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Terms & Definitions

NCAA Eligibility Center/Clearinghouse:

The NCAA Eligibility Center is an organization that works with the NCAA to determine students’ eligibility for athletics participation in their first year of college enrollment. Students who want to participate in college sports during their first year of enrollment in college must register with the E.C. or Clearinghouse. The E.C. staff follows NCAA bylaws and regulations in analyzing and processing a student’s high school academic records, ACT or SAT scores, and key information about amateurism participation. It is up to the Clearinghouse to determine the student’s initial eligibility.


Contact Period:

It is permissible for authorized athletic department staff members and/or coaches to make in person, off-campus recruiting contacts and evaluations.

Dead Period:

It is not permissible to make in person recruiting contacts, evaluations on or off campus, or permit official or unofficial visits.

Evaluation Period:

It is permissible for authorized athletics department staff to be involved in off-campus activities to assess academic qualifications and playing abilities. No in person, off-campus recruiting contacts with a prospect are permitted.

Quiet Period:

It is permissible to make in person recruiting contacts only on the member institution’s campus.

National Letter of Intent:

The basic idea behind the National Letter of Intent (NLI) is to provide certainty in the recruiting process. Here’s what the National Letter of Intent program means for you: The school that has recruited an athlete agrees to give that athlete an athletic scholarship for one year. The athlete agrees to attend that school for one year. The NLI must be accompanied by an institutional financial aid agreement. Other schools participating in the National Letter of Intent program agree to stop trying to recruit any athlete who signs a NLI. College coaches are not permitted to comment publicly about prospects until they sign a letter of intent. Click here for more information on the NLI.

Verbal Commitment:

A verbal commitment (also called a “verbal”) is a statement by a player to a particular school’s coach that he will sign a letter of intent to go to that school when the next signing period rolls around. It is non-binding. While most schools will back off a player and stop recruiting him once he gives a verbal commitment to another school, not all do, which tends to annoy the coach who got the verbal commitment. Verbal commitments can come very early in the process or just before the official signing periods. Coaches, of course, love getting early verbal commitments.

Core Courses:

Courses required to be completed in order to satisfy academic eligibility requirements. Not all classes taken in high school meet the requirements of a “Core Course.”

Prep School/Military Academy:

If a prospect does not graduate from high school in four years he can enroll in a fifth year of high school at a preparatory school or military academy. The prospect’s high school GPA is locked and can only be improved by retaking courses. A prospect does not lose college eligibility while competing for a prep school or military academy, but will be considered a non- or partial-qualifier when enrolling at an NCAA institution.

Recruiting Calendar:

College coaches are limited at times during the year in how often and in what way they may contact or evaluate prospects.


A student-athlete who does not participate in competition in a sport for an entire academic year. If you do not compete in a sport the entire academic year, you have not used a season of competition. For example, if you are a qualifier, and you attend a four-year college your freshman year, and you practice but do not compete against outside competition, you would still have the next four years to play four seasons of competition.


A term used in the recruiting process to describe situations in which a student-athlete delays initial enrollment in a collegiate institution to the winter or spring term after the traditional academic year begins. Students who ‘grayshirt’ often use the fall to take classes part time or choose not to enroll in college at all.


Prospects’ visits to a college campus are divided into official and unofficial visits.

Official Visit:

Any visit to a college campus by a prospect and his parents paid for by the college. The college may pay for transportation to the campus, a room and three meals per day, “reasonable” entertainment expenses. Prospects can make up to five official visits to different campuses.

Unofficial Visit:

Any visit by a prospect and his parents to a college campus paid for by the prospect or his family. The only expense a prospect may receive from the college is three complimentary admissions to a home athletics contest. Prospects can take an unlimited amount of unofficial visits at any time. The only time prospects cannot talk with a coach during an unofficial visit is during a dead period.


Any athlete who participates on an athletic team without an athletic scholarship is considered a walk on. Walk-ons are not permitted to sign a National Letter of Intent. A “preferred walk-on” is assured a spot on the team, but the athlete is not offered a scholarship.

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