How Student-Athletes Can Maximize NIL Opportunities by Maintaining Eligibility

Eccker Sports and HonestGame  |  Mar 21, 2023

Understand how to balance NIL opportunities while maintaining academic and athletic eligibility.



Eligibility for college sports and NIL are tied closely together. Correct measures must be taken to ensure your student-athletes’ NIL activity doesn’t negatively impact eligibility.

In most cases, student-athletes hoping for NIL opportunities must first be academically eligible to play. Your students need to understand that NIL opportunities will be few and far between if they aren’t out there competing every week, and that won’t happen if they don’t meet initial eligibility requirements. Often, athletic performance is how student-athletes generate buzz and the inability to compete could jeopardize future NIL opportunities.

Honest Game has simplified the initial academic eligibility process with an overview to help guide your high school student-athletes and ensure that they are ready for college sports.

For the NCAA, academic eligibility is determined using a combination of a student-athlete’s high school coursework and NCAA Core GPA (different from your school GPA).

Freshman student-athletes entering NCAA Division I and NCAA Division II programs must complete 16 units (32 semesters) of NCAA-approved Core Courses. These courses must be completed on a specific timeline and in specific subject areas. The NCAA also requires a minimum Core GPA to qualify, which is based on the grades earned in each of their 16 NCAA-approved courses.

Full-qualifier clearance to play an NCAA Division I sport requires a minimum 2.3 NCAA Core GPA and at the Division II level, a 2.2 Core GPA is required.

There are no NCAA eligibility requirements for NCAA Division III initial eligibility, other than being admitted to the specific DIII college.

Do you have students that want to compete at an NAIA school? Not only must they graduate from an accredited high school and be accepted as a regular student in good standing at an NAIA institution, but they must also graduate with a 2.3 school GPA. If a student does not meet the 2.3 school GPA requirement, the alternative eligibility requirement is to meet two of the three requirements outlined below to earn NAIA academic eligibility:

  1.         1.  Receive a minimum score of 18 on the ACT or 970 on the SAT. Only critical reading and math sections are considered on the SAT.
  2.         2. Graduate from high school with at least a 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale. The NAIA accepts the GPA calculation your high school provides.
  3.         3. Graduate in the top 50 percent of your high school class.
  4.                     a.  If the school does not have a class rank, students must meet both the GPA and SAT/ACT requirements.

For student-athletes looking to start at a junior college, academic eligibility can differ depending on the individual school’s standards, however, almost all require students to be a graduate of a high school with an academic diploma, general education diploma (GED) or a state department of education approved high school equivalency test. Note, if you are considering transferring from a two-year college to a 4-year college, there are transfer requirements tied to your initial eligibility status.

Academic eligibility is also a large piece of the college recruiting process and is often the doorway to more opportunities or a blocker at the next level. If students are not academically eligible to compete in college, finding a college coach to recruit them will be tough. College coaches can choose to submit a waiver for a student who does not meet full-qualifier status for initial eligibility, however, it is rarely used and involves a student-athlete with mitigating circumstances and requires full documentation. And if they don’t get recruited, they will have difficulty finding a business that wants to pay for their NIL.

Honest Game knows how complicated navigating the academic eligibility rules can be, which is why we created the ultimate guide to help high school staff support their student-athletes.

 Honest Game software was designed to help high schools, club teams, college teams, students, and families simplify the college athletic eligibility process with real-time academic eligibility reports and short-term achievable goals to help students ensure they stay eligible in order to take advantage of their NIL opportunities.

Eccker Sports is the leading NIL education solution for administrators, coaches, parents, and student-athletes. We have created solutions that help administrators and coaches manage the complexities of NIL, as well as help parents and student-athletes understand their opportunities and management of the NIL landscape. In order to understand NIL’s impact on eligibility, let’s start with some background around where the high school NIL market stands.



In order to discuss the overall impact of Name, Image, and Likeness at the high school level, let’s talk about where we were vs. where we are now. Over the last year in 2022, NIL has been moving quickly through states at the high school level.

Just last Spring, there were 8 states that made the decision to amend, clarify, or write bylaws allowing high school student-athletes to be compensated for their Name, Image, and Likeness. Just one year later, there are 27 states allowing NIL at the high school level. At least 9 more states are under consideration, which means they have had discussions about permitting NIL and/or are waiting for their proposal and new language to pass.

The 27 permitted states are estimated to have over 5 million high school student-athletes playing sports. Below is a graphic that outlines the current high school state of NIL in the United States.

Now what does this mean for eligibility at the high school level? The bylaws and language for NIL regulations are managed by state high school athletic and activities associations. These associations write the competition rules for most sports and activities in the United States. Some states not only oversee athletics, but they have responsibility for activities like band, eSports, cheer, dance, theater, etc. For these states, that means the bylaws and regulations for NIL apply to all under their purview. To research your state information, click here. Eccker Resource Hub

If a high school student-athlete earns compensation for their Name, Image, and Likeness, they need to understand the regulations that may apply in their state. For example, student-athletes may already be making money as a content creator on social media which may be in conflict with NIL regulations written by their state association. While all states have different rules around NIL participation, common things like not using school logos, school facilities, mascots, and the promotion of tobacco and alcohol could impact eligibility. Some states even have rules that restrict any NIL activities while engaging in school activities. So if an equipment company gives an influential student-athlete equipment for free with the expectation that they use it during their high school-affiliated games and activities could be a direct violation of State policy.

Often overlooked in these discussions are the states that regulate activities outside of athletics. For example, if a student is on the eSports team and makes money off a YouTube channel for gaming, if they violate any of the bylaws, they could lose eligibility for their high school eSports team. Examples of other activities that may fall under associations in some states are; band, cheerleading, eSports, and various other club activities.

States that have not yet allowed NIL at the high school level may enforce an automatic ineligible status for any NIL activities. It is extremely important to use a vetted partner to help understand the complexities before making any decisions that could negatively impact a student-athletes eligibility and future.


Common Eligibility Questions about NIL and Eligibility

Q. How does a student-athlete’s academic eligibility for high school sports play into their NIL opportunities?
A: If a student isn’t academically eligible to play in high school, their NIL opportunities will be few and far between. Businesses are interested in NIL, to create awareness for their brand and in the end, sell more of their service or product. Oftentimes, competition is how student-athletes create a buzz. Without playing time, businesses will not see a return on their investment.

Q: Will an NIL opportunity affect my student’s ability to receive a college scholarship?
A: Money earned by a student-athlete in high school can affect their ability to get financial aid and/or Pell Grants. Consider the impact before entering into any agreements. The money that they earned in high school, and may continue to earn once in college, will need to be documented for the college they attend. Their financial aid or Pell Grants could be affected, both positively and negatively, based on their NIL.

Q: What happens if I sign a letter of intent with a university where NIL is permitted?
A: Until a student-athlete enrolls at the university, they are still subject to the state laws where they reside. If your state does not allow NIL at the high school level, you can impact your high school eligibility by entering into NIL activities early.

Every situation is unique and will need consulting and discussion to ensure student-athletes don’t lose eligibility for a misstep.


About Eccker Sports Group
The Eccker Sports Group was created to help ensure not only coaches and administrators have the resources and partners to help manage the complexities that NIL brings, we also help student-athletes and their families maximize their NIL value while maintaining their eligibility. We create synergy between the involved parties and help ensure the best possible outcomes.

With the right education, resources for execution, transparency, and support, the NIL experience can be a great one while protecting eligibility!

Visit and begin your successful NIL journey and protect your future!

About Honest Game
Honest Game is the industry-leading on-demand academic compliance solution for high school administrators to save them time by automating the complex and constantly changing NCAA rules and requirements. Honest Game exists to support busy school counselors and athletic directors, ensuring schools mitigate the risk of their students becoming academically ineligible and ensuring all students have equal access to post-secondary opportunities.

Honest Game partners with thousands of high schools and families to leverage students’ passion for sports to fuel their motivation for learning using short-term goals and clear visual guidance.