It is likely that as a high school student athlete or parent, you have been told once or twice that you need to register with the NCAA Clearinghouse in order to compete in college sports. This is fantastic advice as long as it is given under the correct circumstances; unfortunately for many, it is not. Before going into the specifics of when and why to register for the NCAA Eligibility Center, let’s make a proper introduction.
The NCAA Clearinghouse came to life when coaches and recruits needed a standard definition and enforcement of the eligibility rules set forth by Prop 48 in 1986. These initial eligibility standards were overhauled with Prop 16 in 1995, so the Clearinghouse was finally established and required athlete registration in 1996. In 2008, the NCAA made the decision to change the name of the Clearinghouse to the Eligibility Center. In doing so, they also changed the web address from www.NCAAClearinghouse.net to www.EligibilityCenter.org. The fees for registration are $65 for student athletes located in the United States and its territories and $85 for students located outside the United States.
Not Everyone Should Register at the Beginning of Their Junior Year
The most common advice given by coaches, counselors, teachers, and other parents is to register with the Eligibility Center once you start your junior year in high school. As mentioned above, this is great advice under certain circumstances. Of course, those circumstances revolve around you, your son(s)’ or daughter(s)’ qualifications, or having the chance to play at the Division I or II levels in college. Unfortunately, not every student athlete or parent is told this, and they run off to register without truly knowing what they should or shouldn’t be doing. So the NCAA Eligibility Center only matters for those student athletes who will be playing Division I or II. If you (or your athlete) are thinking about NAIA, Division III, or junior colleges, then the Eligibility Center isn’t required.
For most athletes looking to register with the Eligibility Center, you aren’t going to know right away if you are a Division I- or II-caliber athlete, and you should consider holding off your registration until you have a better idea. So now the question you are asking is, what level can I play at? This is relatively easy—because every college coach you send a resume to or get in contact with, who then becomes interested in you, will be asking for your NCAA ID number at some point of the recruiting process. When this happens, you know that you are a possible Division I or II athlete in need of NCAA Eligibility Center registration.
We Suggest “Waiting ’till You Know” For a Couple of Reasons
- It will save you from paying $65–$85.
- Eighty percent of high school athletes who register never actually use the Eligibility Center’s services.
- The information you send into the Eligibility Center is stored in a file until a coach requests it, and for many athletes, it will never be touched.
If you choose to register before contacting any coaches or have already previously registered with the Eligibility Center, your information will be stored in their system until a college coach requests to place your athlete on what is known as an “institutional request list,” or IRL. When a coach asks an athlete for their NCAA ID number, the coach will place the athlete on an IRL. It is only during this sequence that your information is pulled from the computer system; and you are officially cleared or not cleared based on your high school transcripts, SAT/ACT scores, and amateur status.
Check out the NCAA Guide for the College-Bound Student Athlete for more detailed information regarding the Eligibility Center and their requirements.