In the 28+ years that I have been a teacher, coach, and administrator, I have worked with close to 2050 students. In that time, I have taught, coached, or been the principal of five students who have received Division I athletic scholarships. For those of you that do not know, college athletics is basically divided into six “classes” of athletics – Division I, II, II as well as NAIA, and two categories of junior colleges. Division I is where the big boys play, like Nebraska, Ohio State, USC, Iowa State and yes, even Iowa. There are a number of differences, but most observers will agree that the best level of competition is at the Division I level, commonly called D-I. That is also where most of the money and television is, and when we hear about full-ride scholarships, this is the level of competition where those for the most part exist. So, when you look at the numbers, of the 2050 students that I have worked with, .2% of them have been awarded a Division I athletic scholarship. Nothing else needs to be presented to show that the odds are not with you if this is the goal that parents have for their child.
Of those D-I athletes that I have worked with, Nick Clausen was a three-year starter at Iowa State for Jim Walden’s football team and was awarded a full-ride scholarship. Andrew Long had a scholarship to Iowa State and then at Penn State to wrestle. Madison Frain is currently a scholarship softball player at University of South Dakota, and Colin Bevins had a full-ride football scholarship to play football at Iowa State until he chose to leave the team this past July. Another student Quin Leith wrestled at Cornell University in New York, but the Ivy League does not award athletic scholarships, though he was awarded various grants and financial aid assistance such that it made it possible for him to attend. In addition, Teresa Breyfogle turned down track money at Wyoming and Iowa State in order to play basketball and run track at a D-III Buena Vista, and Kalab Evans said “no” to a baseball scholarship at Kentucky and opted to go to a community college to start his baseball career. So, of all of the students I have worked with, two – Clausen and Bevins – actually received a full-ride scholarship.
The NCAA, the national governing body of about 1300 institutions of higher learning, determines how many athletic scholarships can be awarded in each sport at each level. For instance, in D-I men’s basketball, coaches can only award 13 full scholarships, while women’s basketball coaches cannot award any more than 15. If there were not limits, then the wealthiest schools could outspend the rest, which would certainly upset any balance that may exist on the playing field. Recognize as well that there are differences between men and women in some sports due to Title IX in an effort to bring about parity in the entire athletic program as they is no women’s equivalent to football and the 85 scholarships that a school can award to those athletes. And, at the D-I level, in men’s sports the scholarships award to football and basketball players must be “full rides,” meaning that they cannot be divided among athletes. In other sports they have to be divided as not enough full rides can be given to even fill a team. For instance, baseball teams get 11.7 scholarships that have to be divided among 30-35 players on the active roster. It is highly unusual for a baseball player to receive a full scholarship. D-I wrestling teams can award 9.9 full scholarships, which is interesting because the team has ten weight classes to fill, not to mention having other wrestlers on the team to provide depth. So, when someone tells you their son got a “full ride” be very skeptical.
The reality is that a very, very small percentage of high school student-athletes are going to win an athletic scholarship, partial or full ride. The percentage is right at 2% and those given by Division I schools are less than 1%. Over one million boys play high school football, but less that 30,000 received any kind of scholarship to play that sport at the D-I or D-II level. The odds are a little better for girls, but not much, though in some sports the odds are a lot better. What sport has the great opportunity? Women’s rowing! However, last I looked, there are not many rowing teams in Iowa high schools!
I am all for dreams and aspirations. I do think that many parents are a little out of hand hiring private strength and conditioning coaches as well as private technique coaches and spending money on academic test taking coaches, travel and select teams, and maybe even sending their kids off to some of these new full-time academies that are popping up in our country. The amount of money they will spend will never be recouped unless their child becomes a very successful professional athletic. But that is not to say that athletic success at high school won’t open some doors. It does. But let’s look at it through clear rather than rose colored glasses.
If you want to learn more about college athletic scholarships, I refer you to CBS’s Money Watch and this web site: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505145_162-57516273/8-things-you-should-know-about-sports-scholarships/