What Is a College Booster?

Specific rules about who they are and what they can do

College booster

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Broadly speaking, a booster is someone who supports a school sports team. Of course, college athletics have all kinds of fans and supporters, including students who enjoy a fall weekend football game, alumni who travel the country watching women's basketball or community members who just like to see the home team win. Those people aren't all necessarily boosters. Generally, you would be considered a booster once you have in some way made a financial contribution to a school's athletic department or been involved in promoting a school's athletic organizations. 

Defining 'Booster' in a General Sense

As far as college sports go, a booster is a very specific kind of athletics supporter, and NCAA has a lot of rules about what they can and cannot do (more on that later). At the same time, people use the term to describe all sorts of people who may not fit the NCAA's definition of a booster.

In general conversation, a booster can mean someone who supports a college athletic team by attending games, donating money or being involved in volunteer work with the team (or even the larger athletic department). Alumni, parents of current or former students, community members or even professors or other college employees may be casually referred to as boosters. 

Rules About Boosters

A booster, according to the NCAA, is a "representative of athletic interest." That covers a lot of people, including people who have made a donation to get season tickets, promoted or participated in groups promoting a school's athletics programs, donated to the athletics department, contributed to student-athlete recruitment or provided assistance to a prospect or student-athlete. Once a person has done any of these things, which the NCAA describes in detail on its website, they are forever-labeled a booster. That means they have to follow strict guidelines about what boosters can or cannot do in terms of making financial contributions to and contacting prospects and student-athletes.

For example: The NCAA allows boosters to attend a prospect's sporting events and tell the college about the potential recruit, but the booster can't talk to the player. A booster can also help a student-athlete get a job, as long as the athlete is paid for the work they're doing and at the going rate for such work. Basically, giving prospective players or current athletes special treatment could get a booster in trouble. The NCAA can fine and otherwise punish a school whose boosters violate the rules, and many universities have found themselves on the receiving end of such sanctions. And it's not just colleges—high school booster clubs have to follow local athletics associations' rules, as well as tax laws regarding fundraising.

So if you're using the term "booster" in any kind of sports-related context, make sure you're clear on which definition you're using—and which one your audience thinks you're using. The general, casual use of the term can be quite different than its legal definition.

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Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "What Is a College Booster?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/what-is-a-college-booster-793481. Lucier, Kelci Lynn. (2023, April 5). What Is a College Booster? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-college-booster-793481 Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "What Is a College Booster?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-a-college-booster-793481 (accessed June 10, 2023).