of participation for the student-athlete.

    With this proposal there would be an assumption that the FATF would make a recommendation to not count the individuals institutional aid. This would seem to be the only manner in which certain sports would be able to fulfill the intent of the proposal to “support student-athlete recruitment, retention, experience, and wellness.”

  14. Lisa says:

    We work with our student-athletes to have success in the classroom, and that means the majority of them graduate in eight semesters. Because we don’t have graduate programs, only a handful of our students each year would benefit from this rule change.

  15. Don says:

    I support this change.

  16. David says:

    In this 20% scenario, how will countable aid be applied? Will all participating students, whether or not the season is charged, apply to countable. This is the most important consideration that we’ve discussed in our department that hasn’t already been mentioned in the comments.

    We also question how JV schedules / athletes will be tracked since many JV programs may not even schedule enough games to invoke the 20% situation. Stats and records are not tracked equitably between sports or between institutions in such non-varsity contests.

    We think this would have to coincide with the “5-year clock” scenario. I do not think this proposal works in the NAIA’s current TOA rules. Overall, the impact on unattached competition only significantly limits wrestling and track & field student-athletes which could see a significant reduction in competition vs. the current unattached regulations. These limits could result in costs savings for some programs with large track and wrestling rosters as they will not be able to travel students to as many events if they want to retain the season.

    Again, our biggest concern is related to countable aid. Who counts? Who doesn’t? Students that impact games and championships could potentially not experience a season or count toward fin. aid limits. It may be beneficial to state that participation in any NAIA recognized postseason competition waives the 20% rule, similar to how the medical hardship legislation is presented currently.

  17. Rob Ramseyer says:

    I think there will be alot of logistical difficulties and unforeseen consequences to this one. If we had full time compliance staffs this would be good but that is not the reality of most of our institutions. Our current policy, while it has its obvious drawbacks, is clearer and simpler to manage.

  18. I like the concept, but worry about the tracking

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