In the world of College Sports, Athletic Scholarships and how they are offered is at best confusing to parents and student-athletes.

Athletic scholarships can be offered only at the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA (JUCO) Division I and Division II levels. Remember there are no athletic scholarships offered at the IVY League Schools, all Division III schools as well as several D-IAA Non-Scholarship Football Conferences. These programs can only offer Financial Award Packages (Financial Aid, Academic Scholarships, Grants, Work Study, etc.)

The biggest mistake most families make is that they totally write off D-III schools in hopes of a D-I or D-II scholarship. In many cases a D-III Financial Award Package provides more dollars towards a college education than what one may get from a D-I or D-II scholarship.

NOTE: Only 49% of all D-I and D-II student-athletes receive athletic scholarship money and in some cases it can be as little as $400 - $500 per year.


The NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA (JUCO) dictate how many scholarships that can be offered for each sport at the D-I and D-II levels. It is then up to each individual college or university to decide how many scholarships they wish to fund for each sport that they offer. Even though a school can offer 11.7 scholarships for baseball, they may only have funding for 5 scholarships. Most non-revenue sports do not offer the full complement of scholarships unless it is a college or university that is well endowed or is able to generate the funds necessary to offer a full complement of scholarships.

College sports fans don’t spend money to attend a lot of non-revenue sports, so in order for a college or university to properly fund their total athletic scholarship program, they must be creative in their fund raising or generate revenue through their major revenue producing sports such as football, basketball and in some cases hockey. Why do you think that major colleges and universities invest millions of dollars in developing Top 25 Football and Basketball Programs? The revenue generated from these sports programs help fund the rest of scholarship sports that a college or university offers.

This is why the playing field is not equal when it comes to offering scholarships and funding those scholarships. It is important for parents and student-athletes to ask coaches how many scholarships are available for a particular sport and how those scholarships are allocated.

Even though a student-athlete may be heavily recruited by a particular college or university, they may come to find out that there is little or no scholarship money available and in some cases end up walking on to a sports program and paying their own way in hopes of getting a scholarship later on. This is why you see schools dropping programs because there is a lack of funding. As a parent and student-athlete, you need to know how stable the athletic program is and the amount of scholarship money that will be available each year.


Another confusing aspect of athletic scholarships is the fact that scholarships can be divided and awarded to a number of student-athletes in most sports. The only sports where there are full ride scholarships are in football, men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball. Even in these sports, coaches often carry more players than scholarships and those that are not on scholarship are considered walk-ons and pay their own way. In D-I football for example there is the 85/20 recruiting guideline, which allows schools 85 scholarships and 20 walk-on players.

Scholarships are based on a monetary value equal to the costs of room and board, tuition and books for a particular college and a coach cannot exceed the established total scholarships for a given athletic team.


A coach has a total of five scholarships and tuition, books and room & board is $15,000 per student. In this case, the coach has a total of $75,000 of funded scholarship monies available to him and his sport. Now the coach has to decide how to use the money. Does he give 5 full-ride scholarships or does he give 2 half-ride scholarships ($7,500/EA) and 10 partial ride scholarships ($5,000/EA). The coach can also decide to save some of the money for next year’s recruiting class and only allocate $50,000 this year. Remember, when he allocates this money, he is allocating money to existing players as well as new recruits. As parents and student-athletes, you need to know how much of this money is going towards new recruits versus current players.


This is probably the most misunderstood aspect of the scholarship process. The real question is – “How many scholarships are actually available each year for each sport?”

Using D-I football as an example, many families assume that because a D-I program is allowed 85 scholarships, that each year the school gives out 85 scholarships. In reality, a school can only have 85 scholarship athletes on the football at one time. That means if a college or university graduates 12 senior scholarship athletes, they will have only 12 scholarships to give the next year. In some cases, the schools will bank some of these scholarships for future recruiting classes and maybe only use 10 scholarships for next year.

When you are looking at non-revenue sports such as baseball, softball, golf, etc., a coach may only have 1 or 2 scholarships available per year depending on graduating athletes and may allocate that to 5-6 incoming recruited student-athletes.

In D-I men’s basketball, there is an average of 3.25 scholarships available per year for all D-I basketball schools. This means that there are a total of 1,059 basketball scholarships available nationwide. Look at the number of high school basketball players each year in this country and you can easily see why earning a D-I basketball scholarship amounts to less than 1% of all high school players playing ball each year. This is why you look at all options for college and never ignore a possible college opportunity even if it is at a NCAA D-III, NAIA D-II or even a NJCAA (JUCO)  program.


Scholarship blending is used by colleges and universities to combine athletic scholarship monies and institutional financial rewards for academic honors.

Under this program, a student-athlete must meet one or more of four academic criteria and can receive money from a college or university that will not  be counted against a team’s athletic scholarship equivalency.


  • Rank in the top 10% of you high school class
  • Achieve a Core GPA of 3.5 (4.0 Scale) or better in high school
  • Minimum SAT score of 1200
  • Minimum ACT score of 105


The NCAA established the Athletic Scholarship Equivalency program in order to level the playing field and insure that colleges and universities will not allocate academic monies to those student-athletes who are not qualified academically and in some cases give out “phantom”  scholarships.

This means that for all qualifying scholarship sports, any institutional aid  that a student-athlete receives will count against the teams total scholarship equivalency and the athletic scholarship allotment. This is why scholarship blending was implemented to encourage coaches to recruit academically strong student-athletes and to reward those coaches who actively recruit student-athletes who are successful in the classroom.

Equivalency prohibits colleges and universities from allocating institutional aid to outstanding athletes who are academically weak and when there are no additional athletic scholarship monies available.


A D-I Baseball Team is funded for a total of 7 athletic scholarships at $10,000 per student-athlete or a total of $70,000 in athletic scholarship money. The NCAA maximum for D-I Baseball Scholarships is 11.7 scholarships. The school can allocate as much institutional aid to scholarship athletes as they want to, provided they don’t exceed the value of 11.7 scholarships ($117,000). This leaves the school with $47,000 of institutional aid that they can allocate to baseball scholarship athletes – ($117,000 - $70,000) or $47,000.

In this case it would be possible to get both athletic scholarship money as well as institutional money in the form of grants, etc.

Equivalency only applies to student-athletes that are receiving athletic scholarship money. If a student-athlete is not receiving any athletic scholarship money from a college or university, any institutional aid does not count against the team’s equivalency total. Student loans and federal financial do not count towards equivalency – it is only money allocated directly from a college or university.

The Equivalency Formula can have a major impact for coaches and teams that offer the maximum amount of athletic scholarships for a particular sport. A coach has to be very careful as to who they recruit and award athletic scholarship money. For colleges or universities that offer only a percentage of allowable scholarships (EX: 50%), it is easier for those colleges and universities to allocate additional institutional aid because they have more leeway with equivalency.

Keep in mind when you are considering schools that are known to offer the maximum limit for scholarships, it may be difficult to get money from the athletic team and money from the school and coaches may end up asking you to walk on and pay your own way.


Remember, all scholarships are not guaranteed for four years but are renewable each year based on performance both in the classroom and the athletic arena.

A D-I or D-II college or university must notify you by July 1st in writing that your scholarship has been renewed. If for some reason it is not renewed, you have the right as a student-athlete to a hearing of school officials outside of the athletic department.

There have been cases of scholarships not being renewed because of poor athletic performance, but these have been rare. Non-renewal of scholarships can also happen when a new coach is brought in to run a program. The coach may non-renew a current student-athlete so that he can use that scholarship for one of his recruits. Again this is a rare instance, but one you should be aware of.



  • Student-Athlete becomes ineligible for intercollegiate competition
  • Student-Athlete fraudulently misrepresents information on a college application, National Letter Of Intent or Financial Aid Agreement
  • Student-Athlete engages in conduct that requires substantial disciplinary action(s)
  • Student-Athlete voluntarily withdraws from a sport on their own


Athletic scholarships are the dream of many high school student-athletes, but in reality only about 10% of high school athletes ever play college sports.

Does this mean that your son or daughter can’t play in college? No, it only means that you must be proactive in the recruiting process and learn to ask the right questions when you have a son or daughter being recruited. The more information you gather during the recruiting process, the better prepared you will be to make the right college choice which will provide the academic and athletic environment for you son or daughter to succeed.

Athletic recruiting is a complex process and at times can be very confusing. It is your responsibility to learn as much as you can about the process and be ready to ask questions at all times. There are a lot of dollars involved in recruiting and you want to maximize the amount that your son or daughter may be offered to play college sports.

For more information on athletic scholarships and the athletic recruiting process, please contact Jon Larson at 920-362-6235 or email me here