Over the past calendar year, the NCAA Board of Directors and the Rules Committee have made concerted efforts to alter the regulatory culture of the NCAA, particularly at the Division I level. Responding to widespread criticism among coaches, prospective student-athletes and administrators alike that the rules structure is confusing, overbearing, inequitable among sports and difficult to enforce, the NCAA has addressed proposals intent on simplifying the understanding and implementation of the rules. The changes put forth seem to suggest that the NCAA is responding to the call for more meaningful and smarter legislation which focuses on more consequential issues and supports student-athlete success. While a few of the deregulating proposals were passed but then subsequently suspended before implementation, the vast majority did go into effect on August 1 of this year. Two, in particular, have changed NCAA regulations as they relate to tennis players, both preparing to enter college, and continuing to compete after matriculation. Those regulations fall under the amateurism section of the rules (section 12) which addresses the definition and management of “actual and necessary expenses” related to individual competition and prize money winnings.
The actual citations excerpted from the NCAA Legislative Services Database read as follows:
22.214.171.124.2.1 Prior to Full-Time Collegiate Enrollment.
Previous Cite: 126.96.36.199.2 Exception for Prize Money — Tennis.
Next Cite: 188.8.131.52.2.2 After Initial Full-Time Collegiate Enrollment.
In tennis, prior to full-time collegiate enrollment, an individual may accept up to $10,000 per calendar year in prize money based on his or her place finish or performance in athletics events. Such prize money may be provided only by the sponsor of an event in which the individual participates. Once the individual has accepted $10,000 in prize money in a particular year, he or she may receive additional prize money on a per-event basis, provided such prize money does not exceed the individual’s actual and necessary expenses for participation in the event. The calculation of actual and necessary expenses shall not include the expenses or fees of anyone other than the individual (e.g, coach’s fees or expenses, parent’s expenses). (Adopted: 4/26/12, Revised: 1/19/13 effective 8/1/13)
184.108.40.206.2.2 After Initial Full-Time Collegiate Enrollment.
Previous Cite: 220.127.116.11.2.1 Prior to Full-Time Collegiate Enrollment.
Next Cite: 18.104.22.168.3 Exception for Payment Based on Team Performance.
In tennis, after initial full-time collegiate enrollment, an individual may accept prize money based on his or her place finish or performance in an athletics event. Such prize money may not exceed actual and necessary expenses and may be provided only by the sponsor of the event. The calculation of actual and necessary expenses shall not include the expenses or fees of anyone other than the individual (e.g., coach’s fees or expenses, parent’s expenses). (Adopted: 1/19/13 effective 8/1/13)
Until the point in which these rules went into effect last month, many prospective tennis players approaching Division I programs struggled to cite and accurately account for a barrage of expenses related to competition (travel expenses, equipment expenses, coaching expense, etc.) which oftentimes would exceed any money players earned as prize money for performance. Yet, without extensive record of all expenses from each event played, proving that a player had not earned a significant amount of money from their playing, a player’s amateurism was at risk, potentially affecting his or her eligibility to play college tennis. This change to the amateurism clause acknowledges and simplifies the unrealistic expectation of accounting for all competition related expenses, event by event, throughout all junior competition, for a relatively small sum of prize winnings which would, in the vast majority of cases, not exceed the actual and necessary expenses associated with competing in his/her sport. Now, expenses short of the $10,000 threshold can more simply be accounted for by the year, rather than the more painstaking accounting of each event. Additionally, more prize money is allowed without jeopardizing amateurism as long as it does not exceed the individual’s competition related expenses.
For players already enrolled in college and looking to keep their games and competition skills sharp in the off-seasons, they will no longer have to worry that participating in high level competition offering prize money for performance will jeopardize their amateurism and eligibility, as long as no prize money in excess of the actual and necessary expenses is accepted.
Allowing for prize money for individual performance, which is customary in the culture of tennis and elite level tournament play, does seem to reflect the NCAA’s effort to have the rules be more reasonable, sport equitable, enforceable, and in support of student-athlete success. However, in maintaining the NCAA’s unwavering philosophy of amateurism among college athletes, it must be understood by tennis players that the rules changes do not go so far as to allow for any unaccounted monies beyond the stated expense thresholds, nor monies provided by anyone other than the event organizers (e.g., payment from organized teams).
All in all, not much resistance to these changes has been cited or is expected moving forward. In individual sports like tennis, there has been the feeling that clarification of how to handle actual and related expenses related to competition and amateurism status, both before and during college, was needed. These two proposals now in effect seem to fit that bill.
Donovan Tennis Strategies
Donovan Tennis Strategies has been helping prospective college tennis players and their families navigate the recruiting process since 1997. In addition to consulting services DTS runs two College Prospects Showcases to help players get exposure to college coaches.