Institute a Clock

On September 20, 2019, in Competitive Experience Recommendations, by Scott Harold

Current State:

A clock is not currently used to limit competitive advantage.



Institute a clock that would allow five years to compete, regardless of ongoing attendance, upon identification at any post-secondary institution. Include a list of enumerated exceptions that would “pause” a student’s clock (e.g. pregnancy, debilitating illness, military service, missions trip, etc.).

NOTE: This change would be recommended should the membership support the prior recommendation of raising the standard for charging seasons for outside competition.



To limit potential competitive advantage gained and encourage students toward graduation, given the combination of raising the standard for charging seasons and  loosening the restrictions that would prevent students with significant outside competition.


Purpose Statements this supports:

  • Simplification and transparency.
  • Ease of application.
  • Support student recruitment, retention, enrollment,  graduation rates, and student experience.
  • Maintain reasonable limitations based on competitive experience.

37 Responses to “Institute a Clock”

  1. Cara says:

    How does the clock prevent internationals from competing at a significantly high level for 3 years prior to ever attending college and then coming to play but having 3 years of heavy experience?

  2. Jorge Perez says:

    The clock is a good idea except for the student-athlete that decides to make a comeback and play again for whatever reason. This also hurts the student that was injured multiple times and possibly red-shirted once and had to take another year off because of injury. There has to be several exceptions besides pregnancy and military service.

  3. Chris McKim says:

    Be careful that you are not restricting non traditional students. Another issue is students caught up in school closures. Again, why close the door on students when schools are desperate for students?

  4. I do not like it, NAIA is unique and different from the NCAA, lets stay that way.

  5. Amy says:

    Would this be replacing the 10 term limit then? I feel like this punishes the athlete who may have made poor choices in the past but hasn’t had a significant enough event to pause the clock. We have a handful of men’s basketball players every season that are way past that 5 year clock but have remaining eligibility so they are with us trying to finally graduate and getting basketball scholarship money to do so. We even had a 60 year old cross country runner one year, isn’t that what the NAIA is good for? Second chances?

    • Ellen Ramsey says:

      Terms of attendance would not automatically be removed from the bylaws. They would still be used for application of eligibility rules such as the 24/36 hour rule. However, you are correct that the clock would effectively eliminate terms of attendance from terminating eligibility. This is because the clock, which would start upon initial identification and last for five years, would expire at the same time or earlier than 10 semester terms of attendance.

  6. Rusty says:

    I believe this proposed rule change would negatively impact many second-chance student-athletes as well as some who may be from lower socio-economic backgrounds who for various family and financial reasons start and stop institutional attendance. Currently, they aren’t charged a semester of attendance while not attending but under this policy, their clock would continue to run while dealing with these issues.

  7. Leave as is. We are in a better position to increase graduation and afford people participation opportunity without the change.

  8. Glen Hill says:

    One of the things that makes the NAIA unique is the opportunity it offers to non-traditional student athletes. How does a clock serve the mission of the NAIA and its member schools? What does it do to enrich student-athlete experience?

  9. I believe we should leave it as is. This is something that sets the NAIA apart from the NCAA and that is a good thing.

  10. Shane Hurley says:

    Leave as is; the NAIA offers unique opportunities to individuals with unique circumstances that would eliminate them from NCAA eligibility. Don’t see a point in narrowing our pool.

  11. Chris Wright says:

    I strongly feel that the NAIA should not institute a clock! Our association often offers student-athletes a second chance at competing in college athletics and obtaining a degree. I think that if a clock was implemented it would severely hurt some of the student-athletes that our institutions serve.

  12. The chargeable seasons of competition rule certainly should be revised and /or eliminated for domestic students. The clock is a problem in that it has a greater effect upon students with less financial means and/or support. Our institutional research has found that our non-traditional students are graduating at a higher rate than our traditional students when we move the calendar out to six years.

  13. Kevin says:

    Instituting a clock in whatever way is one more step towards homogenization of the NAIA and NCAA. Having no clock is one of the great differentiators between the NAIA and the NCAA. The more we look like each other the less need there is for one of us. It is a great thing that we give people second chances and it helps greatly with the diversity on our campuses and subsequently in our programs.

  14. KP says:

    I am in agreement with the majority of comments that instituting a clock would be detrimental to student-athletes. Instituting a clock would also likely require a number of exceptions as well as an increase in appeals to have students compete. The clock rule assumes that student-athletes enroll in college right after high school, and while many do, many more do not. The NAIA has always been unique in allowing more students compete because they look at full-time enrollment in terms, not timeline.

  15. Mike Lee says:

    I believe not having the clock is another important difference of being an NAIA school. It sets us apart from the NCAA, and provides opportunities for those that are eliminated by this rule elsewhere.

  16. Jon says:

    I would be in favor of having a “clock” or maybe an age restriction in the NAIA. Having a clock of 6 years makes more sense than 5, as was mentioned in an above comment – there are better graduation rates on a 6 year calendar. Age restriction could perhaps work better than a clock, as it would still allow for those who got bad advising, or made poor decisions earlier a chance. A good age could be 24 or 25 – meaning they cannot compete if they turn that age before a certain date. This would help with competitive advantage situations.

  17. Leave the 10 semester eligibility rule as is without a clock. This is the NAIA niche. We have given many young adults an opportunity to get their education while receiving a scholarship to play a sport. I know for a fact that we have had at least a dozen student athletes that have played for us and graduated! They would not have attended school without that chance to play the sport they love again!

  18. Erin says:

    Keep the clock out of the NAIA.

  19. Adrian says:

    Leave as is. Clock will affect negatively

  20. Ricky says:

    A clock, in whatever fashion, would put the NAIA in similar recruiting ground with the NCAA. We must find recruiting advantages over the NCAA not, limit our institutions.

  21. In our conference, and I suspect many others, the number of first time college attending students continues to grow. Addtionally, many of the first generation students are often coming to campuses with less financial certainty than ever before and need to “stop” out from time to time to work or help with family expenses. A clock would jeopardize the ability of this population, which data shows is increasing nationally, to receive athletic related aid and realize the dream of a college education.

  22. Twiggs Reed says:

    I recommend leaving as is. One of the strengths of the NAIA is that we are not the NCAA. Like many have said before me, the greatest advantage of the current system, it allows a student who for whatever reason, that did not finish their college experience at an earlier time, to come back to school to ultimately receive their degree.

  23. Pat Atwell says:

    I would need to be further convinced that a clock is a good idea in the NAIA. Maybe it is because I have always worked at the NCAA DII level or the NAIA level so it would be foreign to me.

    I think a lot of students of benefited from not having a clock in our association.

  24. Ed Lehotak says:

    Disagree with instituting a clock in the NAIA. We feel it is a unique advantage that the NAIA has in recruiting student athletes that started their post secondary education and for various reasons had to take a break. This is a population that no other athletic association has the ability to market like the NAIA does.

  25. I agree, leave as is – no clock. As many others have noted, if the opportunity to participate in any sport continues to bring a student back to campus despite (whatever) factors causes them to “stop out” I think we should allow them to do so. While a 25-30 y.o. may have some competitive advantages over an 18 y.o., unless they have been training and are in excellent physical condition, youth also has its advantages.

  26. Jesse says:

    Despite the fact this proposal is paired with the proposal concerning the standard for outside competitive experience I strongly encourage the NAIA to find another means to satisfy the previous proposal.

    First, NCAA Div II and Div III currently operate on ten semester policies the same as the NAIA. A negative recruiting advantage is created by institution of a clock. What student-athlete would forego a year (or two) of competition to compete at an NAIA institution when the opportunity to fulfill all years of competition exists at another association’s institutions.

    Second, anecdotally, from experience and the previous comments, NAIA institutions have a mass of student-athletes who are non-traditional. Individuals. These are (sometimes multiple) transfers, or individuals who have faced socio-economic or life issues resulting in time away from post-secondary attendance. By instituting a clock the NAIA would damage (not enhance) the opportunity to “Support student recruitment, retention, enrollment, graduation rates, and student experience.” It would be disappointing to see the NAIA curtail the tradition of giving opportunity to second and third chance student-athletes who recognize their situation and are grateful for the opportunity to compete and graduate from an NAIA institution.

    Third, instituting a clock encourages coaches to treat student-athletes as a tool to be tossed away when the clock expires. Legislation putting institutions in the position of using student-athletes for one or two years until their clock expires and then cutting financial aid thereby depriving most of these individuals the means to complete a degree, is antithetical to the spirit of the NAIA. While the practice of abandoning student-athletes who have completed eligibility may occur under the current semester rule it would seem to be exacerbated by instituting a clock, all to the detriment of the student-athlete.

    Question: Is there a particular student population or sport that requires linking the proposal for standard of outside competitive experience to institution of a clock? If so, is there a manner in which to deal with that population or sport without a clock? Or put a clock on that population?

  27. Lisa says:

    Essentially a clock requires students to go through college without any breaks in enrollment. While this is our wish for students, it simply isn’t reality for many of them. First generation college students and those from low socio-economic situations aren’t always able to go through college in four years. Family and financial issues often force them to “stop out” completely or go down to part-time. When they are ready to return to school full-time, many of them depend on athletic scholarships to make college affordable. Others may not struggle to pay for college, but simply aren’t successful in their first attempt for any number of reasons. Often a year or two working or volunteering helps them to pinpoint a major/career, and they return to college with a renewed sense of purpose that fuels success in athletics as well as academics. A five year clock hurts both of these groups of students and may actually decrease graduation rates.

  28. Don says:

    Leave the rule as it is so that we don’t prohibit older athletes from opportunities to compete, and it gives us an advantage over the NCAA.

  29. David says:

    The comments on Minimum Participation (20% rule) seem mostly positive while the comments on this scenario are almost completely negative. In a TOA system (current NAIA rule) WITH the addition of the Minimum Participation, students could participate in more than one academic year without burning seasons so if the Minimum Participation rule is explored without the five-year “clock” there may have to be a limit on the number of times the Minimum Participation rule can apply. One-semester sport athletes could find a way to compete in six or more seasons within the rules, which I think is outside of the intent of these proposals.

    Minimum Participation without this “clock” doesn’t work as it is written, in our opinion.

  30. Rob Ramseyer says:

    I appreciate the rationale of this proposal but I do not think I would support it. I think there would be a lot of exceptions and challenges to this policy because students take breaks for many different reasons. Many schools within the NAIA provide second chance opportunities to students that have had to take breaks. I can think of a few student-athletes at our institution that this would negatively impact that had life circumstances happen that held them out for awhile.

  31. Byron says:

    We’ve had any number of students, athletes or not, who have started school, left school for various reasons, and eventually come back. Our goal should be to accommodate that however possible. This proposed rule would take away at least one incentive for athletes.

  32. Not do not institute a clock in the NAIA!!!! It would have a very negative effect on the NAIA.

  33. Jim Abbott says:

    I don’t personally favor the idea of the “clock.” For many of the reasons already stated including:

    1. Puts us at a competitive disadvantage with D2 and D3 (already our primary competition).
    2. Does not consider the life changes that students face…and that the NAIA has traditionally accommodated.

    I understand why a clock is tied to the 20% rule…because their is fear that schools will use this rule in some devious way that could allow students to participate in 5 or 6 different seasons. The fact is that this could happen now if there were some medical hardship that occurred. Additional seasons of competition are routinely granted for this.

    The idea of the 20% rule is to allow schools to play students (and not count their aid against the limit) who might otherwise not get to play. Personally, I favor what D2 does now. Don’t count ALL institutional aid against the limit, only count athletic aid against the limit. This allows schools to recruit expanded rosters and not have to count students that receive institutional aid that is tied only to academics.

  34. I am not in favor of the clock, but would be in favor of an age limit. I really like the idea of being able to stop a clock by attending part-time. I look at soccer and see 25 year old+ running around field and it is just a competitive disadvantage. Under new legislation being proposed a student could play for many year as they wish in another country as long as it wasn’t professional and then start attending a college. So presumably they could be any age.

    I think age limit over a clock is better

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