How to Get Recruited Guide
Surprise! You Lost Your Athletic Scholarship

Surprise! You Lost Your Athletic Scholarship

Is it possible for a college athlete to lose their athletic scholarship?

Getting an athletic scholarship is one thing, but keeping it is a different ball game. Are you assuming your athlete will keep their athletic scholarship for the duration of their undergraduate program?

Surprise! That might not be true.

Coaches award athletic aid on a year-by-year or even term-by-term basis. That means a scholarship may be here today, and gone tomorrow.

The NCAA does not require a college to renew an athletic scholarship.


An athletic scholarship is offered to your teen on a year-by-year basis. Your teen will be notified, in writing, of the scholarship they will receive. Or your teen will be notified, in writing, if they lose their scholarship.

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 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 teen’s scholarship can be pulled and for what reasons.


Can a university reduce or cancel an athletic scholarship mid-year?


Can a college cancel the scholarship during the academic year in which the scholarship was awarded?

For instance, imagine it’s your teen’s freshman year 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. A scholarship can be revoked mid-year if:

  1. An athlete does not meet the academic eligibility requirements.
  2. An athlete lied or misrepresented themselves or their finances.
  3. An athlete breaks the law or institutional rules and is under disciplinary action.
  4. An athlete quits.

An athlete CANNOT lose their scholarship in the middle of an academic year because of poor performance, lack of ability, injury, bad attitude, etc.

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 reduce or cancel your teen’s athletic scholarship after the first year?


Next, will your teen be guaranteed an athletic scholarship for all four years of school? A scholarship is a one-year contract. 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.”

Now imagine your teen has completed their freshmen basketball season. At the end of the year, the coaches meet and decide to reduce or take away your teen’s scholarship. They send your teen a letter telling you their decision. Is this possible? Is it legal? 

Yes, this is possible. It happens all the time. And it is legal.

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 for the following year than they do for the current academic year.

They have complete freedom. They are under no obligation whatsoever to renew your teen’s athletic scholarship. Your teen might be cut from the team, and lose their scholarship.

The coach is under no obligation to keep your teen’s athletic scholarship at its current level. The coach is free to reduce your teen’s scholarship.

The good news is your teen can make choices that help them keep their scholarship.


Your teen can keep up their grades to keep their athletic scholarship.


A GPA that is below the NCAA eligibility standards is one of the major reasons student-athletes lose their athletic aid. No coach wants to be spending scholarship money on an athlete who cannot compete.

Your athlete needs to meet both NCAA and institutional academic standards. The institution’s standards are often higher than the NCAA’s minimum standards. If your teen’s GPA drops too low, they become ineligible. If an athlete is ineligible to participate a coach may pull their scholarship.

Your teen needs to make “satisfactory academic progress.”  Every athlete must take a minimum number of credits each semester and pass a minimum number of classes to maintain satisfactory academic progress toward graduation. If your teen doesn’t do this they become ineligible. 

Your athlete must be a full-time student to participate in sports. The only exception may be their final semester before graduation. Your teen should be careful about dropping a class mid-semester causing them to fall below full-time status and become ineligible.

Your teen can make good choices and keep their athletic scholarship.


Academic eligibility is not the only reason your teen could lose their athletic aid. Your teen could make a bad choice and lose their athletic scholarship.

Athletes with bad attitudes can be cut from the team and lose their scholarships.  It’s quite common. Coaches do not want bad apples to be part of their programs. A bad attitude 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.

Young adults 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 teen loses their scholarship based on their attitude, they have no one to blame but themselves.

A coach may pull your teen’s scholarship if they choose to study abroad. Each coach will have their own view on study abroad. Will the coach allow your teen to study abroad in the offseason? Will your teen keep their scholarship while abroad? If your teen is interested in studying abroad you should ask these questions before signing up.

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.

An athlete who gets into trouble could lose their scholarship. Every year teens 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 an athlete 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.


An injury sustained outside of practices and games may cost your teen their athletic scholarship.


Your teen may need to avoid dangerous activities 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, or rock climbing and gets hurt the coach won’t 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 teen’s freedom to do other things. Some programs have athletes sign contracts or verbally warn them not to engage in certain behaviors or activities. If your teen breaks the contract and gets injured, the scholarship may be gone.


If your teen quits, they’ll lose their athletic scholarship.


This is straightforward. If an athlete quits, they lose their athletic scholarship.

If your teen calls you and is talking about quitting, take a few minutes to talk them through it.  Encourage them to talk to the coach and try to work out the issue 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 and ended up staying. Many went on to have good college careers. A few still decided to quit, but after talking with me they left on good terms.

The athletes who quit ended their college careers. Quitting isn’t a tool for manipulation.


Some things are beyond your teen’s control.


Your teen might have an unusually bad season. Will poor performance cause your teen to lose their scholarship for the following year? Not always, but it’s not out of the question.

The coach has a limited number of scholarships. If an athlete is not contributing to the success of the team the coach 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 should your teen do if they’re having a bad season?

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

If an athlete possesses these qualities, it is unlikely the coach would take away their scholarship. If your teen acts like a victim and isn’t working to turn things around, they shouldn’t be surprised when the coaches reduce or pull the scholarship the following year.

A new coach may not renew current scholarships. New coaches don’t generally come in and clean house. They will ask questions, interview current players, and learn which athletes they can count on and which ones may cause problems. As long as your teen works hard and has a good attitude they don’t have much to fear from a new coach. But there are no guarantees.


Your teen could lose an athletic scholarship because of injury or tragedy.


Your athlete could lose their scholarship if they have a career-ending injury. What happens to your teen’s scholarship the next year? I recommend you ask this question before your teen commits.

Nobody wants to think about injury, but it is a big deal and happens every year. Most colleges have policies in place for career-ending injuries. Typically, the school will honor the athletic scholarship if the athlete continues to contribute to the program in some capacity. However, each college handles this according to its own guidelines.

If you ask ahead of time, you’ll know what to expect when the worst happens.

If your teen needs personal time away from school, they may lose their scholarship. Sometimes after family emergencies college students need some time off. That’s totally understandable. The bad news is that your teen’s scholarship may not be waiting when they return. Your athlete should be open and honest with the coaching staff and school about what is going on. Maybe they’ll work with your family.


Your teen can “lose” a scholarship that was a verbal offer.


Be careful about verbal offers.  A verbal offer isn’t binding. If your teen doesn’t have a great season the following year, the coach may pull the offer. 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.

The athletic scholarship isn’t a sure thing until it’s in writing.


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

Most student-athletes who keep their grades up and don’t quit keep their athletic scholarship until they graduate. Your teen may not have complete control over keeping their athletic scholarship from year to year. However, student-athletes who have great attitudes, work hard, and strive to become better are unlikely to lose or have their athletic scholarship reduced.

Life can be unpredictable. Sometimes injuries, accidents, or poor choices can lead to the loss of an athlete’s scholarship. But these aren’t the norm. Don’t live in fear.

Your athlete most likely has an exciting and fulfilling college career waiting for them…

Learn How to Get Recruited by a College Coach

…and you get to help them find the perfect program!

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

You can help your athlete get recruited. You can give your teen an opportunity that will change their whole life. Get all the knowledge you need and know you’re doing it right.


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