College Baseball NCAA, JUCO, and NAIA Recruiting Rules
Are you a high school baseball player looking to bring your game to the next level and play in college? We want to help you understand the different divisions you can play in from the NCAA to JUCO to NAIA. Navigating the recruitment process can be tricky and we want to clarify it for you as much as we can.
We will explain the different sets of recruiting rules for each division, NCAA, JUCO, and NAIA. Each division comes with different expectations and varying levels of play, we want you to be prepared and eligible to play in whichever division you choose.
The Different Divisions
When you are looking into playing baseball in college you first need to understand the 3 different divisions you could play in, these include:
The most well-known division is the NCAA, the NAIA is a similar format to the NCAA, the JUCO are junior colleges where many college baseball players will play for 2 years before transferring to a 4-year university, usually either an NCAA or NAIA school.
Within the NCAA there are 3 levels to play at, the following are the different levels from the highest level to the lowest
- NCAA Division 1
- NCAA Division 2
- NCAA Division 3
The NCAA Division 1 level is where most baseball players and other athletes aspire to play, it is the highest and most well-known division to compete in. The NCAA Division 2 and 3 are also competitive divisions with many great schools to play at as well.
JUCO schools have 3 different levels to play at including, from the highest level of play to the lowest
- JUCO Division 1
- JUCO Division 2
- JUCO Division 3
Many baseball players and other athletes decide to spend 2 years at a JUCO and then transfer to a bigger, maybe more well-known, 4-year university. If you are a high school athlete who needs some more time to improve your academics or improve your skills in baseball, going to a JUCO and then transferring to a 4-year university is a great option.
Similar to the NCAA the NAIA has 3 different levels to play at, including the following from highest level of play to the lowest
- NAIA Division 1
- NAIA Division 2
- NAIA Division 3
The NAIA is filled with less well-known colleges, compared to NCAA Division 1 schools, usually with smaller campus sizes. They are still 4-year universities that offer a great balance between athletics and academics.
Why Are There Recruiting Rules?
You may be asking yourself why there are rules that restrict athletes, including baseball players, and coaches from communicating with each other? Well here’s the reason, some bigger schools that are able to bring in more money from their athletic events have more resources than smaller schools. This is the reason there are rules in place for coaches and athletes to follow during the recruitment process. They want to try to level the playing field for all schools trying to recruit athletes as best they can.
We will start by explaining the different aspects of the recruitment process and detail how it works from the perspective of an NCAA school, a JUCO, and an NAIA school.
Contacting a Coach
One of the first steps in the recruitment process is reaching out to coaches at schools you are interested in playing and studying at. High school baseball players can contact a coach at any time but there are rules that restrict coaches from being able to respond at certain times.
- NCAA Division 1: coaches are not allowed to contact athletes before September 1st of their junior year.
- NCAA Division 2: Coaches cannot contact athletes, until June 15th after their sophomore year.
- NCAA Division 3: there are no rules in terms of when a coach can contact an athlete, although coaches will typically wait until the athlete's junior year.
- JUCO Division 1, 2, and 3: there are no rules for when a coach is allowed to contact an athlete, so they are allowed to have contact with athletes whenever they would like.
- NAIA Division 1, 2, and 3: there are no rules in place for when a coach is allowed to contact an athlete, therefore they are allowed to communicate at any time.
The rules in terms of when athletes, high school baseball players, are allowed to contact a coach are also in place to give student-athletes more time to consider which college they feel is the best choice and avoid the pressure that comes from getting recruited too early.
During the process of recruitment, you may have the opportunity to take an official visit to a school. This means the school will be paying for all or part of your trip to the University. On an official visit, you will likely get a tour of campus, meet some professors, eat in the cafeteria and meet the coach and some players. At each division there are restrictions to taking official visits, these include:
- NCAA Division 1 school, you can begin taking official visits on September 1st of your junior year, you are only allowed 5 official visits.
- NCAA Division 2 school, you can take official visits starting June 15th after your junior year, you are also only allowed 5 official visits, this includes any you take to NCAA Division 1 schools as well.
- NCAA Division 3 can take official visits after January 1st of their junior year.
- JUCO Division 1, 2, and 3, coaches are allowed to contact athletes whenever they want, in terms of official visits they are allowed to pay for 1 student-athletes official visit to campus and the athlete has to have finished their junior year of high school.
- NAIA Division 1, 2, and 3, does not restrict contacting a coach or campus visits, so you are able to take as many as you want and whenever you want.
You can take as many unofficial visits to any school that you would like, this means you cover all costs associated with your trip. Just be sure you are eligible to talk to the coach during your visit before you plan everything.
Some of the divisions require periods of no contact between coaches and recruits, meaning high school baseball players looking to play at their school. There are 4 types of contact periods we will explain below, these include
- Contact period, this is the time when coaches and recruits are allowed to communicate whether it's by phone, email, campus visit, all communication is allowed.
- Evaluation period, when a coach can watch a recruit compete in a game but cannot talk to them face to face.
- Dead period, is a time when coaches are not allowed to have any contact with recruits other than talking to them on the phone or writing to them.
- Quiet period, is when coaches are not allowed to scout off-campus, but they are allowed to visit with recruits who come to campus and communicate with recruits.
Each division has a different set of times for their contact period, dead period, and quiet period. NCAA Division 3, all NAIA divisions, and all JUCO divisions do not have any dead or quiet periods and their contact period is all year. The NCAA Division 1 and NCAA Division 2 have their own respective periods of the contact period, dead period, and quiet period.
The NCAA Division 2 has one dead period from November 9 to November 11, athletes and coaches are not allowed to contact each other other than over the phone.
The NCAA Division 1 has a more extensive period of dates for when athletes and coaches can be in contact, it includes the following
- August 1- August 16
- September 11- October 11
- March 11 - May 30
- June 8 - June 18
- June 22 - July 2
- July 6 - July 31
- November 9 - November 12
- January 7 - January 10
- May 31 - June 7
- June 19 - June 21
- July 3 - July 5
- August 17- September 10
- October 12 - November 8
- November 13 - January 6
- January 11 - February 28
Toward the end of the recruitment process by the time you have narrowed your search down to a few schools, you will likely be talking to the coach about an opportunity for an athletic scholarship. Some baseball programs are not allowed to offer athletic scholarships, most are eligible to offer partial athletic scholarships for baseball and very few can offer a full-ride athletic scholarship. Here is the breakdown for each division on if they are eligible to offer scholarships
- NCAA Division 1 is eligible to offer athletic scholarships, if you were to see a full-ride athletic scholarship it would likely be from one of the large baseball programs
- NCAA Division 2 is eligible to award athletic scholarships, most are partial athletic scholarships
- NCAA Division 3 is not allowed to offer athletic scholarships, student-athletes should look into the academic scholarships available at the schools they are considering
- JUCO Division 1, 2, and 3 are all eligible to award athletic scholarships to their athletes, it varies by school and programs how much money they have to give
- NAIA Division 1, 2, and 3 are all eligible to award athletic scholarships as well.
The recruitment process and staying eligible to play can be tricky to navigate all the rules but after reading this blog, hopefully, we have clarified the process a little better for you! Deciding what level you want to play in college and what school you feel is the best fit takes time and we want the process to be as smooth as possible.