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Retaining NCAA Eligibility – The Facts

by Jason Nadeau

Hi everyone, following the CHL Drafts recently, I received a number of follow-up questions to my past article on NCAA Eligibility & CHL Camps, regarding what players are allowed to receive from WHL/OHL teams and still retain their NCAA eligibility. I provided rule of thumb guidelines but there was plenty of Grey-areas remaining and it seems like we need to go a bit more in-depth. Below, one concerned father Graham poses a question that frames our discussion perfectly;

From: Graham
Subject: Receiving “grey” area gifts

My son was recently drafted in the WHL Bantam Draft.

He received a couriered box from his draft team with a hat, t-shirt, team blanket, key chain, lanyard, soft toy puck, hockey cards and team posters.

He does not want to jeopardize any future/potential NCAA eligibility…

What should he do with the items?…is this something we should keep or return?..

I have had so many people tell me so many different things.

Regards
Graham (Father)

This seems to be the norm these days from the WHL and CHL. More then a few of my 1996 clients received similar packages. They are great for promoting their league and the kids love them!!!!

So what’s the big deal? Is receiving a Hat or T-Shirt a no-no?

We need to go through the actual NCAA by-Laws to sort out fact from fiction. So please excuse me as I put on my Lawyer hat and try to get some use out of my Oxford Masters degree!!! I apologize in advance as this article will necessarily have to more legalistic than normal because of the subject matter.

After spending a lot of time going through the actual NCAA regulations I discovered that there is no specific section that covers this discussion this topic in black and white.

What BECAME CLEAR, is that the NCAA teams are NOT allowed to give gifts to prospective players as an inducement to sign with their teams. So by implication you should NOT be able to receive them from WHL/CHL either.

If you will Please bare with me and I’ll go through the bylaws with you so that we can hopefully find a definitive answer!!! I’ve included the Bylaws themselves, feel free to skip ahead to my analysis after each one….

12.02.3 Professional Athlete: A professional athlete is one who receives any kind of payment, directly or indirectly, for athletics participation except as permitted by the governing legislation of the Association.

*Hockey Advocates Analysis: Professional Athlete = NO NCAA Eligibility. As the NCAA declares that the CHL is a PROFESSIONAL League, therein lies the problem. But certainly there is some room to maneuver???

Now here are the Hockey specific bylaws:

12.2 INVOLVEMENT WITH PROFESSIONAL TEAMS
12.2.1 Tryouts.
12.2.1.1 Tryout Before Enrolment—Men’s Ice Hockey and Skiing. In men’s ice hockey and skiing, a student-athlete remains eligible in a sport even though, prior to enrolment in a collegiate institution, the student-athlete may have tried out with a professional athletics team in a sport or received not more than one expense-paid visit from each professional team (or a combine including that team), provided such a visit did not exceed 48 hours and any payment or compensation in connection with the visit was not in excess of actual and necessary expenses. The 48-hour tryout period begins at the time the individual arrives at the tryout location. At the completion of the 48-hour period, the individual must depart the location of the tryout immediately in order to receive return transportation expenses. A tryout may extend beyond 48 hours if the individual self finances additional expenses, including return transportation. A self-financed tryout may be for any length of time.

12.2.1.3.2 Exception for National Hockey League Scouting Combine—Men’s Ice Hockey. In men’s ice hockey, a student-athlete may accept actual and necessary travel, and room and board expenses from the National Hockey League (NHL) to attend the NHL scouting combine, regardless of the duration of the combine.

12.2.2 Practice without Competition.
12.2.2.1 Practice Without Competition—Men’s Ice Hockey and Skiing. In men’s ice hockey and skiing, an individual may participate in practice sessions conducted by a professional team, provided such participation meets the requirements of NCAA legislation governing tryouts with professional athletics teams (see Bylaw 12.2.1) and the individual does not: (Revised: 4/13/10 effective 8/1/10; applicable to student-athletes who initially enrol full time in a collegiate institution on or before 8/1/10)
(a) Receive any compensation for participation in the practice sessions;
(b) Enter into any contract or agreement with a professional team or sports organization; or
(c) Take part in any outside competition (games or scrimmages) as a representative of a professional team.

*Hockey Advocates Analysis:

1) You can go to a CHL/WHL tryout for 48 hours where it is paid by the team. ONLY 1 Time PER PRO (WHL) team.
2) You can go to multiple camps if you pay yourself AND stay longer then 48 hours
3) NHL Combine is Cool..no worries. If you get invited, good for you! Good Luck!
4) Practice with a WHL team is OK IF and ONLY IF you do NOT:
(a) Receive any compensation (*Or GIFTS: Any direct or indirect salary, gratuity or comparable compensation) for participation in the practice sessions;
(b) Enter into any contract or agreement with THAT professional team; or
(c) Take part in any outside competition (games or scrimmages) as a representative of THAT professional team

OK, but a Hat is just a Hat right?????

Here are the NCAA rules on gifts:

13.2 OFFERS AND INDUCEMENTS

13.2.1.1 Specific Prohibitions. Specifically prohibited financial aid, benefits and arrangements include, but are not limited to, the following:
(a) An employment arrangement for a prospective student-athlete’s relatives;
(b) Gift of clothing or equipment;
(c) Co-signing of loans;
(d) Providing loans to a prospective student-athlete’s relatives or friends;
(e) Cash or like items;
(f ) Any tangible items, including merchandise;
(g) Free or reduced-cost services, rentals or purchases of any type;
(h) Free or reduced-cost housing;
(i) Use of an institution’s athletics equipment (e.g., for a high school all-star game);
(j) Sponsorship of or arrangement for an awards banquet for high school, preparatory school or two-yearcollege athletes by an institution, representatives of its athletics interests or its alumni groups or booster clubs; and
(k) Expenses for academic services (e.g., tutoring, test preparation) to assist in the completion of initial-eligibility or transfer-eligibility requirements or improvement of the prospective student-athlete’s academic profile in conjunction with a waiver request.

13.2.1.2 Eligibility Ramifications—Restitution for Receipt of Improper Benefits. For violations of Bylaws 13.2.1 in which the value of the offer or inducement is $100 or less, the eligibility of the individual (prospective or enrolled student-athlete) shall not be affected conditioned upon the individual repaying the value of the benefit to a charity of his or her choice. The individual, however, shall remain ineligible from the time the institution has knowledge of the receipt of the impermissible benefit until the individual repays the benefit.

*Hockey Advocates Analysis:

1) NCAA teams are NOT allowed to give gifts of: Clothing or equipment nor tangible items including merchandising.
2) If they are NOT allowed to do it then you can be 100% certain that a professional team (WHL) cannot provide the same gifts and be considered a good thing for the player!
3) If you DO accept that WHL package and it is valued at LESS then $100….AND your actions are ever brought to the NCAA’s attention so as to deem you ineligible to play in the NCAA… IF you repay the value of the benefit to a charity of your choice, you SHOULD be able to regain your Eligibility by providing proof to the NCAA of that action.

So you are NOT supposed to accept ANY gifts.

If you do and ever get caught, you can rectify the situation as long as your received gifts were under $100.

Sorry for the long winded explanation but I had to go through the bylaws thoroughly to provide you with as clear an answer as possible.

Should you send back that package? No, I don’t think you have to go to that extreme, but maybe document what you received so that you could deal with the issue if it ever came up in the future. However unlikely that scenario might be.

If you have any follow-up questions, please let me know?

JN

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