December 5, 2010

Free Club Volleyball and the NCAA

Hi Coach,

Terrific blog - entertaining and informative!

I am a high school and club coach with a general familiarity with, but by no means a thorough working knowledge of, all of the NCAA eligibility rules. Here's my question. What are the NCAA eligibility implications to a player for receiving a tuition break, free pass, discount etc. for club fees? If that's a "no no" can the implications permissibly be avoided by giving a "scholarship" or "tuition assistance" or "financial aid" to a player? I have heard of these things happening from time to time around me and always thought that letting a player play for free or half-price etc would violate NCAA rules for the PSA by I'm not sure about that and while I have not done it in my club it would be nice to know what is and isn't allowed so we don't hurt any of the kids.

Thanks! WH

Thanks for the compliments on the site and I am glad you enjoy it.

You bring up a good question and one for which I have thought about before. With regards to PSA sport club teams, the NCAA tends to focus on AAU basketball because the renown clubs can almost be semi pro with being sponsored by major shoe companies, players provided all kids of product, etc. I don't know how AUU basketball club fees are structured but I know those teams seem to travel as much as volleyball club teams by playing in national tournaments and having a season ending championship. Maybe the NCAA allows this if the club's costs are provided en masse for all participants by a sponsor?

(But, I will say that at least the NCAA Women's Volleyball coaches dress better than the NCAA Men's Basketball coaches from the pictures which I have seen via ESPN or Fox Sports - In these photos, the major NCAA DI men's basketball head coaches are watching games in long shorts and t-shirts; I can only hope this is because the facilities where they are recruiting may not have air conditioning. If we tried that at a convention center, there would need to be a med station for frostbite because of the sub-zero air conditioning.)

The NCAA amateurism rule can be summarized by, if you receive benefits above necessary expenses then this is a violation. So, if one player does not pay for club but another does, then this is a benefit above expenses? It is quite the gray area because many players don't have the financial resources to play the expensive sport of club volleyball, but it is part and parcel of today's college volleyball development program.

Honestly, I am not too sure how the NCAA would view a PSA confirming on the Amateurism Questionnaire part of the NCAA Clearinghouse process that they received free club volleyball (fees and travel). It may be similar to private high schools awarding athletic scholarships, but I just don't know.

If anything, I believe the NCAA may be turning a blind eye to this specific interpretation of the rules, or the men's basketball coaches would go ballistic - For all the violations and hypocrisy of NCAA Division I men's basketball, they still can be said to significantly influence the NCAA because of the huge championship television contract the NCAA enjoys. Even with all the telephone/texting violations which are rampant in DI men's basketball, the NCAA is considering allowing the calling of high school juniors now, per the suggestion of the men's basketball coaches!

I have heard of some volleyball clubs doing something like "work-study" type of support, where the player receives assistance with fees and travel, but has to work for the club in their pro-shop or facility clean up, or tournament prep. In addition, some clubs may have partnered with community outreach projects via corporations to provide access for financially challenged families into club volleyball. This may be something you could consider with your club, as this would be much 'cleaner' in the eyes of the NCAA.

Once again, it is a gray area within the NCAA because of the large interpretation of expenses. I know for camps, we cannot provide free or reduced camp fees to an individual PSA (any student who has entered 9th grade), but maybe this is because we are a NCAA member.

Not much of a clear answer was it? I think that if you do wish to provide the opportunity for a player(s) to participate in club volleyball who may be a bit short of the financial requirements, then the avenue of 'work-study' is the best route to accomplish this goal and stay within the spirit of NCAA rules.

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