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Recruiting 101
Amateur Issues

One of the principles that college sports was founded upon was that of amateur competition. In the eyes of all three collegiate governing bodies, student-athletes participating in collegiate athletics should be amateurs. Over the years the line that defines amateur and professional has become less clear. It is easier than you think to lose your eligibility for participation in collegiate sports. The rules can be somewhat confusing. Whatever you do, do not sign off on any forms at a competition that state you are a professional. You will become ineligible for college sports. A player (student-athlete) starting play in a tournament as an amateur remains an amateur for the purposes of that tournament.

When you register with NCAA Eligibility Center, you will be asked questions about your participation in tennis to help determine your amateur status. For more than 90% of student-athletes who register are automatically certified. Sometimes the Eligibility Center may need to gather more information in order to evaluate your amateur status.

According to the NCAA, the following activities may impact your amateur status:

  • Signing a contract with a professional team (World Team Tennis)
  • Playing with professionals
  • Participating in tryouts or practices with a professional team
  • Accepting payments or preferential benefits for playing sports
  • Accepting prize money above your expenses
  • Accepting benefits from an agent or prospective agent
  • Agreeing to be represented by an agent or
  • Delaying your full-time college enrollment to play in organized sports competitions

If you plan on entering a NCAA D-I or D-II school in the fall, you may request an amateurism certification decision from the Eligibility Center on or after April 1, before your enrollment. If you plan on attending for the spring semester, you may request a decision on or after October.

To make the subject of amateurism even more confusing, each NCAA Division as well as each sport has specific rules that govern amateur status. You must become familiar with the rules that govern tennis. Some can be in conflict with the NCAA rules. If college tennis is your goal, you need to be VERY careful of what you do.

If you want to play D-I or D-II athletics, you must be certified as an amateur athlete through NCAA Eligibility Center. Each school in D-III certifies the amateur status of the player rather than the Eligibility Center.


Summary of Amateur Regulation

Prior to initial full-time enrollment NCAA D‑I NCAA D‑II NCAA D‑III NJCAA
Accept prize money? Yes. If it does not exceed $10,000 per calendar year and comes from the sponsor of the event. Once the $10,000 limit is reached, additional prize money may not exceed actual and necessary expenses and the expenses are provided by the sponsor of the event or, the team in which the individual represents Yes Actual and necessary expenses No
Receive benefits from agent? No No No No
Enter into an agreement with an agent (oral or written)? No No No No
Delay full-time enrollment?

If you are charged with season(s) of competition under this rule, you will also have to serve an academic year in residence at the NCAA school.
Must enroll full time during the first regular academic term that occurs following the six-month period after high school graduation. Must enroll full time during the first regular academic term that occurs following the one-year period after high school graduation or you will lose one season of intercollegiate competition for each calendar year during which you continue to participate in organized competition N/A N/A

Educate yourself with the rules and regulations before entering any event that awards prize money. Accepting cash or cash equivalent may have a drastic effect on your college eligibility. If you have any questions or concerns about amateurism, it is best to check the USTA Rules and Regulations regarding Amateur Status - to make sure that you have not crossed the line too soon. Athletes can be reinstated to amateur status, but the process can be a lengthy one.

For additional information, log on to the Eligibility Center's website - then click on "Resources" link at the top. You will be asked about your participation in tennis events. The information will be scrutinized by the eligibility center and then a decision will be made as to whether or not you'll be considered an amateur. You have the right to appeal the decision. Be honest in our answers.


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About Dede Allen

Dede Allen is a world-renowned college recruiting expert who is intimately familiar with both college and junior tennis. Allen was head coach of the Wake Forest University women's tennis team for seven years, and she was named ACC Coach of the Year in 1987. Since her college coaching days, Allen served the USTA for over 14 years as Administrator for USA Tennis Junior Competition and liaison to the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA. Allen is the author of three books on recruiting, including the USTA Guide for Prospective College Athletes, the recently-revised Collegiate Guide for High School Tennis Players, and the Collegiate Guide for High School Athletes. Today, Allen presents seminars throughout the country to prospective college tennis players.

Allen writes a periodic column at TennisRecruiting.net where she provides advice and answers your questions. You can submit a question to Dede for her to answer directly - or in a future column.

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Page updated on Monday, November 04, 2019
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