The Rules Around Using a College Recruitment Service

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This is a blog that I've been meaning to write for a while because it's a very common subject when we're speaking with parents regarding their childs college future. It's in regards to what we can and can't offer you in terms of 'guarantees' and the rules and regulations surrounding using a college recruitment company such as Play Atlantic.

So to set the scene, you've decided you wanted to go to the USA to find a sports scholarship and you would like some help with this?

Maybe you've spoken to us before and we've gone through with you our packages, talked about what we can offer you and have gone away to think about your options...

But wait, you go onto Google and have seen that there are a few different companies/individuals that can also help you, and unlike us they are offering you some type of guarantee on finding your child a college sports scholarship. Perhaps they offer 100% guarantees of a sports scholarship, or a money-back guaranteee if they can't find you one, or even a 50% upfront 50% on scholarship offer deal. Some will even give you a written contract telling you this.

So it's a no-brainer, you can sign up with one of those companies to help you find a scholarship with "no risk" because you haven't spent any or much money, right?

Well that's not strictly the case, these companies are actually without you knowing, and in fact in a lot of cases without even them knowing, playing a game of roulette with your childs college eligibility, scholarship and therefore future! 

Why?? Because there is an organisation in America called the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) that have very strict rules in place on literally everything regarding college sport, including the use of a recruitment/scouting service like us and they enforce these rules very thoroughly.  

ncaa logo

For those of you who don't already know about the NCAA, they are the huge organisation based in Indianapolis that governs college sport in the USA.  Their main tasks include providing advice and counsel on the governance and playing rules for student-athletes, interpreting legislation and enforcing NCAA bylaws.  They have over 400 staff members focussed on this and have an annual turnover of over $870,000,000!  Every student that wants to play NCAA college sport must firstly go through the NCAA Eligibility Centre, complete a series of questions and prove that they haven't broken any of their rules in order to be eligible both athletically and academically in order to study and compete.  For some this is an easy process, but for most students this area can be extremely long, lasting several months and hugely underestimated.  The organisation basically decide your future, because a "you're not eligible" from them means you can't compete for the college you want to go to and therefore receive any sports scholarship aid.

Ok so what rules am I referring to?

The NCAA have a compliance manual for every division that highlights the regulations that each student, coach and institution must adhere to, which is over 400 pages long. But here I'll just purely focus on the NCAA division one for you to keep it simple and I'll include the link here to this manual if you want to check that what I'm saying is accurate. Please also be aware that this manual gets updated every year and some rules can be interpreted on a case-by-case basis by the NCAA, but for right now we're all good and I'll try my best not to confuse you..

NCAA By-Law 12.1.1 Amateur Status. An individual loses amateur status and thus shall not be eligible for intercollegiate competition in a particular sport if the individual:

a. Uses his or her athletics skill (directly or indirectly) for pay in any form in that sport;
b. Accepts a promise of pay even if such pay is to be received following completion of intercollegiate athletics participation; 
c. Signs a contract or commitment of any kind to play professional athletics, regardless of its legal enforceability or any consideration received;
d. Receives, directly or indirectly, a salary, reimbursement of expenses or any other form of financial assistance from a professional sports organization based upon athletics skill or participation, except as permitted by NCAA rules and regulations;
e. Competes on any professional athletics team (per Bylaw 12.02.4), even if no pay or remuneration for expenses was received;
f. Subsequent to initial full-time collegiate enrollment, enters into a professional draft (see also Bylaw; or
g. Enters into an agreement with an agent.

Ok so the first issue is this 'agreement with an agent'.  What exactly does that mean? And are we as 'recruitment companies' your 'agents'?

Well yes, and depends strictly speaking on the company and what they are offering you? It gets clearer the further we go, but these three By-laws are key...

By-Law 12.3.1. Use of Agents - General Rule

An individual shall be ineligible for participation in an intercollegiate sport if he or she ever has agreed (orally or in writing) to be represented by an agent for the purpose of marketing his or her athletics ability or reputation in that sport. Further, an agency contract not specifically limited in writing to a sport or particular sports shall be deemed applicable to all sports, and the individual shall be ineligible to participate in any sport.

12.3.3 Athletics Scholarship Agent.

Any individual, agency or organization that represents a prospective student-athlete for compensation in placing the prospective student-athlete in a collegiate institution as a recipient of institutional financial aid shall be considered an agent or organization marketing the individual’s athletics ability or reputation. Talent Evaluation Services and Agents.

A prospective student-athlete may allow a scouting service or agent to distribute personal information (e.g., high school academic and athletics records, physical statistics) to member institutions without jeopardizing his or her eligibility, provided the fee paid to such an agent is not based on placing the prospective student-athlete in a collegiate institution as a recipient of institutional financial aid.

Ok so what does that mean? 

Basically we (Play Atlantic) regardless of whether we refer to ourselves as 'agents', a 'recruitment service' or 'talent evaluation service' are able to promote your athletic/academic records etc to college coaches as long as what the packages that we're offering you aren't under the promise of a sports scholarship.  Obviously that's the goal for you, we know it and the NCAA know that, but it can't be a condition of signing up with us. Which is why we are so fussy when signing students up to either our Premium or Ultimate packages, because unless we're extremely confident of being able to help you, we won't sign you. That's why 99% of our students since 2003 find a college!

However, those companies that you see that do offer those things to you that I referred to at the start, the '100% guarantee' or 'money-back guarantee' or '50% now, 50% after scholarship offer' deals, well that's against NCAA rules guys!  Because what they are offering you is based primarily on securing you a college sports scholarship.

I'm sure you're probably thinking, well so what if it's against the NCAA's rules, we just won't tell them right? Well this is where the roulette table that I referred to earlier comes in, because the NCAA investigates these companies and their students and one-by-one they are penalizing them. Well I say 'them' but what i actually mean is YOU!  Because it won't be the recruitment company that gets fined or penalized for the breaking of these rules, whether you were aware of them or not, it'll be YOU that gets a 'NOT ELIGIBLE' status in your Eligibility Centre application.  And then once you have that they'll be no scholarship offer or college placement because you won't be allowed to play for the college.  Trust me we've heard stories of this happening!

So in a nutshell that's why we don't offer you the same as some of our competitors, it's not because we can't or because we're not confident in finding you what you want, it's because we're protecting you! So I guess you really have to weigh up your choices here and think do you really want to take a chance and sign up with a company that isn't 100% compliant with the NCAA rules like ourselves?


By Sheridan Adams