How to Get Recruited Guide
athletic scholarship

Surprise! You Lost Your Athletic Scholarship

Surprise! You lost your athletic scholarship!

Getting an athletic scholarship is one thing, but keeping it is a whole other ball game. Most families assume their athlete will keep their athletic scholarship for the duration of their undergraduate program.

Surprise! It isn’t true. Coaches award athletic aid on a year by year or even term by term basis. Here today, gone tomorrow.

The NCAA compliance statement reads,

“Aid based in any degree on athletics ability cannot be awarded in excess of one academic year; the decision of whether a student-athlete is awarded institutional financial aid is made on a year-by-year or term-by-term basis, depending on the regulations of the institution.”

Each school has the discretion to renew or not renew an athletic scholarship based on its own internal guidelines.

“Keep in mind that the decision to renew or not renew the financial aid is left to the discretion of the institution, to be determined with its normal practices for students generally.”

It is important to know when your child’s scholarship can be pulled and for what reasons. There are two time periods with different rules about pulling a scholarship.

Can a college or university reduce or cancel my athletic scholarship during the academic year?

The first is during the academic year in which the scholarship has been awarded.

For instance, it is your child’s freshmen year and they are on the basketball team. In the fall they received their athletic scholarship. Can it be pulled during the fall or spring term? The answer is a resounding yes, but there are stipulations. The following is from the NCAA compliance guidelines. It details the reasons the scholarship can be pulled and the reasons it may not be pulled during the current academic year.

If a student-athlete is receiving institutional financial aid based in any degree on athletics ability, that financial aid MAY be reduced or canceled during the period of award (e.g., during that year or term) only if the student-athlete:

  • Renders himself or herself ineligible for intercollegiate competition; or
    • Misrepresents any information on an application, letter of intent or financial aid agreement; or
    • Commits serious misconduct which warrants a substantial disciplinary penalty (the misconduct determination must be made by the university’s regular student disciplinary authority); or
    • Voluntarily quits the sport for personal reasons. In this case, the student-athlete’s financial aid may not be given to another student-athlete during the term in which the aid was reduced or canceled.

Institutional financial aid based in any degree on athletics ability MAY NOT be reduced, canceled or increased during the period of award:

  • Based on a student-athlete’s ability, performance, or contribution to a team’s success; or • Because an injury prevents the student-athlete from participating; or • For any other athletics reason.”

These rules are in place to protect the student-athlete and the athletic program for the year in which the scholarship has been awarded.

Can a college or university reduce or cancel my athletic scholarship during future years?

The second time period is for future years. Remember,

“Aid based in any degree on athletics ability cannot be awarded in excess of one academic year; the decision of whether a student-athlete is awarded institutional financial aid is made on a year-by-year or term-by-term basis, depending on the regulations of the institution.”

In this scenario, your child completes their freshmen basketball season. At the end of the season, the coach tells them their athletic scholarship has been either reduced or taken completely away. Is this really possible? Is it legal? A great big yes, it is!

The athletic scholarship is a year-by-year agreement. The college is under no obligation to renew the athletic aid for the following year. What is more, the coach and the institution have a lot more freedom to NOT renew the athletic aid than they do for the current academic year.

In fact, they have complete freedom. They are under no obligation whatsoever to renew your child’s athletic scholarship. They are under no obligation to keep your child’s athletic scholarship at its current level. The coach is free to reduce or completely remove the athletic scholarship for the following year. The decision to renew or not renew must only follow the institution’s normal practices for students generally.

Why would a coach and/or college choose to reduce or pull an athletic scholarship?

Your child has complete control over their academics to keep their athletic scholarship

First, we will take a look at institutional reasons which your child has complete control over. Academics are one of the major reasons student-athletes lose their athletic aid.

GPA: The NCAA has minimum standards. Each institution will have academic standards as well. The institution’s standards are often higher than the NCAA’s minimum standards. If you fall below a certain GPA, you will become ineligible. If you are ineligible to participate a coach may pull your scholarship.

Satisfactory academic progress: You will have to take a certain number of credits each semester and pass a certain number of classes to maintain satisfactory academic progress toward graduation. If you don’t, you will become ineligible. In most cases, this means taking a minimum full-time class load and passing a minimum number of credits to be considered full-time.

Full-time status: You must be a full-time student to participate in sports. The only exception may be your final semester in which you are graduating. Dropping a class mid-semester could take you below full-time status and you could become ineligible.

Other areas your child has complete control over to keep their athletic scholarship

Academic eligibility is not the only reason your child could lose their athletic aid. Next, we will look at reasons generally controlled by the student-athlete.

Bad attitude: Can a bad attitude result in losing a scholarship, being cut from the team, or both? Yes, and it is quite common. Coaches do not want bad apples to be part of their programs. It affects everybody and brings the program down. Coaches are always trying to build great cultures and an athlete with a bad attitude does not fit.

Kids with incredible attitudes are likely to keep their athletic scholarships, even if their ability and performance are not as high as the coach expected. If your child loses their scholarship based on their attitude, they have no one to blame but themselves.

Injured outside of practice: College is a time when young men and women are adventurous and like to take risks. Beware! If an athlete engages in risky behavior like snowboarding, water skiing, rock climbing and gets hurt the coach will not be happy. Depending on the severity of the injury, the consequence could be the loss of the athletic scholarship.

The need to keep an athletic scholarship will cut into your child’s freedom to do other things. Some programs have athletes sign contracts or are verbally warned not to engage in certain behaviors or activities.

Other types of accidents can occur outside of a team event. Depending on what happened and upon coach and institution, the athletic aid could not be renewed for the following year.

Study abroad: Will your coach allow you to do study abroad in the offseason? Will you keep your scholarship while you are abroad? Will the scholarship be waiting for you when you return? These are questions that should be asked before signing up. Each coach will have their own view on study abroad. Generally, there will be more flexibility in Division 3 and NAIA levels than there will be at Division 1 and 2 for a student to explore a semester abroad.

Getting into trouble: The college years are full of both opportunities and temptations. Every year kids risk losing their athletic scholarship because they get into trouble. With freedom comes responsibility. Young men and women who don’t exercise self-control need to be ready to face the consequences of their actions. Coaches who believe one of their athletes has made a decision or decisions that give the program a poor reputation will not hesitate to pull their athletic scholarship and may even dismiss them from the team.

Quitting: It is straightforward. If an athlete quits, they will lose their athletic scholarship. Advise your child to take a deep breath and then talk to the coach to try and work out any issue they are having as a first step. They should never go to the nuclear option of quitting. It is almost always irreversible.

Over the years I had many athletes who came into my office on the verge of quitting who ended up staying and having good college careers. A few decided to quit after talking or postponing their desire to quit, but they left on good terms.

The athletes who went straight to quitting were thanked and their college career was immediately over.

Areas your child has some control but not complete control to keep their athletic scholarship

Bad season: Will poor performance cause you to lose your scholarship? Not always, but it is not out of the question. The coach only has so many scholarships. If an athlete is not contributing to the success of the team at the standard the coach expected, they may reduce or not renew the athletic aid. Every year there is a new class of recruits coming in and current athletes that they could redirect the money toward.

What can your child do when they are having a bad season or not living up to expectations?

  • Have a great attitude every day.
  • Don’t complain or act like a victim.
  • Put the team ahead of themselves.
  • Work hard every day in and away from practice.

If an athlete possesses these qualities, it is unlikely the coach would take away their scholarship. If any of these are missing, however, they should not be surprised to lose their athletic scholarship or have the amount of it reduced.

A new coach: New coaches don’t generally come in and clean house. They do ask questions, interview current players, and attempt to get to know which athletes they can count on and which ones cause problems. As long as your child works hard and has a good attitude they don’t have too much to fear with a new coach.

Unforeseen circumstances that could result in losing or having a reduction to an athletic scholarship

Career ending injury: What will happen if to your scholarship the next year? I would recommend that you ask this question before committing. Nobody wants to think about it, but it is a big deal and happens every year to athletes at every school. Most colleges have determined policies for career ending injuries. The most typical is that the school will honor the athletic scholarship if the athlete continues to contribute to the program in some capacity. Again, each college handles this by its own guidelines.

In recent years, many schools have developed their own policies about how to handle injuries. Here is an example from Division 1 Lehigh University

“Lehigh University Division 1 athletes don’t lose their scholarships based on injury from participating in their sport.

“”When we make an offer of athletic scholarship, (student athletes) can’t lose it based on injury,”” Lambinus said.

The only way student athletes can lose their award is if they become injured outside the realm of sports. Since the injury did not occur in a sports setting, the coaching staff and the athletics department have the right to pull the award.

If a player does suffer a sports-related injury, his or her athletic award cannot be retracted due to injury. Instead, players have to find another role in their respective programs in order to contribute to the success of the team.”

Personal time away from school: If a family emergency comes up or something that makes you take a semester or year off of school, your scholarship may not be waiting when you return. The best your child can do is to be open and honest with the coaching staff and school about what is going on.

Before your child has a signed written athletic scholarship

Verbal offers: Beware! If a coach entices you to come to school with the promise of a scholarship the following year, this is not binding. If you don’t have a great season and a great attitude, it probably won’t happen. Even if you do, the coach may forget or change his/her mind. There may be a coaching change. The next coach will not know about the verbal agreement and probably won’t honor it when you tell them.

What is the process for having an athletic scholarship not renewed or reduced?

This is from the NCAA compliance information.

“If a student-athlete is receiving institutional financial aid based in any degree on athletics ability, the institution must notify the student in writing on or before July 1 whether the aid has been renewed or not renewed for the next academic year. This written notification comes from the institution’s financial aid authority and not from the athletics department.

If the institution decides not to renew the aid, or is going to reduce the aid, the institution must notify the student-athlete in writing that he or she has the right to a hearing. This hearing is held before the institutional agency making the award.

Keep in mind that the decision to renew or not renew the financial aid is left to the discretion of the institution, to be determined with its normal practices for students generally.”

Should you be worried your child will lose their athletic scholarship?

Most student-athletes who enter college with an athletic scholarship (and don’t quit) keep their athletic scholarship until they graduate. Student-athletes don’t have complete control over keeping their athletic scholarship from year to year. However, student-athletes who have great attitudes, work hard, strive to become better are unlikely to lose or have their athletic scholarship reduced.

Life can be unpredictable and sometimes injuries, accidents, poor choices can lead to a loss of an athlete’s scholarship. These are not the norm and you cannot live in fear. Encourage your child to do their best every day, be positive and enjoy the experience.

Before you ever have to worry about losing an athletic scholarship, you have to have one. That is where we can assist you.

How to Get Recruited

If you’re terrified that you’re going to ruin any chances your teenager has of being recruited by a great athletic program…

How to Get Recruited gives you a step-by-step plan to turn your athlete’s sports talent into offers from excellent college and university sports programs.


You can get your athlete recruited. You can give your teen an opportunity that will change their whole life.

How to Get Recruited: Got Talent. Get a Plan. Get Recruited.



Here is another great article for parents: When Can You Expect Scholarship Offers?