The men’s basketball coaching staff at Ocean State University is going to require the student-athletes to wear a jacket and tie when traveling to away from home competitions. Because only a couple of the student-athletes have the proper attire to wear, the staff decided to provide blazers to the team as one of their participation awards for this year. The student-athletes will receive these blazers prior to the first game of the season.
Is this permissible?
No. It is not permissible to provide student-athletes with a participation gift prior to the conclusion of the season. NCAA Official Interpretation-3/12/12- Permissible Timing for Providing Annual Participation Awards (I)– states that it is not permissible for an institution to provide an annual participation award (e.g., winter coats, travel blazers) to a student-athlete in a particular sport prior to the day of the institution’s final home contest of the regular playing season in that sport.
[References: NCAA Division I Bylaw 126.96.36.199 (annual participation awards); and a staff interpretation (03/02/12, Item No. a), which has been archived]