We've all seen it splashed across our hometown paper: local athlete signs with college for a four-year athletic scholarship. Not true! Colleges are not allowed to offer four-year athletic scholarships. Big or small, scholarships are for one year only and need to be renewed at the end of each academic year.
Student-athletes sign one-year contracts; and if they follow NCAA regulations, abide by the team rules and are in good standing with the university, coaches will renew their scholarship at the end of each school year. Most of the time coaches hold individual meetings with their players during the spring semester. Goals, expectations and a review of the past year are typically discussed. Each year the athlete must resign his/her contract, again agreeing to follow NCAA regulations and team rules. If a new coach has been hired, it will not affect athletes already on scholarship or their resigning.
This seems easy enough, right? But is there ever an instance when a college coach won't renew a scholarship? Unfortunately, the answer is yes. It is not an easy thing to do, because college athletic programs do not want to be hit with lawsuits by disgruntled parents; but on occasion, the college has every right to refuse to resign an athlete.
First and foremost, if the athlete clearly breaks team rules or violates NCAA regulations, the coach can opt not to resign that player. Athletic directors and college administrations always back their coaches on this, especially if documentation exists that confirms the player's violation.
Second, at the end of the season, if an athlete is not the same one who signed with the program, a coach does not have to renew. That may sound confusing, so let us explain with an example. A female soccer player comes in on a full athletic scholarship. She plays freshman year, is resigned and plays again sophomore year. Five games into that season, she goes down and tears her ACL. She opts against surgery and never follows up on physical therapy. She has therefore become a different athlete from the one who was recruited. The coach needs her on the field, but without surgery and rehab, she cannot bring her talents to the team. The coach does not need to resign her. However, if she had agreed to the surgery and had followed up diligently with physical therapy, but is now a step slower, the coach is obligated to renew as long as she is in good standing with the college and has followed all NCAA regulations.
It is uncommon for college athletes to encounter issues about the renewal of their athletic scholarships. Nevertheless, it does happen, so it's important to understand that you need to earn your scholarship for the next season.
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