The NCAA maintains a strict series of guidelines for student-athletes to abide by if they wish to remain eligible to compete. Here are the most relevant and important of those guidelines.
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Prior to enrolling as a student-athlete, a gymnast must:
- Complete 16 core courses, 10 of which must be completed before the seventh semester (senior year) of high school
- Seven of the 10 core courses must be in English, math or natural/physical science.
- Earn a core-course GPA of at least 2.3
- Earn an SAT combined score or ACT sum score matching the core-course GPA on the Division I sliding scale
- Graduate high school
Delayed Enrollment: After a gymnast graduates high school, she has a certain amount of time to enroll full time at a four-year college or university. If she does not enroll at the first opportunity after her grace period and continues to compete in organized competition, she will use one season of NCAA eligibility for each calendar year during which she continues to compete. She also may be required to serve an academic year in residence at the NCAA institution before she can compete.
While in College
Most academic requirements for current student-athletes vary by school. However, according to the NCAA, student-athletes must achieve the following:
- Complete 40 percent of required coursework for a degree by the end of her second year, 60 percent by the end of her third year and 80 percent by the end of her fourth year
- Earn at least six credit hours each term
- Meet minimum grade-point average requirements related to the school’s GPA standards for graduation
Amateur Certification: Prior to being granted eligibility, gymnasts must go through an amateur certification process in which they will be assessed on the following standards/occurrences:
- Delaying full-time collegiate enrollment to participate in organized competition
- Playing with professionals
- Receiving payment or preferential treatment/benefits for playing sports
- Receiving prize money
- Receiving benefits from an agent or prospective agent
- Involvement with a recruiting service
Prize Money: A gymnast in high school may accept prize money based on their place finish at a competition, provided the money does not exceed their expenses in those events during a calendar year or sport season. She may accept funds for training or actual and necessary expenses (e.g., coaching, apparel, transportation, lodging) from the national governing body, Olympic committee or a governmental entity.
Recruiting Services: A recruiting service, scholarship agent or scouting service may share her personal information and statistics with NCAA schools; however, it may not do the following:
- Guarantee an NCAA scholarship
- Charge a fee based on receiving an NCAA scholarship
- Base its fee on the amount or percentage of an NCAA scholarship
Name, Image and Likeness: On September 30, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law the Fair Pay to Play Act, which allows student-athletes to earn endorsements and maintain their eligibility starting in 2023. Other states quickly followed suit. The NCAA has yet to lay out official rules for this new criteria; the organization’s most recent move on the subject came on April 29, 2020, when the NCAA Board of Governors “supported rule changes to allow student-athletes to receive compensation for third-party endorsements both related to and separate from athletics.”
- A gymnast at a Division I program has five calendar years in which to play four seasons of competition. Her five-year clock starts when she enrolls as a full-time student. Thereafter, her clock continues, even if she spends an academic year in residence as a result of transferring or decides to redshirt.
- In rare cases, gymnasts can be awarded a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA because of special circumstances, usually related to injury.
- While it is common in some sports for all student-athletes to redshirt their first year of eligibility, it is rare in gymnastics; most gymnasts only redshirt for medical reasons. A gymnast may medically redshirt if she is injured after competing in less than 30% of competitions before the midpoint of the season.
- Occasionally, a gymnast may be granted an academic redshirt. If she receives an academic redshirt, may receive an athletics scholarship during her first year of full-time enrollment and may practice during her first regular academic term, but may NOT compete during her first year of enrollment. A gymnast may receive an academic redshirt if she meets most of the same pre-college requirements as listed above, but her GPA must be a 2.000 or above.
- If a gymnast wishes to transfer, she must provide her school with a written notification of transfer at any time. A compliance director from the school will enter her information into the national transfer database (known as the transfer portal) within 2 business days of receipt of her written notification.
- Communication with the new school’s office of admissions is permissible prior to notifying her current school. She can also contact other gymnasts at the school she is looking to transfer to, provided communication is not at the direction of the coach from that school. A gymnast may NOT communicate with the coach from that school prior to notifying her current school.
- Once a gymnast submits written notification, her school is not obligated to take her back as a student-athlete if no opportunity to transfer presents itself. The school may also cancel her scholarship or financial aid immediately.
- If a gymnast transfers from a four-year Division I school, she will likely be immediately eligible to compete at her new school if she is academically and athletically eligible at her previous four-year school, and if she receives a transfer-release agreement from her previous school.
- Some conferences, most notably the SEC, have their own rules requiring transfer student-athletes to sit out a year unless granted a waiver.
- Unlike other sports like football, women’s gymnastics does not require a waiver from the NCAA for a gymnast to be immediately eligible.
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