Full Ride Athletic Scholarships Are For Elite Athletes
When I talk to my friends, one of the biggest misconceptions among student-athletes and their families is that everyone gets a full ride. I get it. It’s part of our sports culture now.
The truth is that only some sports offer full-ride scholarships. These are called “head count” sports. In the NCAA, these include only football for the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-A, and basketball for Division I. For women, basketball, volleyball, tennis and gymnastics offer full scholarships at some DI levels. A head count sport is one that generally produces a lot of revenue for the college. These sports are called “head count” sports because there is a set number of scholarships available per team.
This gets a little confusing for football because in Division 1, there are two subdivisions: DI Football Bowl Subdivision and DI Football Championship Subdivision. An NCAA DI FBS team is allowed 85 scholarships per year and may grant a full scholarship to all 85. Division 1 FCS programs can provide a maximum of 63 total scholarships. However a coach can divide the scholarships up, giving more athletes partial scholarships.
All other sports are called “equivalency” sports, which means the available scholarship money for each team can be divided among players. There are no restrictions on how many athletes can be on scholarship, and the allotted number of awards can be divided in whichever way the coach chooses. My niece’s lacrosse team has about 30 athletes each year on roster and only 12 full scholarships to offer. Rather than have 12 athletes on full scholarship and 18 athletes as walk-ons, their coach divides the money into partial scholarships so she can recruit more highly talented players. Equivalency sports include all other Division I sports and all NCAA Division II sports, NAIA sports and junior colleges.
This is an over simplification of how coaches divide scholarship money, but it illustrates the general point for “head count” vs. “equivalency sports”. Having said that, outside of the head count sports, there’s also a very good chance your scholarship won’t cover the total cost of tuition, room and board, plus books. The average athletic scholarship calculates to about $10,400. Outside of football and men’s basketball, the average is only $8,700.
In addition, students and parents should keep in mind that while Division I schools may provide multiyear scholarships, some awards must be renewed each year. According to the NCAA, scholarships can be canceled at the end of the award period, or during the period if the student-athlete becomes ineligible, commits fraud, engages in misconduct or quits the team for personal reasons.
Student athletes should pursue athletics scholarships, as well as academic scholarships and
financial aid. Students should focus on top grades, as early at their freshman year in high school, so they can maximize merit scholarship opportunities! With hard work it is possible to find the best college for your child and the best price.