Current State:

Seasons of competition are charged for participation in “elite-level” competition, as defined by the evaluative criteria.

The criteria restrict students who have competed in high-level experiences. However, the current approach also has a variety of drawbacks:

  • The criteria can result in students being charged for experiences that are not considered high-level by sport experts but do technically meet the criteria.
  • Evaluation of leagues must often rely on information provided by sources that often change once a decision is rendered, including league officials who may have a conflict of interest.
  • The criteria differ based on team vs. individual sports, leading to inequities in competitive opportunities for different student-athletes.
  • Reviews require a significant amount of time by eligibility center staff, the Competitive Experience Committee, and campus personnel.

When compared to other associations, the NAIA’s current rule is often more student-centered than those of the NCAA, leading to many students having eligibility available in the NAIA when they would not in the NCAA. The NJCAA has expressed interest in pursuing a model similar to that of the NAIA’s evaluative criteria, given their concerns that international students dominate their own championships. The committee agrees that, in theory, the current approach may be ideal. However, in application, it has limited gains for high costs.



Discontinue the use of the evaluative criteria to determine if any given league or event is chargeable. Instead, raise the standard to trigger charging seasons of competition to professional competition. Professional competition is to be defined as actual competition for a professional team/league or in professional events. It should not include other acts associated with professional teams/leagues such as coaching, signing a contract but never playing, or other amateurism considerations like receiving remuneration for appearance as a student-athlete, etc.

NOTE: Existing components of amateurism, including reinstatement, would continue to exist and be the responsibility of the NAIA institution.



To provide clarity and simplify the application of non-collegiate seasons of competition. To raise the standard by which students are charged seasons, thereby allowing current and prospective student-athletes to compete somewhat more freely in outside competition.


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.
  • Maintain reasonable limitations based on competitive experience.

25 Responses to “Raise the Standard for Outside Competitive Experience”

  1. Karen Graves says:

    I agree with these proposed changes. Part of the problem is that student-athletes at Junior College or overseas are not being advised well, so when they transfer or first identify at an NAIA institution, they have already played in at elite-level and did not know that it could affect his/her eligibility.

    The student-athletes are following the advise of a coach or school administrator and then finding out when they get to the NAIA institution that it was the wrong advise and are now ineligible. It punishes the student-athlete.

  2. Jorge Perez says:

    I agree – some students lose a season of competition because they played in a league that does not necessarily give them a competitive advantage. I would agree that these leagues have to be legit where students really are heads above another player their same year or age because of the leagues that they played in.

  3. Kris Swogger says:

    I agree with the proposed changes. If the intent of the current rule is to keep competition fair, the rule is failing miserably. Across the NAIA there are students that compete, and win both team and individual championships, that played at an elite level but are not charged a SOC while students that played at a low level (YMCA type leagues) are being penalized and have to sit until they earn enough credits to compete. The more competitive the league, the better the administrators of those leagues are at the language on their websites and on what they report to the NAIA to ensure their participants are able to go on and compete in college. For the lower level leagues they typically “hype up” the competition, coaching, schedule, etc. to give their organization credibility not knowing the impact that it will have on the students that are participating. Both the way that the leagues are evaluated and the time that it takes to make these decisions are huge issues, and under the current model the students are the ones that suffer the penalty. A more consistent and transparent process is needed.

  4. Eric Duda says:

    I disagree with the rule changes. This seems to be a cop out. Instead of doing due diligence as a coach/staff, just lower the bar so its easier to tell. I think more questionable athletes will be allowed to play under the proposed changes. The NCAA has their coaches take a yearly recruiting test before you can talk to PSA’s, why can’t the onus be on the coaches at the NAIA as well?

  5. In baseball it is situation of professional vs amateur . When a player plays in a amateur summer baseball league he should nor be charged a season of competition. If he is being paid the yes. The NCAA does not charge players for summer baseball but we do if the player breaks attendance thus we are at a disadvantage . With so many of our institutions being enrollment driven we cannot afford a rule that can effect enrollment.

  6. Luke Rencher says:

    Elite competition is poorly defined. If a player wants to go to school but can’t afford to and plays a few very minor tournaments, or leagues he/she can lose a year of eligibility which will further discourage him or her from going to school. In my experience, most of these “elite competitions” should not be defined as such. They really only involve people just wanting to have fun and only very small amounts of money are involved, if any. The definition of elite competition is skewed to take away eligibility from a potential student-athlete which will make it impossible for him or her to enjoy college sports. I believe it is putting the NAIA in a bad light by making it too hard for people to be eligible even though that is not the intention.

  7. Shane Hurley says:

    Elite competition needs to be clearly defined prior to implementing any change. We don’t want to see athletes in any sport being punished for playing in a summer ball program or elite club program.

    • Ed Loeb says:

      The phrase “Elite Level” would be removed under this proposal. It would be replaced with “Professional Competition” which is defined as playing for/in a professional league or team or in professional level events.

  8. I support the changes put forward. But as most have said we must clearly define Elite Competition. We should be clear about what “professional” encompasses too in the circumstances we are discussing.

  9. Kevin says:

    Definitely support the changes proposed.

  10. I support the changes toward the “professional standard.” As a governing body the NAIA should not put institutions at a disadvantage in recruiting student-athletes. Summer baseball is a big issue, and competition in amateur baseball during the summer should not be chargeable. In other sports we cannot charge international students a season at the “D” level while the NCAA is not charging seasons when student-athletes play at the “A” level (ex. Italian basketball). When a basketball or baseball player can play at the NCAA Division I or II level, but cannot play at the NAIA level it puts our institutions at a recruiting disadvantage.

  11. Mike Lee says:

    I would agree with this rule change, but I would also wonder how national teams are viewed in this area. It is certainly a high level of competition, but there is often a mix of amateurs and professionals on these teams. How would this be addressed? Losing a season of competition because an athlete played a tournament for their country seems to be a stiff price to pay for patriotism.

  12. KP says:

    I support the proposed change to trigger professional competition. I would also propose that the eligibility center be the ones to determine amateurism and professional. At this time, the institutions are the ones who make this determination and I believe when a student-athlete is receiving their determination, the EC should be making that distinction. There will be cases where institutions may have to do the decision-making, but I think for the most part, it should be the EC.

  13. Brandon says:

    I support this change. We need to open up the NAIA to elite an athlete as possible who wants to pursue an education. Why deny them that opportunity? Plus, it will open us to even more athletes that the NCAA cannot pursue. I think we should provide as many prospective students the opportunity to play a sport and get an education as possible.

  14. Erin says:

    I agree with the proposed change; however, language needs to be clarified regarding amateur participation in pro-am events (ex: golf, track&field, etc…).

  15. Adrian says:

    I support the changes as in baseball we have to many student athletes who lose eligibility over playing in a summer league that has no “professional” ties

  16. Ricky says:

    This change would definitely move towards better transparency, simplicity and can create a recruiting advantage over NCAA eligibility standards.

  17. Twiggs Reed says:

    I like the proposed rule change. There are so many different levels of outside competition, and it is very hard to track.

    As long as the student is an amateur, I am all for the rule change.

  18. Pat Atwell says:

    I really like this modification. Clear and simple.

  19. A lot of talk about team sports but golf is one which is currently impacting student athletes severely. If an amateur plays in professional tournaaments as an amateur it could cost him or her a season of competition under existing rules. Simply playing in that tournament should not cost a student a season when playing as an amateur so my concern is if his is “professional competition” we could still be hurting student athletes participating in golf. There needs to be an amateur golf clause.

  20. Don says:

    I agree with Kris Swogger. Also, Ashley makes a good point about golf competition, and the same problem exists for tennis. I believe the EC should make the decision on professional competition so it is more objective.

  21. Rob Ramseyer says:

    I like this change. It is very clear and appears simple.

  22. Blair Reid says:

    The current competitive experience criteria hurts the recruitment of ALL students, especially international student athletes. Well done NAIA. Glad to read we are heading in a direction that will not penalize these students, and continue to give the NCAA a recruiting edge. The NCAA does simplify the competitive issue. If a student proves his/her amateurism, they are eligible. If a student is playing at a high level, on a competitive team, in a competitive league…as long as the team or league is designated as amateur they can be eligible. NCAA allows for reimbursement for game related expenses, NCAA allows student athletes to compete as amateurs on Olympic teams, and participate as amateurs in other international competitions for their country. NAIA penalizes prospective student athletes for game related expense reimbursement, playing in a competitive amateur league, or playing for one’s country, even as an amateur. Great job revising this eligibility issue. The “selectivity” criteria as applied is a killer to prospective recruits. Glad to see that go!

  23. I agree with this if it is passed together with an age limit