Reasons Why Athletes Lose Their Scholarships

Instructor: Ashley Dugger

Ashley is an attorney. She has taught and written various introductory law courses.

Though many high school athletes hope to earn college athletic scholarships, they should understand that these scholarships are contingent upon certain conditions. This lesson explains why many athletes lose their college scholarships.

High School, High Hopes

Bart was a stand-out high school basketball player. Like many of his friends, he dreamed of earning a full-ride athletic scholarship to a Division I college. Division I colleges are generally those with the largest student bodies and the largest athletics budgets, such as the state universities. Division I student athletes can expect to spend the entire school year playing and training for their sports.

Bart realized his dream! He was recruited by his local state university and awarded an athletic scholarship. But during his freshman year, he only played in three games, and only scored a total of 12 points. He was told the school would not be renewing his scholarship. Instead, his scholarship and his roster spot were awarded to a new recruit. Bart was devastated. He knew it would be difficult to make an impact as part of such a competitive team, but he thought he'd at least retain his scholarship and be a part of the team for four years.

High school student-athletes should know that college athletic scholarships come with many contingencies.
high school basketball player

One-Year vs. Four-Year Scholarships

Bart's athletic scholarship was a one-year renewable scholarship. That means Bart was only guaranteed one year. After that time, the college can choose whether or not to offer Bart the scholarship for another year. The decision is completely up to the college, and they can choose not to offer the scholarship for any reason. These are risky scholarships for athletes, such as Bart. Athletes often 'lose' their scholarships simply because the coach finds a player he likes better, the athlete is injured, or the coaching staff changes.

However, Division I schools are also permitted to offer four-year scholarships. These scholarships are generally guaranteed for all four years, rather than expiring at the end of each year.

At most Division I schools, coaches can choose whether or not to offer an athlete a one-year or four-year scholarship. However, the five major Division I sports conferences are now required to provide four-year athletic scholarships. Those conferences include the:

  • Southeastern Conference, or SEC
  • Atlantic Coast Conference, or ACC
  • Pacific 12 Conference, or Pac-12
  • Big 10 Conference
  • Big 12 Conference

Are Four-Year Scholarships a Guarantee?

Four-year scholarships might seem like a much better deal, and in many cases they probably are. A four-year scholarship cannot be canceled, revoked or reduced due to athletic underperformance, like Bart's one-year scholarship was. However, that does not mean that four-year scholarships are a guarantee.

Student athletes should be aware that all athletic scholarships can be canceled or reduced. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association or NCAA, the organization governing the relationship between colleges and their athletes, colleges can cancel an athlete's scholarship 'during the period of the award' based on one or more of these four reasons:

  • The athlete becoming ineligible, such as failing to meet academic requirements
  • The athlete commits fraud, such as being dishonest about the athlete's compliance with NCAA rules
  • The athlete engages in misconduct, such as breaking team curfew or using a banned substance
  • The athlete quits the team for the athlete's own personal reasons

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account