NCAA Clarifies Rules on Sports Crowdfunding

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has officially clarified its stance on athlete crowdfunding, giving the method of personal fundraising explicit approval under student-athlete eligibility guidelines.

The NCAA’s recent clarification comes nearly a year after it published an educational column that attempted to reign in a specific type of athlete crowdfunding called “pay-for-play” or “pay-to-stay.” The broad-stroke of the column, however, resulted in confusion among the collegiate community, causing many to steer clear of online personal fundraising.

“We’ve spent the past year encouraging and working with the NCAA to clarify its position and help teams and athletes raise the money they need to pursue their goals,” said Bill Kerig, RallyMe CEO.

“On behalf of our community and the thousands of potential and current collegiate athletes, we thank the NCAA for publically making clear the rules and helping ease their concerns so they can raise funds to stay in their sport”

The educational column, published Oct. 22, helps Division 1 members understand how current regulations apply to crowdfunding. For example, the NCAA does not view crowdfunding any differently than any other form of fundraising. In regard to eligibility and amateur status, this usually requires that funds raised do not exceed “actual and necessary expenses” and relate to competition or training for competition.

“The clarification makes abundantly clear - and public - what we have been talking with the NCAA about since 2012,” said Scott Zeller, RallyMe General Counsel. “We believe it will open the doors even wider for more collegiate athletes and teams to raise crucial funds and stay within compliance of the NCAA.”

As the cost of participating in high-level athletics continues to increase at a level greater than colleges’ and universities’ ability to support sports, online fundraising is becoming the new normal.

Summary of key aspects of the NCAA published position on Crowdfunding

As it relates to prospective student athletes and current student athletes:

  • An athlete may set up their own crowdfunding campaign as long as the funds raised are used for “actual and necessary” expenses related to competition and practice (for team athletes) or an event and practice immediately preceding the event (for individual athletes).
  • An athlete may not receive funds (via crowdfunding or otherwise) from an agent or a representative of an institution’s athletics interests (e.g. a “booster club”) or an institutional staff member.
  • An athlete may participate in non-sports related crowdfunding provided that there is “no relationship to nor mention of athletics”.  For example, a soccer player could conduct a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to make a documentary film about pollution as long as she did not mention her status as an athlete.
  • An institution or booster club may not accept crowdfunding donations on behalf of an athlete.
  • Except for a few very specific exceptions, a student-athlete is not permitted to use his or her name or picture to advertise or promote a for-profit crowdfunding service.  That is to say, a student athlete can’t act as a spokesperson for a company (crowdfunding or otherwise).
  • A crowdfunding entity can’t independently solicit funds and promise them to the student-athlete upon graduation or exhaustion of athletics eligibility.  “Once the student-athlete accepts the promise of pay, the student-athlete has jeopardized his or her eligibility for intercollegiate athletics, even if the funds will not be disbursed until after completion of his or her intercollegiate athletics participation.”
  • A college or university may use crowdfunding in conjunction with its institutional fundraising efforts if the rules of the institutional, charitable, education or nonprofit promotions regulations are satisfied. However, an institution's crowdfunding campaign may not include a co-sponsorship with a for-profit organization and use a current student-athlete's name, image or likeness.

Read the complete NCAA educational column

  • Some areas of fundraising under some circumstances may fall into gray areas for a particular college or university. As such, athletes are ultimately responsible for ensuring their own compliance with NCAA rules. RallyMe encourages prospective student athletes and student athletes to consult with their college or university as well as visiting the NCAA’s Eligibility Center website at www.eligibilitycenter.org for additional information.