Terms & Definitions

Amateur Athletes

What is an amateur athlete in college sports?

The broad definition of an amateur athlete is someone who competes in sports for personal satisfaction and not for monetary gain. In the eyes of the NCAA, amateurism within the context of collegiate sports is also preceded by ensuring that the athlete is a student first, thus protecting education as the primary reason for attending college or university. The NCAA reiterates their belief that athletes are scholars first and athletes second, thus being “student-athletes”.

NCAA Bylaw 12 explains the current definition of amateurism and what a student-athelete is and isn’t allowed to receive as compensation for their participation in athletic programs. In 2021, Name, Image, Likeness (NIL) regulations set at the state level began to allow student-athletes to receive some compensation for their participation in promotional activities and other business opportunities. These laws are currently evolving at state, educational institutional, and divisional levels.

Are high school athletes amateur athletes?

Yes, high school athletes are generally considered to be amateur athletes, however it is possible for a high school athlete to engage in activities that would compromise their amateur status, such as signing with an agent for the purpose of engaging in negotiations with a professional team or signing a contract with a professional organization.

What are some of the advantages of being an amateur athlete?

The primary advantage of being an amateur athlete is that it affords an individual the opportunity to maintain eligibility as a collegiate athlete.

What are some of the disadvantages of being an amateur athlete?

The primary disadvantage of being an amateur athlete is that individuals are prohibited from earning compensation based on their participation in athletics.

What are some situations that may impact a student-athelete’s amateur status?

Some situations that may impact a student-athelete’s amateur status are:

  • Taking a break between high school and full-time collegiate enrollment
  • Using a recruiting agency, agent, or scouting service
  • Receiving payment from a sports team to participate as an athlete
  • Receiving funds or money to off-set training expenses
  • Accepting prize money based on performance at a competition
  • Being represented or marketed by a professional sports agent
  • Promoting or endorsing a commercial product or service

What are some legislated exceptions to the NCAA’s amateur rules?

Student-athletes are allowed to receive prize money based on their performance provided it does not exceed their actual and necessary expenses.

Student-athletes may utilize the services of an agent for the purpose of securing an NIL opportunity.

A student-athlete may receive training expenses and other benefits from the US Olympic committee, or a comparable national governing body in their respective country.

Does participating in a draft mean a student-athlete loses their amateur status?

A student-athlete may enter a professional draft and maintain college eligibility, provided they withdraw their name from the draft by the specified deadline and are not drafted by a professional team.…

Can a student-athlete be a professional in one sport, but an amateur in another?

Yes, a student-athlete may be a professional in one sport while maintaining their eligibility in all other sports.

What are some notable examples of professional/amateur participation occurring in college sports?

Former Florida State quarterback Chris Weinke was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2nd round of the 1990 major league draft. Weinke went on to play six seasons in the minor leagues before enrolling at Florida State in 1997. Although ineligible to play college baseball due to his professional status, he remained an amateur in football. Weinke was the starting quarterback on FSU’s 1999 National Championship team, and in 2000, Weinke became the oldest player to win the Heisman trophy at the age of 28.

What is the ‘clear line of demarcation’ for amateurism in collegiate sports?

The clear line of demarcation for amateurism is the prohibition against college athletes receiving pay for play.

Lyle Adams


Lyle was a member of the 2007 NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship team at Wake Forest. After embarking on a professional soccer career, Lyle transitioned to the tech industry, where he was one of the first 100 employees at Uber, designing platforms and tools for data consumers. Lyle also holds a Master’s in Sports Management from Columbia University.