NCAA Waivers 101 Division I

Kara Carlson

Author: Kara Carlson

POST DATE: 2.21.23
Ccha  Sports Law

Student-athletes applying for and receiving waivers from the NCAA is often a hot topic in the news. If you would like to have your school file a waiver on your behalf, it’s important to know what type of waiver you will need and the criteria for having it approved.

Eligibility Extensions 

You’ve seen the headlines – a student-athlete receives a 6th or 7th year of eligibility but what does it mean? NCAA DI athletes generally have five years to play in four seasons of competition, but that timeline may be different for athletes who received the Covid-19 eligibility extension. In general, the NCAA will grant a student-athlete an extension of their eligibility if they can show they missed two seasons of competition for something that was beyond their control.

Transfer Waiver 

Another hot topic – transfer waivers! DI allows students to transfer one time without sitting out (provided they meet certain criteria) but in order to transfer a second time without penalty, students must meet an exception or get a waiver. Transfer waivers are notoriously restrictive and can only be filed based on the following: 

  • Assertion of student-athlete injury or illness
  • Student-athlete mental health 
  • Assertions of exigent circumstances

All assertions require contemporaneous documentation.

Hardship Waiver 

Season-ending injury? Hardship waivers to get a season back are generally filed with a school’s conference office and have a strict criteria component (see our post on Hardship Waivers).

Season of Competition

A student-athlete may be granted an additional season of competition if they played in a limited number of contests due to a coach’s documented misunderstanding of the rules or extenuating circumstances.

Progress-Toward-Degree Waiver 

Division I requires student-athletes to meet certain academic benchmarks each year to ensure they are progressing toward graduation. If a student-athlete does not meet these benchmarks they may lose their eligibility. In certain circumstances, an NCAA school can file a waiver to allow the student to compete while they catch back up. These waivers require the school to submit an academic recovery plan that shows how the student-athlete can get back on track.


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