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Are Athletic Scholarships Guaranteed For 4 Years?


It’s no secret that the college recruiting process can get complicated, especially when it comes to athletic scholarships. There are a lot of things to consider when pursuing an athletic scholarship, including important deadlines, new recruiting rules, as well as knowing which divisions offer athletic scholarships in the first place. But are athletic scholarships even guaranteed for four years? Read on to find the answer to this and other important scholarship questions.

A scholarship offer is not a guarantee

It’s important to note that when a coach extends a verbal scholarship offer, it’s non-binding. This means that the scholarship will be granted if certain requirements are met, and one of them is signing the National Letter of Intent. However, keep in mind that even though they are not binding, verbal offers and commitments should still be taken very seriously for the majority of athletics programs. 

So, what is an athletic scholarship?

An athletic scholarship is the amount of financial aid given to a student-athlete from a collegiate athletic department to help offset the cost of tuition. It is awarded based on the student’s athletic abilities, athletic department budget, type of sport and division level. The team’s coach is tasked with deciding who to award scholarships to, as well as how much money each student-athlete receives. 

Athletic scholarships can be guaranteed for four years, but it’s not the norm

The NCAA has allowed colleges to provide multiyear scholarships since 2012. Additionally, in 2015, NCAA D1 colleges from the Power Five conferences (colleges in the Football Bowl Subdivision, plus Notre Dame) agreed to implement a rule that prevented multi-year D1 scholarships from being canceled or not renewed for any athletic reason.

So, yes, there are athletic scholarships that are guaranteed for four years, but they are not the norm outside of powerhouse football programs. While the practice of extending multi-year, athletic scholarships has been growing, it is largely dependent on whether specific programs and coaches are open to offering them.

Most athletic scholarships are only guaranteed for one year, but they are generally renewed annually. There are some exceptions to this such as having academic or conduct issues. So, be sure to discuss scholarship offers in detail with each coach in order to get a good idea of what your situation will be.

Scholarships can be taken away

It’s possible for student-athletes to lose their athletic scholarships, which can happen for a variety of reasons. The most common scenario is when a student-athlete thinks they have a scholarship, but all they have is an offer. This is one of the pitfalls of not understanding the difference between a verbal offer and an actual scholarship.

While college coaches are usually the ones who extend verbal offers, the National Letter of Intent is actually the binding agreement between the college and the student-athlete. That means if you sign an NLI and the coach who offered you the scholarships leaves the program—which can and does happen—your contract with the school remains. 

However, next year that same offer may not be on the table if there is a new coach and you were awarded a one-year scholarship. So, in the case of a coaching change, know that you may not get a scholarship in the second year.

Getting injured or redshirted are common reasons why your athletic scholarship may not be renewed. In addition, if you have disciplinary issues with the school, if you end up on academic probation or if you’re not performing as well as expected, the coach could take away your scholarship and extend it to another athlete. 

While receiving an athletic scholarship offer is a great accomplishment, it isn’t the end of the road

The offer is not finalized until the NLI is signed so it’s important to know where you stand with a coach at all times. If you have any other questions about college athletic scholarships, make sure to check out NCSA’s guide to everything you need to know about athletic scholarships.

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