NCAA Recruiting Terms

Make Sure You Know These NCAA Recruiting Terms

NCAA recruiting terms and rules can be confusing and hard to figure out. However, to make it easier, we’ve compiled a list of the essential NCAA recruiting terms, and what they mean. 

Contact Period:

NCAA rule: During a contact period, a college coach may have face-to-face contact with you or your parents, watch you compete, visit your high school, and write or telephone you or your parents.

NSR Explanation – The contact period, is when college coaches can have specific types of communication with athletes. There are almost no restrictions. They can write, email, call, text, visit with them in person, and any other methods the NCAA approves. Contact periods are an excellent time for student-athletes in the recruiting process! It’s important to take advantage of the contact periods and start talking to college coaches.

Dead Period:

NCAA Rule – A college coach may not have any face-to-face contact with an athlete or their parents on or off the college campus at any time during a dead period. The coach may write and call an athlete and their parents during this time.

NSR Explanation – During a dead period communication between college coaches, prospects and or their parents is minimal. Coaches aren’t able to have in-person conversations with athletes. Even if the athlete is on the coach’s campus or they run into each other at a camp. However, just because it’s called a dead period doesn’t mean communication comes to a halt. Electronic communication is allowed. So, college coaches can still call, email, text, direct message and write an athlete. 

Insider tip: for a list of NCAA approved forms of communication visit,  

Evaluation Period:

NCAA Rule – During an evaluation period, a college coach may watch you compete, visit your high school, and write or telephone you or your parents. However, a college coach may not have face-to-face contact with you or your parents off the college’s campus during an evaluation period.

NSR Explanation – During an evaluation period, college coaches can watch and evaluate athletes. They aren’t able to communicate in-person with an athlete and or their parents. Even though coaches can’t have in-person conversations, they can still email, call, text, direct message, and write during this period.

Quiet Period:

NCAA Rule – During this time, a college coach may not have any in-person contact with you or your parents off the college’s campus. The coach may not watch you play or visit your high school during this period. You and your parents may visit a college campus during this time. A coach may write or call you or your parents during this time.

NSR Explanation – The quiet period doesn’t allow coaches to evaluate or have in-person conversations with athletes. However, texting, emailing, calling, direct messaging and writing an athlete is permitted. Even though it’s called a quiet period athletes can still do quite a bit of communicating with college coaches, and they definitely should be!

Insider tip: Keep up with the NCAA recruiting calendars to know the select dates and times of the year when it’s a contact, dead or recruiting period.

Official Visit:

NCAA Rule -During an official visit, colleges can pay for transportation to and from campus for you, lodging and meals for you and your parents or guardians, as well as reasonable entertainment expenses, including three tickets to a Division I home sports event or tickets to a Division II home sports event. Before a college may invite you on an official visit, you will have to provide the college with a copy of your high school transcript and ACT, SAT or PLAN scores (Division I only) and register for a Certification Account with the NCAA Eligibility Center.

NSR Explanation – An official visit is an invite from a college coach asking an athlete to come on a campus visit financed by the school.  Athletes may only take five official visits to DI schools, but they may take an unlimited number of official visits to DII and DIII schools. Additionally, the NCAA has stipulations on when D-I prospects can start taking official and unofficial visits. 

Official Commitment:

NCAA  Rule – When you officially commit to a Division I or II college, you sign a National Letter of Intent. This document is an athlete’s written agreement to participate in that school for one academic year.

NSR Explanation – This NCAA recruiting rule is pretty straightforward. When an athlete officially commits to play for a Division I or II program, they will sign a National Letter of Intent. The NLI is a legally binding document that confirms they will play at that school.

Insider tip: Athletes can’t sign an NLI until their senior year during specific times set by the NCAA. Additionally, they’re only able to sign 1 NLI per year. 

Unofficial Visit:

NCAA Rule – Any visit by you and your parents to a college campus paid for by you or your parents. The only expense you may receive from the college is three complimentary admissions to a Division I home athletics contest or complimentary tickets to a Division II home athletics contest. You may make as many unofficial visits as you like and may take those visits at any time, except in the sports of lacrosse, wrestling and women’s gymnastics as listed on the next page. The only time you cannot talk with a coach during an unofficial visit is during a dead period.

NSR Explanation – Unofficial visits are indispensable to an athlete’s college recruiting process. Although the university doesn’t finance the visits, athletes can still receive complimentary admissions to athletic events, which helps them get a feel for the university! Unlike official visits, unofficial visits don’t have a limit. We highly encourage athletes to take as many unofficial visits as they can. Mostly, because it helps them find their right college fit. However, DI prospects can’t start visiting with coaches until September 1 of their junior year. 

Verbal Commitment:

NCAA Rule – A verbal commitment happens when you verbally agree to play sports at a college. Typically this happens before you sign a National Letter of Intent. The commitment is not binding on you or the school.

Insider tip: Many sports will be adopting a new NCAA rule that prohibits recruiting conversations until September 1 of the athlete’s junior year. Because of this athletes can’t verbally commitment until September 1 of their junior year.

NSR Explanation – A verbal commitment is exactly what it sounds, an athlete or coach is verbally making a promise. These days verbal commitments happen as early as the 8th grade. The good and the bad thing is that a verbal commitment isn’t binding. So, if an athlete changes their mind, they don’t have to honor their verbal commitment. However, it’s always a good idea for athletes to make 100% sure before they verbally commitment somewhere.


NCAA Term – A student-athlete is a recruit when he/she engages in off-campus, in-person contact with a coach; receives a telephone call from a coach more than once; gets a National Letter of Intent from a prospective school, or makes an official visit to a prospective school.

NSR Explanation – Essentially, a recruit is someone that is actively being recruited or pursued by a college coach. To be considered a recruit college coaches will be calling, texting or emailing an athlete often and engaging with them.

Preferred and Unrecruited Walk-on:

NCAA Term – A walk-on is someone who wasn’t recruited by a school to participate in sports and doesn’t receive a scholarship from the school, but who becomes a member of one of the school’s athletics teams.

NSR Explanation – Athletes who go through an open tryout or a training session to earn a spot on an NCAA DI or DII team without receiving an athletic scholarship are walk-ons. There are two different types, a preferred walk-on, and an unrecruited walk-on. Both must go through a tryout. However, if you’re a preferred walk-on, you already have a relationship with the college coaching staff, which will help your chances of making the team.


NCAA Term – What a “redshirt” season refers to is a year in which a student-athlete does not compete at all against outside competition. During a year in which the student-athlete does not compete, a student can practice with his or her team and receive financial aid.

NSR Explanation – An athlete who chooses to redshirt can attend classes and train with the team, but they can’t compete in games during this year. This rule is in place so athletes that attend a four-year college can spread their four years of eligibility across five years. Athletes can also be academic redshirts, which means they must sit out a year of competition to become academically eligible.


NCAA Term – Prospective student-athletes, including international students, must follow NCAA amateurism rules. Their first step is to go online to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center at, where they provide information about their amateur status.

NSR Explanation – A prospective student-athletes amateurism status is vitally important to play at any of the three NCAA levels. To be qualified as an amateur, athletes need to register with the NCAA Eligibility Center and answer all of the questions truthfully, and to the best of their ability. After that, the NCAA will review your answers and information to decide if they have amateur status.

Insider Tip: For more reading on the NCAA Eligibility Center and achieving amateur status click here!

Sliding Scale:

NCAA Term – The sliding scale matches student-athletes’ SAT/ACT scores and core-course grade-point averages to determine eligibility. The sliding scale balances your test score with your GPA. If you have a low test score, you need a higher GPA to be eligible. If you have a low GPA, you need a higher test score to be eligible.

NSR Explanation – The NCAA determines your GPA and ACT/SAT requirements based on their sliding scale. Both NCAA divisions have their own scale and it’s in place to help students! If you have a lower GPA, you can have a lower ACT/SAT score to qualify as an NCAA athlete.

Signing Period:

NCAA Term – The NCAA signing period happens at different times for every sport. This is the period of time in which athletes who have verbal offers from colleges make their athletic scholarship official by signing a National Letter of Intent. During a signing period, athletes can sign their NLI on any day as long as it falls during the specific signing period.

NSR Explanation – The NCAA signing periods are an exciting time for prospective student-athletes. During this period, students are officially committing to attend a certain college or university by signing a National Letter of Intent. Every sport has a different signing period, and some have an early signing period. Learn more about the NCAA’s signing periods.

It’s vital that athlete’s and their families are well aware of the NCAA recruiting terms and rules. Being knowledgeable about these specific NCAA recruiting terms will help you stay stress-free, during the recruiting process.

If you have any questions or want more explanation, please let us know!

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