Athletic Scholarships 101

What do you really know about athletic scholarships?  If your goal is to get an athletic scholarship or for your son or daughter to get an athletic scholarship then this is a must read!

Let’s start with the facts about playing college sports and athletic scholarships

  • There are 8 million high school student-athletes
  • 520,000 (6.5%) college student athletes (NCAA DI,II,III, NAIA, NJCAA,NCCAA)
  • Approximately 138,000 athletic scholarships available (NCAA DI and DII)
  • Approximately 140,000 (25%) of college student-athlete play Division I, which means 75% play at DII, DIII, NAIA, or NJCAA.
  • Less than 1% of high school student-athletes will receive a
    full athletic scholarship
  • The average athletic scholarship is approximately $11,000
  • NCAA Division III Schools do not offer athletic scholarships but they do offer Merit Scholarships and your athletic ability could play a role in that.

The NCAA has a maximum scholarship amount it may offer for each sport.  For example, NCAA Division I Football is 85, NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer is 14.

In order to dig a little deeper you must understand the two types of sports; the Head Count Sport and Equivalency Sports.

Head Count Sport –  the stated scholarship  limit is absolute, and the number of student-athletes receiving awards cannot exceed this number. For example, an NCAA Division I Football program cannot have more than 85 scholarship players on their roster. Head Count Sports are only for NCAA Division I sports. 

Head Count Sports (DI Scholarships / DII Scholarships)

  • Men’s Basketball (13 Scholarships / 10)
  • Football (85 / 36)
  • Women’s Basketball (15 / 10)
  • Gymnastics (12/6)
  • Women’s Tennis (8/ 6)
  • Women’s Volleyball (12/8)

Equivalency Sport –  scholarships can be split into partial scholarships into any proportion up to the maximum allowed. For example, an NCAA Division I Baseball team can offer up to 11.7 scholarships and can divide them anyway they would like.  A baseball team typically has a roster of 25 – 30 players.

Popular Equivalency Sports

  • Baseball (11.7 / 9
  • Lacrosse (12.6 / 10.8)
  • Men’s Soccer (9.9 / 9)
  • Wrestling (9.9/9)
  • Women’s Field Hockey (12/6.3)
  • Women’s Lacrosse (12 / 9.9)
  • Women’s Soccer (14 / 9.9)
  • Softball (12 / 7.2)
  • Women’s Track and Field (18 / 12.6)

Full Athletic Scholarships are relatively rare in equivalency sports.

What is a Full Athletic Scholarship? 

Full-ride scholarships include tuition, room and board, books, and certain fees related to courses are covered.

Why Academics are Important?

As an athlete in an equivalency sport your academics are very important.   Typically, Academic Scholarships may be more valuable than an athletic scholarship.   There is potential for you to receive a full scholarship by packing a variety of financial aid available.

A Men’s Soccer player is planning to attend a private institution where the tuition, room, board, and fees is $45,000.   The coach offers him a 40% athletic scholarship.  He also receives an $18,000 Merit or Academic Scholarship from the Institution.   There is also some Federal Aid Options in the form of a Grant.   The player received a $1,500 scholarship from his church for his involvement in their community service initiatives.  After adding up all of the scholarships and financial aid he has received he would be attending college for free, so he would receive a full scholarship but it wouldn’t be all athletic money. 

About 90% of private school students will receive some sort of financial aid.  Private Schools are more likely to offer higher academic and merit scholarships than public institutions or state schools.   Not all athletic programs have the ability to combine both academic and athletic scholarships into one financial aid package.

Paul Royal, Head Women’s Soccer Coach at LaSalle University on the importance of academics in the recruiting process. “The most important area of concentration should be on their academics. If a player is academically sound their options are limitless academically, financially, and geographically when they go to choose a school.”

Parents are willing to do anything and everything for their children to give them the best life possible and create endless opportunities for them  That is why parents will spend thousands and thousands of dollars every year for their kids to participate in youth sports and provide them an amazing experience that will give them opportunities to be a part of a team, learn about work ethic, discipline, build confidence, and become leaders.   There are some parents out there that believe these opportunities will lead to athletic scholarships and they will get a Return on their Investment (ROI).   Yes, receiving an athletic scholarship is a great accomplishment but it can’t be the end all be all of the sports experience.   Don’t push them harder so they can get a scholarship, push them to be the best version of themselves on and off the field and if an athletic scholarship is the final result then it will all be worth it.