20% Season of Competition Rule

Effective: August 1, 2021

a. Participation in more than 20% of the maximum allowable number of intercollegiate contests or dates (excluding scrimmages) at an NAIA institution, whether in a varsity, junior varsity or freshman program, during the 24-week season. Any participation in NAIA-approved postseason shall result in a season of competition. The NAIA shall count seasons of competition based on intercollegiate participation charged by another intercollegiate athletic association.

   A student who participates in the following number of contests or dates during the 24-week season will be charged a season of competition.

Baseball11 contests* Lacrosse5 contests
Basketball7 contests Softball11 contests
Bowling4 contests Swimming and diving 3 meets
Competitive cheer3 dates Tennis6 dates/tournaments
Competitive dance3 dates Indoor track and field3 meets
Cross country2 meets Outdoor track and field3 meets
Football3 contests Beach Volleyball6 dates
Golf3 contests Volleyball6 dates
Soccer5 contests  Wrestling 5 dates


NOTE 1: These limits shall be updated annually to reflect 20% of the maximum allowable contests or dates as listed in Article I, Section H, Item 1 of the NAIA Bylaws.

This new exception was proposed by the Competitive Experience Committee and will cover intercollegiate athletic participation beginning on August 1, 2021. The intention is to institute a minimum number of intercollegiate contests a students must participate in before they would be charged a season of competition. The numbers above are equivalent to a student competing in the minimum amount of intercollegiate contests to be charged a season of competition. For example a basketball player would be charged a season of competition if she competed in seven contests. Don’t forget that competition in NAIA approved postseason will automatically charge a student a season of competition regardless of the number of games they compete in.

All types of contests will count towards the total except for scrimmages. This is a continuation of the previous bylaw that stated a student would not be charged for competing in scrimmages only. A key point of this legislation is that the 20% calculation is based on the frequency of play limits for each sport. For the purposes of this bylaw, it does not matter how many games your team actually competes in. Take basketball again, if your team only plays in 15 games any students who only compete in six contests will not be charged a season of competition. Despite the fact that the student played in more than 20% of the games the team actually held.

Seasons of competition for non-intercollegiate competition will continue to be reviewed in the same manner. Furthermore, the NAIA will continue to take previous seasons charged or not charged by previous athletic associations at face value.

Key Take-Away: Coaches, FAR’s, and Compliance Administrators need to be clear on rosters and who might meet the SOC exception.


Q: What type of activity constitutes participation?

A: Throughout the bylaws, participation is defined to include any time an athlete competes in any competition for any length of time. A single play, one at bat, or one minute in the game constitutes participation.

Note that scrimmages are excluded from this bylaw both currently and under the proposal, meaning that a student’s participation in a scrimmage does not apply to determinations about seasons of competition. Therefore, the 20% limit reflects the games, competitions, dates, tournaments and meets in which a student could be charged a season of competition.

Q: Who will be responsible for tracking the number of contests in which each student competes?

A: This will be the responsibility of the institution to track the number of competitions that each student competed in, and whether the student should be charged a season based on the amount of competition.

Q: What is the 20% based off of? Is it based on the maximum allowable number of games, or the school’s initial planned schedule, or the number of games the school ultimately plays?

A: The 20% is evaluated against the maximum number competitions allowed under Bylaws Article I, Section H, Item 1.

Q: My soccer team rarely schedules the full maximum frequency of play limits for the sport (18 games). We generally schedule just 12 or 13 games. How will this proposal impact my student-athletes?

A: Soccer players on your team will be treated the same as soccer players on any other team in the NAIA. The number of games a student can play in before being charged a season of competition will be 20% for all soccer players, regardless of how many games a team schedules or ultimately competes in. In the sport of soccer, a student is charged a season of competition when they compete in their fifth game, no matter how many games your team ultimately plays.

Q: If a student-athlete receives an eligible decision from the eligibility center and competes in just one game and therefore is not charged a season of competition, would the student-athlete need to get a new eligibility center decision before competing again?  

A: No. Since the student “used” his or her eligibility center decision in the term it was issued, the student does not need to get an updated decision. This is true regardless of whether or not the student is ultimately charged a season of competition their first term of participation in the NAIA.

Q: What happens if a basketball player competes in less than 20% at NAIA School A, then transfers at winter break to NAIA School B? Is the student charged a season of competition at School A? If they play at School B, will the total number of games they play in be combined between two institutions to count towards the 20%?

A: The student is not charged a season of competition at School A because the student did not compete in 20% of games. If the student transfers mid-year after playing in a game at School A, the transfer residency rule would apply when the student identifies at School B, as the residency requirement relies on a student’s “participation” at their prior school regardless of whether they were charged a season of competition.

Assuming that School A does not provide the student with a release, the student would not be able to participate at School B due to the residency requirement. The result would be the student would only play at School A during that academic year but would not be charged a season of competition.

If School A chose to provide a release and waive the residency requirement, the student could compete immediately at School B. The bylaw is specific to the number of games to be played at a particular institution, meaning the games the student played at School A will not be combined with the games at School B. The student would not be charged a season of competition until he played in 7 games at School B.

Q: How does this 20% approach affect student-athletes transferring into the NAIA from other associations?

A: The 20% limit applies to NAIA student-athletes only. Consistent with current practice, transfer students’ previous seasons of competition will be determined by the association they were participating in at that time. This bylaw does not amend the language that says the NAIA will honor past intercollegiate experience at face value for student-athletes transferring from other athletic associations.

Q: Can the 20% limits be applied to past seasons? I have a soccer player who only played in 2 games in Fall 2019. Can she get that season of competition back?

A: No. This bylaw amendment is not retroactive, meaning an NAIA institution cannot apply the 20% approach to previous seasons of competition that have already occurred. Students who participate in 2019 or any other past season chose to participate (and be charged) under the rules that were in place at that time. The effective date on this proposal is August 1, 2021, so if passed this 20% approach will begin to apply in the 2021-22 academic year.

Q: How does this bylaw change regarding seasons of competition apply to the financial aid limits?

A: The financial aid limits are policy decisions determined by the Council of Presidents (COP). In April 2020, the COP adjusted the financial aid policy to say only those varsity students who compete in more than 20% of the sport’s frequency of play limits will have their aid count towards the team limit. Therefore, if this proposal passes, the 20% approach will be applied the same for determining when a student is charged a season of competition and when that student’s aid counts towards the team limit.