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Take the Money and Run? ParentingAces Guide to Prize Money for Collegians & Juniors

The following Premium Content Guest Post was submitted by a member of the ParentingAces Community. I am very confident in the information provided as I ran it by several college coaches as well as a variety of people at the ITA. I hope you find it helpful, especially if you have a college-bound junior player or current college player who is playing money tournaments this summer. Given that several of the ITA Summer Circuit tournaments are offering prize money this summer, it is very important that players and their parents have this information.

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After years of paying money to play tournaments, the unbelievable happens. Your child actually wins money at a tournament beyond the cost of his entry fee, hotel, food, and transportation. Can he take the money and run? What do the NCAA rules say? What money can he accept without threatening his eligibility and athletic scholarship?

Your child will want to take all the money. She will have heard stories (from graduated collegians) who took money, never reported it, and never were asked about it. You as a parent don’t want to risk a large athletic scholarship over a couple hundred or even a couple thousand dollars. Relax, we’ve got your back and will share what “actual and necessary expenses” can offset that prize money.

Below are listed the actual rules from the NCAA handbook. The good news is that an entire year’s expenses can be offset against annual winnings. It is not calculated on a tournament by tournament basis so prize money from a local tourney with low expenses can offset the expensive out-of-state tourneys with no prize money. The bad news is the travel, food, and lodging expenses of parents and coaches can’t be included. Now if parent and player share a hotel room, player can count the total expense, but if a player books a separate hotel for coach, he can’t expense that room against his winnings. Keep track of all your receipts starting in January just in case your player has big wins to offset later in the year.


Rules for Prize Money for Tennis from 2018/19 NCAA Handbook on Amateurism and Athletic Eligibility

12.1.2.4.2 Exception for Prize Money—Tennis. 12.1.2.4.2.1 Prior to Full-Time Collegiate Enrollment. In tennis, prior to full-time collegiate enrollment, an individual may accept up to $10,000 per calendar year in prize money based on his or her place finish or performance in athletics events. Such prize money may be provided only by the sponsor of an event in which the individual participates. Once the individual has accepted $10,000 in prize money in a particular year, he or she may receive additional prize money on a per-event basis, provided such prize money does not exceed the individual’s actual and necessary expenses for participation in the event. The calculation of actual and necessary expenses shall not include the expenses or fees of anyone other than the individual (e.g., coach’s fees or expenses, parent’s expenses). (Adopted: 4/26/12, Revised: 1/19/13 effective 8/1/13)

12.1.2.4.2.2 After Initial Full-Time Collegiate Enrollment. In tennis, after initial full-time collegiate enrollment, an individual may accept prize money based on his or her place finish or performance in an athletics event. Such prize money may not exceed actual and necessary expenses and may be provided only by the sponsor of the event. The calculation of actual and necessary expenses shall not include the expenses or fees of anyone other than the individual (e.g., coach’s fees or expenses, parent’s expenses). (Adopted: 1/19/13 effective 8/1/13)

12.02.2 Actual and Necessary Expenses. Actual and necessary expenses are limited to: (Adopted: 1/19/13 effective 8/1/13) (a) Meals; (b) Lodging; (c) Apparel, equipment and supplies; (d) Coaching and instruction; (e) Health/medical insurance; (f) Transportation (expenses to and from practice and competition, cost of transportation from home to training/practice site at the beginning of the season/preparation for an event and from training/practice/event site to home at the end of season/event); (g) Medical treatment and physical therapy; (h) Facility usage; (i) Entry fees; and (j) Other reasonable expenses.

12.02.2.1 Application Unless otherwise permitted by the NCAA constitution or bylaws, actual and necessary expenses may be provided only if such expenses are for competition on a team or in a specific event or for practice that is directly related to such competition. The value of such expenses must be commensurate with the fair market value of similar goods and services in the locality in which the expenses are provided and must not be excessive in nature. Actual and necessary expenses shall not include the expenses or fees of anyone other than the individual who participates as a member of the team or in a specific event. (Adopted: 1/19/13 effective 8/1/13)

12.02.3 Calculation of Actual and Necessary Expenses—Individual Sports. In individual sports, the calculation of an individual’s actual and necessary expenses shall be based on expenses incurred during each calendar year (January—December), rather than on an event-by-event basis. (Adopted: 1/19/13 effective 8/1/13)

Important Facts Players/Parents May not Realize
  • Players can offset winnings against a whole year’s worth of expenses. (Bylaw 12.02.3)
  • Players can’t pay travel and food expenses for a coach, parent, or anyone besides themselves. (Bylaw 12.02.2.1)
  • If the player’s college paid expenses, then player can’t offset those same expenses against prize money.
  • Parents should keep receipts for all tournament and training expenses all year long because they may not realize in January that their player will win money in a summer tournament that they will need to offset.

Editor’s Note: The answers to the questions below were provided by the Compliance Officer at a Division I university. However, interpretation of the NCAA Compliance Rules can be subjective, so it’s imperative that a Prospective Student Athlete or Current College Player check with his/her school’s compliance officer and coach to ensure no rules are broken. The documents that follow the Q&A were provided by the ITA and Stanford University – a big thank-you to both!

Additional Questions

Q: Can players include expenses after they have played prize money tournaments? Assume a player won $2000 in early summer tourneys. He planned to play some fall Futures and paid for training later in the summer. However player did not get in fall Futures. Could player still offset those training expenses against earlier wins? Since the NCAA rule says expenses that offset wins are incurred on an annual basis, it appears those expenses could be included.

A: In tennis, prior to full-time collegiate enrollment, an individual may accept up to $10,000 per calendar year in prize money based on his or her place finish or performance in athletics events. Such prize money may be provided only by the sponsor of an event in which the individual participates. Once the individual has accepted $10,000 in prize money in a particular year, he or she may receive additional prize money on a per-event basis, provided such prize money does not exceed the individual’s actual and necessary expenses for participation in the event. The calculation of actual and necessary expenses shall not include the expenses or fees of anyone other than the individual (e.g., coach’s fees or expenses, family member’s expenses).

Q: What if a player miscalculates and he earned $2500 and only has receipts for $2300, could he return $200 and not violate any NCAA rules? I would hope most players would keep track of expenses and just go out and buy some shoes, but some might make unintentional accounting mistakes.

A: It would be considered a violation if a recruit took more prize money than expenses at an event once the $10,000 per calendar year threshold has been exceeded.

Q: Should players talk with their compliance department before accepting any prize money or just follow the NCAA bylaws? Can a coach or compliance dept prohibit players from playing?

A: All recruits should notify the Compliance Office and Coach prior to accepting prize money.  The Compliance Office wants to ensure the recruit understands the applicable rules.

Q: Will tournaments cut a check for a specific lower amount if a college player asks? Or would players just return a portion of the money if they believe they won’t have additional expenses?

A: That is up to the tournament.

Q: Can players use a per diem amount (per government tax rates per city) instead of keeping receipts for hotel and food?

A: The NCAA only allows for actual and necessary expenses so all expenses (meals, lodging) need to be receipted.

Q: What are college coach tips for keeping track of expenses? Is NCAA picky about details of payments made to academy coach/teaching pro? Parents may just write check and not get receipt.

A: In the example provided, a copy of the deposited check would serve as a receipt.

Thank you to the ITA for the form below that players can use to keep track of their expenses and prize money. You can click on the pop out icon in the top right corner to open the form in a new window where you will be able to download and save it to your computer for future use.

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And, finally, here is a document published by Stanford University in 2015 regarding outside competition and prize money:

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