Faculty Guidelines

Faculty members often do not know what to do when a student-athlete approaches them to ask for permission to miss classes, or to take exams at different times other than those scheduled because of team events. The guidelines listed below have been established to address these issues and can be found in the OCAAA Guidelines. For a quick summary of NCAA guidelines relevant to USC, please view TAB 1 below.


  1. Accommodations for Missed Classes
  2. USC’s Policy for Missed Classes Due to University-Sanctioned Events Including Intercollegiate Athletic Competition
  3. Special academic reporting procedures
  4. Guidelines for Contact between Faculty and Athletic Department Staff Relating to Academic Concerns
    1. Authorized Contact with Student-Athlete Academic Services (SAAS) Staff or Athletic Department
      1. Mid-term Monitoring of Academic Progress
      2. Tutor Consultations
      3. Verification of Final Grades
      4. Exam Proctoring Requests
      5. Excused Absence Letter
      6. Accommodations for Disability
    2. Prohibited Contact with SAAS Staff or Athletic Department
TAB 1: Summary of NCAA Rules for Student-Athletes Relevant to Faculty at USCThe National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the national organization that governs participation in intercollegiate athletic competition. The NCAA has established academic standards that student-athletes must meet in order to be eligible for practice, athletics financial aid and intercollegiate competition. In addition, the NCAA has rules concerning the amount of time that student-athletes may be required to practice and any benefits student-athletes may receive.

The NCAA’s Eligibility Center determines the initial academic and amateurism qualifications of prospective student-athletes. Academically, to be eligible for practice, athletics financial aid and intercollegiate competition, a prospective student-athlete must complete 16 “core” courses in high school and be deemed by the Eligibility Center a “final academic qualifier” or an “academic redshirt.” The 16 core courses are:

  • English – 4 years;
  • Mathematics – 3 years;
  • Natural or Physical Science (including at least 1 laboratory course) – 2 years;
  • Social Science – 2 years;
  • 1 additional year of either English, Math or Science; and
  • 4 additional years of other academic courses which may include English, Math, Science, Foreign Language, Computer Science, Philosophy or non-doctrinal Religion.

Final qualifiers are eligible for financial aid, to practice and to compete in their first year. To be a final qualifier, they must receive at least a 2.3 GPA in the above core courses and achieve the minimum SAT (composite verbal and math scores) or ACT (sum scores) established by the Initial-Eligibility Index:

Academic redshirts are eligible to receive financial aid and may practice with the team; however, they may not compete the team. Academic redshirts are those with a 2.0-2.29 and otherwise meet the Initial Eligibility Index.

Note, SAT scores for tests taken on or after March 1, 2016 are evaluated based on the concordance established by the College Board.

Finally, the NCAA Eligibility Center will review a prospective student-athlete’s amateur status in each sport the prospect selects. Only those certified as amateur or certified with conditions will be eligible to compete in a particular sport.

Visit NCAA Eligibility Center for more information. Also note, the initial eligibility rules for transfer student-athletes differ slightly. Contact the Office of Athletic Compliance for assistance.

Post-Enrollment Academic Standards

The NCAA also has adopted minimum academic standards that must be met in order for a student-athlete to be eligible for competition after his or her freshman year. These requirements are intended to support the academic development of student-athletes and raise their graduation rates. To be eligible for practice, a student-athlete must be enrolled full-time, which at USC is 12 units for undergraduate degree programs. To be eligible for competition, the basic academic requirements are as follows:

  1. Pass at least 6 units each term;
  2. Pass 24 units prior to starting the sophomore year (18 of which must be from the regular academic year); pass 18 units prior to the start of each following year;
  3. Must maintain the minimum grade-point average requirement, which at USC is as follows:
    1. Fulfill at least an overall 1.8 GPA after the first year
    2. Fulfill at least an overall 1.9 GPA after the second year
    3. Fulfill and maintain an overall 2.0 GPA as of the third year and after
  4. Must declare a major by the third year and must meet progress towards that degree:
    1. Complete 40% of the degree by the start of the third year;
    2. Complete 60% of the degree by the start of the fourth year; and
    3. Complete 80% of the degree by the start of the fifth year.

At USC, it is the responsibility of the Registrar’s Office to certify whether each student-athlete is in compliance with these academic requirements for continuing eligibility.

The above rules also apply to transfer student-athletes. However, the rules differ slightly for student-athletes who are in graduate school.

In addition to these NCAA standards, student-athletes are subject to the same USC rules with respect to probation and academic dismissal as apply to any member of the student body. For example, any student whose cumulative GPA falls below 2.0 is considered to be on academic probation.

Practice Rules

NCAA rules also limit the amount of time that student-athletes may be required to participate in athletic practice activities. The purpose of these rules is to ensure that student-athletes are not subjected to unreasonable time demands made by the athletic staff, and that they have adequate time to devote to academic activities. The basic rules are:

  • During the declared playing season (period from date of initial practice through date of final competition – bowl game or NCAA championship and the designated nonchampionship segment for applicable sports), practice may be required for no more than 4 hours per day, 20 hours per week and 6 days per week.
  • Outside of the playing season in sports other than football, only 8 hours of required athletically-related activities per week may be required, with not more than 2 hours spent on skill instruction. There must also be at least two days off per week. In football during declared weeks, only 8 hours of athletically-related activities may be required, with no more than 2 hours spent on film review. There must also be at least two days off per week.
  • Student-athletes may not miss class for practice activities except those associated with an away-from-home contest.


The NCAA rules allow each academic institution to provide certain specified benefits to student-athletes. These include financial assistance (tuition, fees, books, room and board), four complimentary admissions to home and away contests in their sport, competition-related benefits (uniforms, equipment, travel/meals/lodging for away contests), medical treatment related to athletics participation, and academic support services.

The NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from receiving other benefits from the University and outside individuals unless the benefit is available to all students or to the public in general. This prohibition applies to benefits provided by USC faculty, staff, and administration, and to any individual who supports USC’s athletic activities (financially or with goods or services). Extra benefits can include a free lunch, free cup of coffee or free photocopy as well as a free stereo, an unsecured automobile loan, or free legal services. The basic question for determining whether the extra benefits rule would be violated is: Is this a benefit that I provide to all my students? If the answer is “yes,” then providing the benefit to a student-athlete would not violate the NCAA rules. If it is “no,” the benefit should not be provided because it would constitute a violation of the NCAA rules. If there is an item or service you would like to provide to a student-athlete and are unsure whether it would trigger an impermissible benefit or preferential treatment, contact the Office of Athletic Compliance.


The NCAA has strict regulations when it comes to recruiting prospective student-athletes. Generally, a prospective student-athlete is anyone who has entered the 9th grade. The NCAA imposes strict rules as it relates to who can recruit, where they can recruit and when. So when it comes to recruiting prospects from an athletics perspective, leave it to the coaches!

If a prospective student-athlete is on campus or reaches out unrelated to athletics, it is permissible for USC faculty and staff to communicate with him or her. Otherwise, faculty, staff and individuals associated with the athletics program (“boosters”), are prohibited from having any written, electronic or in-person off-campus recruiting conversations or contacts with a recruit or his or her parents/legal guardians.

For further information regarding Student-Athlete Academic Services (SAAS), please visit their website.

Last updated August 16, 2018