I frequently have the privilege of advising student-athletes and their families in connection with various NCAA eligibility matters, including waivers. No matter the type of waiver of sought, and no matter the circumstances, the opening question is usually the same: “what rights do I have with the NCAA?”
An accurate answer to this question is none. A student-athlete and his or her family technically possesses no rights in connection with a waiver application, or appeal to the NCAA. (Although a student-athlete may have grounds for a legal action against the NCAA, such situations are not covered in this post).
The NCAA is comprised of its member institutions – the colleges and universities across Divisions I, II and III. Accordingly, only NCAA member colleges and universities have standing to appeal to the NCAA for various waivers, such as an extra year of eligibility or a waiver of the residency requirement (which typically requires transfer students to sit out one season after transferring). In other words, colleges and universities control the process of applying for waivers and undertaking appeals of NCAA decisions.
Is this a distinction without difference? If a student-athlete has grounds for a waiver or appeal, won’t a college or university handle it? Maybe or maybe not. Although grounds might exist for a waiver or appeal, a college or university may exercise its discretion in determining whether to take on such a project. Athletic departments are constrained by various factors such as workload and budgets. Moreover, a school may be unwilling to seek a waiver in certain situations, even if valid grounds for a waiver exist. The handling of these situations vary among schools, and among student-athletes.
Practically speaking, student-athletes, do have some rights, but lack the power to enforce those rights directly. Thus, no matter what type of waiver or appeal is sought, a student-athlete must consult with his or her school’s athletic department to determine whether the school is willing to exercise its power on the student-athlete’s behalf. If a student-athlete is planning to transfer to a new school and then seek a waiver, he or she must ensure that the new school is willing to pursue a waiver.