Reader Questions: Medical Hardships, Recruitment, Scholarships, and Living Arrangements

COLUMBIA, SC - NOVEMBER 26: Tajh Boyd #10 of the Clemson Tigers drops back to pass against the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Today we discuss some excellent questions posed by STS reader Pawprintmom. As always, we encourage questions and try to answer them to the best of our abilities as time allows. Now that our grind of football posts is dwindling, we can do these. Most of the items below address NCAA bylaws, rules, and regulations. In analysis portions, I provide information as I understand and interpret it. If anyone questions or has a different perspective/interpretation of the rules, please let us know so that we can make corrections (if needed) or clear up any ambiguity. Questions are in bold italics. As always, we encourage questions and site interaction. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask!

When are medical red shirt exceptions given, immediately after a player's injury or at the end of his/her NCAA eligibility?

The NCAA refers to instances in which athletes are awarded additional eligibility due to injury or illness as medical hardships. Such hardship wavers are awarded following the season in which the athlete applies for the waiver. Hence, the athlete typically applies for and is either awarded or denied the hardship waiver shortly after the injury or illness that causes missed competition. Occasionally cases arise in which the NCAA will retroactively award a waiver, so these hardship waivers sometimes take longer than one offseason or academic year to fully resolve.

Eligibility for a medical hardship is defined via NCAA Bylaw 14.2.4. In order to qualify for a medical hardship, the athlete must not have participated in more than three (3) athletic contests or 30% of the team's contests, whichever is greater. The participation had to be prior to the season's halfway point. Please note that various portions of this section were adjusted between 2007 and 2009. Prior to these changes, this participation percentage was 20%, which you will commonly still see in various publications. Because the rules are dictated by a percentage of play in a season, additional eligibility is awarded following the season. Teams typically apply for these hardships sooner rather than later (often prior to the season or immediately after an early season injury) so that a fact finding effort can occur sooner rather than later and a ruling expedited.

Per the bylaws, athletes seeking hardship waivers petition their conferences, who evaluate situations per NCAA rules. Independent teams petition the NCAA directly. The athlete can petition the NCAA to review the case directly if a player's hardship waiver is denied.

Per the NCAA bylaws found here http://www.ncaapublications.com/productdownloads/D110.pdf

14.2.4 Hardship Waiver. A student-athlete may be granted an additional year of competition by the conference or the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement for reasons of "hardship." Hardship is defined as an incapacity resulting from an injury or illness that has occurred under all of the following conditions: (Revised:8/8/02, 11/1/07 effective 8/1/08)

Details of how this rule is applied can be found in subsections of 14.2.4.

Here is a pretty good overview of the whole medical hardship concept from Va Tech circa 1998: http://www.techsideline.com/football/medicalredshirt.html

Typical guidelines for medical hardship requests (again, more from VT prior to the rule change from 20% to 30%): http://www.athletics.vt.edu/compliance/competition/seasons.html

Here is an example of a Medical Hardship Petition form. These should be fairly standard across all NCAA conferences.

http://www.gobearkats.com/fls/19900/pdf/slc29medical.pdf?&DB_OEM_ID=19900

Here is a Big 12 release that further defines the subject and addresses how to handle such cases: https://admin.xosn.com/pdf6/104652.pdf?DB_OEM_ID=600

Though we have seen it happen that schools wait until after a player's final or Jr year to petition for the medical RS, it can be done now.

In early Sammy interviews, he talked about being recruited as a sophomore and junior. I thought schools had a limited time before they could actually contact recruits. In swimming, everyone talks about how the phones start ringing at 5 am on July 1st. Is football different?

The NCAA discussed recruiting in Section 13 of its bylaws. 13.02.11 reads as follows:

13.02.11 Prospective Student-Athlete. A prospective student-athlete is a student who has started classes for the ninth grade. In addition, a student who has not started classes for the ninth grade becomes a prospective student-athlete if the institution provides such an individual (or the individual's relatives or friends) any financial assistance or other benefits that the institution does not provide to prospective students generally.

This section goes on to explain when a prospect is no longer a "prospective student-athlete" as well. I believe that a school can contact a student athlete at any point it wishes, which depends on his age/grade, but not in any manner it wishes (e.g., phone vs facebook). It is very difficult, however, to judge an athlete's ability until he/she has matured which is generally around his/her Soph/Jr season. Because programs do have limited recruiting resources, it is less common for schools to begin actively and aggressively recruiting a player until the 10th or 11th grade. That being said, schools can contact and even offer scholarships at any point but the NCAA has quite a few rules regarding communication means. These rules do change and changed last year with verbal vs. written offers. During this interview with Wake Forest basketball player Melvin Tabb, Tabb talks about picking up his first scholarship offer in the 8th grade.

There are various key recruiting concepts that define when an institution may contact a player. I believe the latter part of the question is in reference to these recruiting periods. These are defined in section 13.02.4 of the NCAA guidelines:

13.02.4 Recruiting Periods.

13.02.4.1 Contact Period. A contact period is a period of time when it is permissible for authorized athletics department staff members to make in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts and evaluations.

13.02.4.2 Evaluation Period. An evaluation period is a period of time when it is permissible for authorized athletics department staff members to be involved in off-campus activities designed to assess the academic qualifications and playing ability of prospective student-athletes. No in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts shall be made with the prospective student-athlete during an evaluation period.

13.02.4.3 Quiet Period. A quiet period is a period of time when it is permissible to make in-person recruiting contacts only on the institution's campus. No in-person, off-campus recruiting contacts or evaluations may be made during the quiet period.

13.02.4.4 Dead Period. A dead period is a period of time when it is not permissible to make in-person recruiting contacts or evaluations on or off the institution's campus or to permit official or unofficial visits by prospective student-athletes to the institution's campus. The provision of complimentary admissions to a prospective student-athlete during a dead period is prohibited, except as provided in Bylaw 13.7.2.5 for a prospective student-athlete who visits an institution as part of a group. During a dead period, a coaching staff member may not serve as a speaker at or attend a meeting or banquet at which prospective student-athletes are in attendance, except as provided in Bylaw 13.1.9.1, and may not visit a prospective student-athlete's educational institution. It remains permissible, however, for an institutional staff member to write or telephone a prospective student athlete during a dead period. (Revised: 1/11/94)

The NCAA releases a recruiting calendar each year that categorizes each day of the year based on the above definitions. Here is a link to the NCAA Football recruiting calendar and here is a color-coded football recruiting calendar. This is common for all sports, including swimming. If you are interested in other recruiting periods, the NCAA provides those also. We are now in a full-swing contact period that lasts roughly til Christmas.

There are rules that outline interaction between a prospective student-athlete and an institution. There are also a lot of exceptions to these rules. Because of all these exceptions, I'll refer you back to section 13 of the bylaws for individual sports and the athlete's classification as it relates to recruiting so that I don't misspeak on a particular circumstance.

How many players with eligibility typically leave each season for whatever reason? And, is getting kicked off the team an unusual occurrence? Can a scholarship be taken away for poor performance-on the field or in the classroom?

The number of scholarship players with eligibility who leave following each season really varies from school to school and from situation to situation. For instance, a coaching change is likely to result in players leaving a program due to a shift in coaching philosophies. Stable programs generally only see defectors because of issues pertaining to playing time, due to personal issues typically non-related to the athletic program, and/or by recommendation of a coaching staff.

Athletic scholarships are awarded annually and are guaranteed for one year only. Consequently, a school can refuse to renew an athletic scholarship on a year to year basis for any reason it sees fit. This annual rule is why you typically see walk-ons receive scholarships just prior to final enrollment and realize that these scholarships are not guaranteed from year to year. The reason walk-ons are given those scholarships, instead of us saving the $$, is because you must remain at 85 players in fall on scholarship. when the fall semester begins (Spring does not matter). If you drop to 84, you will lose that scholarship next year.

As college football becomes more and more competitive and scholarship/signing rules become more restrictive, we are seeing more coaches choose not to renew scholarships and/or encourage players who will not contribute to transfer out of a program to free up scholarships for potential recruits. We expect Clemson to show more players the door in this fashion within the next 2 months or so.

Thus, players can either choose to leave a program or a coach can remove his scholarship. Leaving a program is typically associated with a lack of playing time, so competition is a big factor. Different coaches also have different philosophies when it comes to scholarship allocation and encouraging players who have not panned out to think about looking for opportunities elsewhere. These combinations make it difficult to predict from program to program how many scholarship athletes will leave. In successful programs like Alabama, seeing 5-7 transfers each summer is not uncommon.

Now that the NCAA has upped the living cost by $2000 I got to wondering, are the money sport players all housed off campus from day 1? And are they assigned roommates each year?

I believe the majority of the freshmen are required to begin their time at Clemson in on-campus housing unless they live at home or are granted some special permission. When I was a student, most athletes were housed in the East-campus high rise facilities. Its now more Lightsey and Lightsey II. Following their first year, players are allowed to move off campus just like any other student and they get the allowance to pay it.

Again, I believe that the players are assigned roommates when they arrive on campus. Typically football players are strategically placed with other players for various reasons to start out. Aligning schedules, creating team chemistry, and coaching control are some drivers behind this strategy. Following their initial year or so, these guys can choose their roommates with a large percentage of these athletes choosing to room with other teammates just like a regular student.

I believe now that a large fraction move off-campus after their first year, but that varies. Lightsey II is nice enough to keep them on-campus, for example.

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