Sports Scholarships Are Awarded a Year At a Time
I'd like to take this opportunity to clear up a common misconception: Contrary to popular belief, athletic scholarships awarded by college coaches are not guaranteed for a student's entire college career.
On the contrary, athletic scholarships actually cover a one-year period and are renewable for up to five years. Most are renewed annually, but some are cancelled or renegotiated. That’s not the same as a guaranteed scholarship.
The most common reason scholarships are not renewed is dismissal from the team. Whether the cause is bad grades, substance abuse, or violation of team rules, any athlete who is kicked off a team has his or her scholarship revoked. The same goes for athletes who voluntarily quit.
Less frequently, an athlete may lose his or her scholarship because of poor performance on the court or field. Should this happen, an athlete must be notified in writing and may appeal the decision. The NCAA leaves decisions regarding scholarship renewals up to each institution.
In very rare instances, a career-ending injury may cause an athlete to lose his or her scholarship. Most schools, however, do not cancel scholarships unless an athlete is suspended from the team or quits. An athlete who suffers a career-ending injury often keeps his or her scholarship until graduation.
I should also note that it is entirely possible for a "walk-on" athlete to impress coaches enough to eventually earn a scholarship. That's why they call them "late bloomers!"
- City of College Dreams: