College Athletics Recruiting: Navigating the "NCAA Manual"

As a student-athlete, you only have to focus on a small portion of the NCAA manual. Save yourself time and frustration by learning how to navigate the NCAA manual.

Signing Day
The NCAA Manual is the go-to resource for prospects and families beginning their college athletic recruiting journey. However, among the Division I, II and III manuals, we're talking well over 1,500 pages of information. Where do you begin?

Fortunately, finding the information you need for recruiting is not as difficult as it initially appears. Through this article, you'll learn how to quickly search the Manuals to find just the information that applies to you.

First, you need to get a copy of the Manual for yourself. To do so, visit the Resources section on and click on the Division I, II or III Manual. From there, you can either order a hard copy or download the Manual in a free PDF file. If you haven't already done so, create a college folder on your laptop, add a sub-folder labeled "NCAA," and save the Manual to your folder for easy access in the future.

Each Manual contains hundreds of pages of information, but parents and prospects need to comb through only a fraction of them. Articles 13, 14 and 15 are the only three sections in the Division I Manual that you need to understand.

Article 13 — Recruiting
This section does a great job of delivering the nuts and bolts of the recruiting process. In it, you'll find all of the limitations the NCAA places on players and coaches, as well as the timeline you need to follow. Below is a list of sub-articles that you should pay special attention to:

  • Definitions and Applications
  • Contacts and Evaluations
  • Recruiting Materials
  • Campus Visits
  • Letter of Intent

In some cases, you'll notice multiple "revisions" of a rule or definition. You only need to study the most recent revision and its effective date.

Article 13 is a great read, and it will help shape your personal recruiting picture in your mind. Remember, the recruiting process is something you simply have to jump into, like learning a new language. The more you practice, the more you'll learn and understand.

Article 14 — Eligibility: Academic and General Requirements
Can you imagine going through the entire recruiting process, only to show up on your first day of college and learn that you are ineligible to practice or play?

Academic eligibility is crucial to the college recruiting process, and you want to make certain you are on track every step of the way—from scheduling the proper coursework during your high school years to registering at the NCAA Eligibility Center and taking the SAT or ACT exam. You need to have all your ducks in a row and hit all tangible targets. Below are important sub-articles to research:

  • Definitions
  • General Eligibility Requirements
  • Freshman Academic Requirements
  • Transfer Regulations
  • Certification of Eligibility

Article 15 — Financial Aid
This section provides a clear analysis of both need-based and athletic-related financial aid (scholarships). It not only defines the different scholarships, it also clarifies maximum limits of athletic aid (by sport).

This is a pretty short article. I suggest you focus on each sub-article:

  • Definitions
  • Maximum Limits of Aid (Individual)
  • Terms and Conditions
  • Elements of Aid
  • Maximum Sports Limitations

For student-athletes, understanding NCAA rules is a vital part of any successful college search. By focusing on these three articles in the NCAA Manual, you'll save yourself lots of time and frustration throughout your journey. Get a jump-start on the recruiting process by learning how to plan your way to recruiting success.

Tom Kovic is the founder and president of Victory Collegiate Consulting, where he advises families and prospective student-athletes in developing and executing personal plans for the college search. Kovic has delivered nearly 300 presentations and seminars to more than 3,500 participants. He is the author of Reaching for Excellence, an educational guide to college athletics recruiting, and he is a regular contributor to numerous educational and sports publications. Prior to founding his own company, Kovic coached gymnastics at The University of Pennsylvania. He has coached 34 individual Ivy League Champions, three ECAC athletes of the year and more than 160 NCAA Academic All-Americans. He was named ECAC Coach of the Year twice.

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