ACF Eligibility Rules

Last updated: October 31, 2021

Effective for 2019–2020 competition year forward

(The following is a comprehensive set of rules for establishing eligibility at collegiate tournaments. It is formally binding on all sites of official ACF tournaments held within any given competition year, and may be enforced or modified at the tournament director’s discretion at other collegiate tournaments. The official ACF Gameplay Rules are now a separate document from this one.)

  1. In keeping with the typical schedules defined and set by collegiate institutions, the competition year [or academic year] begins on August 1 of a given calendar year and continues through July 31 of the immediately successive calendar year. (For ACF purposes, a single competition year begins on August 1, then contains, in order, ACF Fall, ACF Regionals, and ACF Nationals, between then and the immediately successive July 31.)
    1. The presence of leap days has no bearing on what constitutes a “year” or a “competition year” according to these rules; for example, July 31, 2015 to July 31, 2020 is considered five years and zero days.
  2. For purposes of these rules, a class is a college-level class or course taken, for credit, at the institution at which the player is attempting to establish eligibility. Taking or having taken a class means that, on the date of the tournament, the player is currently enrolled in that class, or has completed that class for credit earlier in the academic competition year.
    1. A class is considered to be a part of whichever competition year in which it begins or its first meeting, assignment, etc. is conducted. (For example: A class which begins on March 1, 2016 and ends on August 2, 2016 is considered a part of the 2015–2016 competition year, and is therefore not a basis for eligibility in the 2016–2017 competition year.) The only exception to the above is if a class is held within a designate “fall term” (or equivalent) which begins prior to August 1 and continues at least through the date of ACF Fall in a given, in which case the class will be treated as though its start date were August 1. (e.g.: A class which begins on July 15, 2016 and ends on December 10, 2016 is considered a part of the 2016–2017 competition year.)
  3. Any accredited real-world educational institution or school that offers recognized postsecondary degrees of the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate types (including, e.g., M.Div and JD) may participate in any collegiate-level ACF tournament. This includes all sorts of post-secondary institutions, such as service academies and community colleges. Institutions with the word “online” in their names, or which only provide online certificates (e.. Coursera), or which only provide certificates of completion (e.g. tech “bootcamps”), are not eligible.
    1. Elementary, middle, and high schools are eligible to enter teams into official high school mirrors of ACF events, but not collegiate mirrors. Individual players who are simultaneously enrolled in a high school and in a collegiate degree program of the types listed above may be able to establish eligibility for a collegiate institution under Rule C above.
  4. Players may establish eligibility in one of three ways, labelled Rule A, Rule B, and Rule C below.
    1. (Rule A – Undergraduate Eligibility.) Any person who meets ACF’s definition of an “undergraduate” (See Eligibility Rule 12 below) on the date of the competition year’s ACF Fall tournament, and who has not been granted a BA or equivalent degree prior to the academic year for which eligibility is being sought, may establish eligibility at a postsecondary institution by doing either of the following during or before the first tournament for which eligibility is sought:
      1. taking any class for which credit at the institution is offered, explicitly including but not limited to traditional classroom instruction, distance learning, or dual-enrollment classes offered at and/or through high schools, or
      2. doing any equivalent academic work for which credit or specific satisfaction of a degree requirement is actually earned, including but not limited to supervised independent study, work placement, or internship.
    2. (Rule B – Postgraduate Eligibility.) A person who does not meet ACF’s definition of “undergraduate” (See Eligibility rule 12 below) on or before the date of the year’s ACF Fall tournament, or who has been granted a BA or equivalent degree prior to the current academic year for which eligibility is being sought, or both, cannot claim eligibility under Rule A. Such a student is eligible to play for a postsecondary institution if he or she is in a specific degree program for a degree granted by that institution.
      1. A “degree program” is defined for this purpose as the required course of study offered by a postsecondary institution for a specific bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, or equivalent degree (including JD, M.Div., etc.). A second bachelor’s degree is acceptable as a “degree program” for this purpose. Professional certification programs, community college associate’s degrees, and other similar degrees do not qualify under this rule, and such students must meet the Rule C standard instead.
      2. A student who is in good standing and making academic progress at any above-defined program during the academic year for which eligibility is being sought will be eligible without regard to any further considerations. The class or other component of the program being cited as “academic progress” must be undertaken during or before the first tournament for which eligibility is being sought.
      3. Graduate students whose only remaining work is the completion of a thesis, and who are working towards completion of that thesis, are explicitly eligible under Rule B.
      4. “ABD” students who are still permitted to submit a thesis in the future, but are not making academic progress at the time, are not eligible unless they meet one of the other routes to eligibility, or unless and until they resume active status towards completion of their thesis (as determined by the university).
    3. (Rule C – Other.) A person who does not meet the requirements for eligibility under Rule A or Rule B must meet all of the following criteria to be eligible:
      1. The student must be taking a total of at least three full-credit courses during the year, all through the institution for which eligibility is being sought, and all during or before the first ACF tournament being played under the eligibility thus earned. (For example, a student wishing to play ACF Fall must be taking three or more classes in the fall, but a student wishing to play ACF Regionals need only take a total of three classes between the fall and spring.) A “full-credit course” is a course offered for the ordinary amount of credit that a “normal” course, expected to be taken by undergraduates with junior or senior standing at the university, earns. (For example, a university at which a semester-long upperclassman-level class ordinarily earns three credits, this means a three-credit or more course. Because universities often count credits differently or offer more credits than standard for certain types of classes, this is defined with reference to each specific university rather than as a set amount of “credits” globally. A standard course for credit at a graduate school, professional school, professional certificate program, high school dual-enrollment program, or other program for credit qualifies as a “full-credit course.”)
      2. The courses may be in classroom, online, etc., but to establish eligibility under Rule C, they must be courses only. They cannot be substituted for with independent study, internships, or other non-class academic work.
      3. The ACF Eligibility Committee may investigate students seeking eligibility under Rule C to determine whether they have a legitimate, non-quizbowl-based, academic-path reason for being enrolled in classes. If such students are found to be merely trying to gain technical eligibility, or to be “taking classes for its own sake,” they will then be ruled ineligible. Students in this situation must have a specific academic goal in mind for taking their classes to be eligible for ACF.
  5. The ACF Eligibility Committee for a given competition year consists of the Editor-in-Chief of ACF and the head editors of ACF Fall, ACF Winter, ACF Regionals, and ACF Nationals across that competition year. This committee is the final authority on any question of eligibility. Any player, coach or other team adviser, or director of an official ACF tournament may petition the Committee regarding their own eligibility or the eligibility of any other player, both prior to an ACF tournament and up to three weeks after the conclusion of the event. Players who question their own eligibility must petition the committee at least two weeks before the tournament that they wish to play. (If the committee retroactively determines that a player was ineligible, sanctions are available under Rule 10.) Once the committee determines a player to be eligible or ineligible, that decision will stand for the entire competition year unless the educational circumstances of the player in question change, in which case the committee may be asked to re-determine.
    1. The ACF Eligibility Committee reserves the right to investigate or remove someone’s eligibility to play ACF tournaments or play for a particular school if the spirit of the rules, which is generally representable as “college quizbowl is for college students,” is not met.
    2. Any person entitled to serve on the ACF Eligibility Committee by virtue of being the head editor of ACF Fall, ACF Regionals, or ACF Nationals in a giving competition year may instead designate a proxy to serve on the ACF Eligibility Committee in his/her/their stead, either for a limited duration or for the entire competition year. No person may be designated to serve as a proxy on the ACF Eligibility Committee unless that person is a Full Member of ACF, as defined in the ACF Constitution.
    3. Each decision of the Eligibility Committee requires at least three of the five members to agree on a given determination.
  6. Holding any prior degree from any institution will not, in and of itself, render an otherwise eligible player ineligible. The taking of minimal course loads for the sole purpose of retaining eligibility at an institution that the player would not otherwise be attending is prohibited. Determining whether this is taking place is at the sole discretion of the Eligibility Committee; players who do not meet the letter of the eligibility rules laid out here but who believe that their circumstances merit consideration should petition the Eligibility Committee before attempting to register for any ACF tournaments.
  7. Once a player completes a class or academic obligation which renders them eligible, the eligibility thereby conferred lasts until the end of the competition year in which the class was completed. Players may not participate in tournaments held earlier in a competition year than their classes or other eligibility-granting academic arrangements begin. (Example 1: A player who is on academic leave for fall 2016, at a school which holds semester-long classes in fall 2016 and in spring 2017, may NOT play ACF Fall 2016. If that player resumes student status in spring 2017, that player MAY play ACF Regionals 2017 and/or ACF Nationals 2017.) (Example 2: A player who is enrolled in fall 2016 but on academic leave in spring 2017 may play any of ACF Fall, ACF Regionals, or ACF Nationals across the 2016–2017 calendar year.)
  8. If a player meets the eligibility requirements for a portion of the competition year prior to being awarded a degree in the middle of that same competition year (e.g. receives a Ph.D in January, or graduates and receives a BA in December), that player retains eligibility to play or that school for the entirety of that same competition year, even if the school has ceased to consider that player an enrolled student.
  9. Players may play for any collegiate institution for which they are eligible at any given tournament. Players need not apply for special dispensation to play for a second school during a particular academic year if they are able to establish eligibility at the second institution. A player may represent only one institution at any given tournament.
  10. Teams may consist of individuals from only one school or institution and may not include non-students or individuals enrolled at other schools.
    1. Students at comprehensive universities within a state university system may no longer join the clubs of other schools in the same system. Any school which offers a full course of undergraduate study must field its own team. Students at graduate-only campuses, such as medical schools not attached to a specific undergraduate schools, may still play for another school in the system with the approval of the ACF Eligibility Committee. The ACF Eligibility Committee must approve any instance in which such a student plays for another school in the relevant university system.
    2. With the exception of the above, teams composed of players from multiple institutions or standalone campuses within the same university system are not allowed.
  11. If it is determined prior to an event that a prospective player is ineligible, the sole penalty for that player will be disqualification from playing at that event on the team for which that player is ineligible. Such a player will still be allowed to play the event in question for any other team for which they meet the eligibility requirements of these rules, and their eligibility for future events will not be affected. A team which is discovered after an event to have used one or more ineligible players may be required to retroactively forfeit games involving that player and any titles dependent on the results of those particular games, but no other penalty will apply.
  12. For collegiate tournaments that recognize high-finishing teams and/or individuals of “undergraduate” status (such as all official ACF tournaments), an “undergraduate” is a player who did not receive a BA or equivalent or higher degree prior to the competition year in which the tournament is taking place, AND who first enrolled in a collegiate program in a competition year four or fewer years prior to the competition year in which the tournament is taking place. “Enrolled in a collegiate program” means enrollment at a postsecondary institution for the purpose of taking classes toward an associate’s, bachelor’s, or equivalent degree, excluding any enrollment occurring before the player has obtained a high school degree (such as post-secondary high school programs). For purposes of this rule, the date of enrollment is the school’s first day of classes in the first period in which the player has enrolled, excluding any summer term. If a particular institution’s fall academic calendar begins before August 1, the player’s date of enrollment will be set as August 1.
    1. For the purposes of determining who is or is not an undergraduate player, any competition years or segments thereof during which that person was unenrolled or on academic leave are counted exactly the same as competition years in which that person had standard or maximal enrollment. (e.g.: A player who first enrolled in college in 2011–2012, completed a standard freshman year, took four years of academic leave in a row, and then re-enrolled as an undergraduate in 2016–2017 would NOT be considered an undergraduate player for the 2016–2017 competition year.)
  13. For collegiate tournaments that recognize high-finishing teams and/or individuals of “Division II” status (such as all ACF tournaments), a “Division II” player is any player who first enrolled in a collegiate program in the ongoing competition year or in the competition year immediately prior to the ongoing one (i.e. is any freshman/first-year or sophomore/second-year).

  14. ACF reserves the right to ban players from ACF tournaments for misconduct. Such bans will render a player ineligible to compete even if they would otherwise be eligible. Player bans may be enacted for a temporary period of time, or may be permanent, depending on the offense (see below).
    1. ACF defines two types of misconduct that can lead to a ban: minor misconduct and major misconduct. A player’s first instance of minor misconduct will result in a warning from ACF; subsequent instances will result in at least a one-year ban from playing in ACF tournaments. A player’s first instance of major misconduct will result in at least a one-year ban from playing in ACF tournaments; subsequent instances will result in a permanent ban from playing in ACF tournaments. These definitions are distinct from the definitions of “minor” and “severe” misconduct in the ACF gameplay rules.
      1. Examples of minor misconduct include, but are not limited to: plagiarism, disorderly conduct during match play, intimidation of game or tournament officials, verbal harassment.
      2. Examples of major misconduct include, but are not limited to: cheating or conspiring to cheat at a quizbowl tournament, violent conduct during a tournament, sexual harassment, sexual assault.
      3. Misconduct does not need to occur at an ACF tournament for ACF to take action on it.
    2. Once a ban has been issued, ACF will contact the parties necessary to implement the ban, potentially including, but not limited to, the subject of the ban, other quizbowl organizations such as NAQT, tournament hosts, and the broader quizbowl community.