What are the Odds for an Athletic Scholarship?

How does the number of high school athlete affect my chances of receiving an athletic scholarship?

How does the number of high school athlete affect my ability to get recruited?

What percentage of high school athletes will play at the college level?

Some recruiting services pitch exposure as the ultimate recruiting tool and the number one reason that you won’t be recruited, using the theory that if college coaches do not know you, they cannot recruit you.

While exposure is important, it’s exposure at the right level coupled with what a coach needs for their team and what a coach looks for in a player. No amount of exposure will help you get recruited by any college coach in any sport if you lack the size or skill to play for that particular coach and/or team.

According to the National Federation of High Schools, the greatest participation by high school athletes is in high school football, with 1,023,142 boys participating at the high school level? What does this mean for your recruiting efforts? Well, nothing really!

A recent recruiting services pitch we came across was as follows…. “There are 6.9 million high school athletes, how will you stand out?” – “There are 254,000 seniors who play high school football. There are only 5,042 athletic scholarships awarded at the D1 level. Your odds are 1-50 that you get a scholarship.”

Let’s look at these figures a little more closely…

The “6.9 million high school athletes” participation figure has nothing to do with YOUR recruiting process mainly because over 6 million of those kids are underclassmen and don’t play your sport and quite frankly, it’s a meaningless number. If you want to know how meaningless it is, consider this – Nationally, out of 100 9th graders, 68 will graduate from high school, 40 will enter college directly, 27 are still enrolled in college in their second year, and 18 will graduate from college. – US Dept. of Education – So right away that 6.9 million number has been shrunk greatly because not all of those kids will even make it out of high school, which will probably make it difficult for them to be college athletes.

Now let’s look at the second statement in more detail about high school football participation.

There are several problems with looking at the football participation number. First off, not every high school athlete who plays football in high school is interested in playing in college, just as not every person who goes to high school goes to college. Some students play sports in high school just to play sports and have no desire to continue after high school. My high school baseball team senior year had 6 seniors. Only myself and one other player attempted (and succeeded) to continue our baseball career at the college level. So the number of players I was competing against on my team dropped 66 percent because 4 of them didn’t try to get recruited.

I despise graphic the NCAA puts out because in no way does it factor in the number of players in each sport who were even interested in playing in college or who have the actual skills needed to play in college. This is not a probability chart in any way. If you have the skills to play in college and apply some effort to your recruiting process, your probability of playing in college is 100% If you do not have the skills and athletic ability to play at the college level, your probability is zero percent!

What are the odds of receiving an athletic scholarship

What are the odds of receiving an athletic scholarship

Now let’s look at the second figure about 5,042 athletic scholarships each year at the D1 level for football.

D1 football team are required to offer 85 athletic scholarships (and no more per team) and there are roughly 130 football teams at the 1A level and you can divide 85 by 4 because each coach has about 21.25 scholarships per year. In reality, Division 1 football coaches can sign 28 recruits under the NLI program but can only have 25 players receive a scholarship in the new year, but for use of this example I will stick with 21.25 because they cannot have more than 85 players on the team under full scholarship.

At the D1 level, there are roughly 2,762 athletic football scholarships available each year. (21.25 scholarships x 130 schools) give or take a few scholarships as no coach can recruit .25 players.

There are about 116 1-AA football teams. These teams are allowed to offer 63 athletic scholarships per team. 63 athletic scholarships divided by 4 years equals about 16 scholarships a year. 16 scholarships a year times 116 teams equals 1,856 athletic scholarships available per year. But wait, each football team in the Ivy League competes at the 1AA level, but they do not offer athletic scholarships. Now we have to deduct about 150 scholarships to maybe 1,706 at the 1AA level. It’s also unlikely that every 1AA team offers 63 scholarships but for the sake of argument, we will say they do.

Now, let’s say there are roughly 4,468 football scholarships (2,762+1,706) awarded at the Division 1 level and Division 1AA level each year, and that’s assuming every 1AA team offers the maximum of 63 athletic scholarships (highly unlikely).

Now to the important stuff!

Not every high school football player is going to play D1, wants to play D1, or can play D1. How can someone say that you are competing for a scholarship at the D1 level against a 150 pound backup receiver at pick a name high school who would be lucky to play at a low level D3 program if anywhere?

Let’s say 50% of all high school (senior) football players want to play in college (which I think is a very generous estimate), the total number drops to 127,000 senior football players. Now there are 130 1A teams, 116 1AA teams, 151 D2 teams and 229 D3 teams. That’s 626 teams. If each team had 50 players, there are enough spots for 30,750 high school football players to play in college. Some college programs carry over 100 players even 120 and sometimes might only have 40, it all depends on the program, but 50 per team I think is a fairly generous estimate on my part.

Let’s now say that out of those 127,000 kids who want to play football in college, only 20% have the skill, the size, the speed, and desire to play at the highest D1 level. Now the number is 25,400 players. A far cry from the 1-50 odds of getting a D1 scholarship and more like 1 in 6. (25,000+ players for roughly 4,000+ spots). This doesn’t factor in the fact that many of these players might be basketball or baseball players who have no interest of playing football in college, but are still playing football in high school and get counted in the pool of 1 million plus players. And this will go for many sports, as there is so much overlap at the high school level. If a football player is really a baseball player trying to get recruited for baseball only, you aren’t competing against that player for a college football roster spot, because they aren’t interested in football at the college level. But they are getting counted twice in the above graphic which throws the numbers off even more.

It has nothing to do with numbers of high school players and all to do with how many players want to continue at the D1 level and have the skills to continue at the D1 level.

If you don’t have the size, speed and skill to play at the D1 level, you have NO odds (It would be like trying to win the lottery without actually purchasing a ticket!), but if you do have the size, speed, skill and desire to play D1 football, the odds of you receiving an athletic scholarship are better than people might lead you to believe. In reality, you are not competing against 254,000 other high school football players, you are competing against a few thousand kids who possess the size, skill and speed to play at that level. Again, while exposure is important, it’s exposure at the right level that will help you get recruited. No amount of exposure will make up for a lack of size, speed and skill, especially at the D1 football level (or any level for that matter).

These same arguments apply to any sport, regardless of exposure. In order to receive an athletic scholarship, three things have to happen. One, you have to find a program that has available scholarships to offer. Two – you have to find a program that has a pressing need that the coach is trying to fill, meaning if you are a catcher or a goalie and the coach has 3 catchers or 3 goalies already, they might not be recruiting for your position despite your success or skills. And three, you have to be extremely talented and you have to contact the coach and find a way to display your skills to that coach. While there are hundreds of thousands of high school athletes, there are not hundreds of thousands of high school athletes that have the skills to compete at the high D1 level or the skills to be awarded an athletic scholarship.

How Do I Determine What College Level I Can Play At?

What is the right college division for me to get recruited at?

How do I determine what level of college athletics I can play at?

“The No. 5-ranked Ohio Northern football team began preseason practice for the 2005 season on Sunday beneath overcast skies. One hundred and eighty six players, including 107 freshman, were expected to report to camp on Aug. 13” – Quote from Ohio Northern Website, September 2005.

 That is from page 133 of The Making of a Student-Athlete. Let it serve as a reminder that Division 3 college athletic programs can be VERY competitive!

I hear it all the time from parents; “I know my son isn’t a D1 player.” “We are looking at D3 schools.” “I know we can’t get a scholarship, but my daughter would like to play at a D3 school.” “I know we can’t play D1 so we are looking at D2 and D3 schools!”

This is a common problem in the athletic recruiting process. Without some perspective on individual colleges parents and high school athletes start to make assumptions. Their assumption is that all D1 colleges are better than all D2 colleges and all D2 colleges are better than all D3 colleges. That often guides them on the recruiting process to look at or eliminate schools solely by what division they are.

One of the challenges in the college athletic recruiting process is determining your skill level and how that applies to not only different divisions, but different colleges. Many parents and high school athletes assume that if they cannot play D1, they can play D2, and if they cannot play D2, they can play D3 and then they target schools accordingly. Often, this causes them to miss out on opportunities to be recruited by other schools, or reverse, they are still targeting the wrong colleges and no recruiting opportunity is created. There are over 330 D1 colleges alone and they all have vastly different athletic programs.

After D1 football and D1 basketball, I would ask you to please not evaluate any college programs simply by division. There are so many other factors that contribute to a team’s talent level, and unless you evaluate a variety factors, you will find a lot of parity among schools that compete at different divisions and you will find many differences between individual sports at a given school (meaning one school could have a very talented baseball team, but their swimming team might not be so good).

Without factoring in a school’s individual success, strength of their league, geographic location, and the climate they play in, there is no way you can choose a school (or any school for that matter) simply by what division they are. The Making of a Student-Athlete discusses in great detail how to research and evaluate individual programs as they relate to you and your ability, but let’s look at 4 factors in more detail. For more, see How Do I Get Recruited to Play College Sports

How does individual success of different college programs affect my recruiting process?

Individual Success – Some programs, regardless of division have built up a reputation and have a track record for being successful and because of this, these teams continue to attract talented recruits who individually want to compete at a high level. In Fayettville, NC, a small D3 University called Methodist University exists with 2,500 students. Methodist University (formerly called Methodist College) has won 12 Division 3 golf championships since 1990, including 6 in a row at one point and most recently in 2018. The secret to their success is two-fold. One, head coach Steve Conley recruits some of the best golfers in the country. Their 2019 roster boasts players from 13 different States. Two, Methodist University is one of a select few colleges that offers a college degree in professional golf management (PGM program) There are 19 colleges in the entire country that offer this program. This unique major as well as the success of the team, attracts talented high school golfers throughout the country to Methodist. If you are unaware of the success of this D3 University, and you have determined your talent is of the D3 variety for recruiting purposes, you may think you can play here because the school is a “Division 3” school. The fact is that Methodist is recruiting some of the top high school golfers from around the country that want to come to this school to for the Professional Golf Management program and are not concerned with playing D1 golf because this program isn’t offered at other colleges.

But if you want to talk success, then the conversation starts and ends with the Kenyon College (D3) swimming program. Since 1980, The Kenyon College men’s swimming team has won 34 NCAA swimming championship. The women are not far behind with 23 NCAA championship. The top 50 freestyle swimmer on Kenyon in 2016 has a 50 times that is better than 10 swimmers on the Stanford University roster, the number 3 Division 1 team in the country at the time. 5 Kenyon men’s swimmers had 50 times better than 6 Stanford swimmers.

Kenyon College has some extremely talented swimmers on their team, who, had they chosen to, could have swam at the D1 level. Why did they choose to go to a D3 school? Well, I have no idea, personal preference maybe? The question is not why are they there, but how does their presence affect your recruiting process? And the answer is, unless you are extremely talented, there are many D3 programs that you will not be able to play at and some D3 teams have D1 caliber players.

Evaluate your athletic skill for the college recruiting process

Evaluate your athletic skill for the college recruiting process

How does the strength of different college leagues affect my athletic recruiting process?

Strength of league – Most leagues have teams consisting of schools that play at a similar level. This isn’t an accident. While there always seems to be one dominant team in a league, by and large the level of competition should be roughly the same across the league. This is usually because the schools share several common traits that attract roughly the same type of athletes to the school. At Fairfield, we played in the MAAC which consists of Fairfield, Iona, Canisius, Manhattan, Marist, Monmouth, Niagara, Quinnipiac, Rider, Saint Peters and Siena . Now, what do these schools have in common? They are all located in the Northeast, in relative proximity to each other, most are Catholic and some are Jesuit, and they are all roughly the same size in terms of the number of students that attend the school. While individual teams at certain schools are sometimes more successful, by and large, if you have the skills to play athletics at one of these schools, you probably have the ability to play at many of these schools. If that weren’t the case, then the league would not be very fair. Now, there are always exceptions.

Let’s look at a few talented teams in the ACC. For basketball the conversation starts and ends with Duke and North Carolina which have teams that are routinely ranked near the top in the country. Baseball, well, last time I checked Clemson, Georgia Tech, and Florida State fielded some pretty good baseball teams, ditto for Golf as some of these schools attract the top college golfers in the country if not the world. Soccer, well North Carolina has probably the most famous women’s soccer program in the country. So what does all of this mean? Nothing if you are the University of Miami and are moving to the ACC, but for a team like Boston College, it meant a little reality check for some athletic teams. Boston College just went winless in in the ACC for men’s basketball and football in 2015-2016. Many of these ACC schools attract a different type of athlete, due to their past success and location (i.e. warm weather) If you are a top golfer or baseball player do you want to go to Boston College where your season is played in March and April and it is usually struggling to break 40 degrees out and it’s cold and wet? Or do you want to go to Clemson where it is sunny and 70 in the spring. Having tried out for a college team in Orlando and played in snow flurries in games in Connecticut, do I need to point out which climate is more suitable for baseball?

How does the location of different colleges affect my athletic recruiting process?

Geographic location – Some states simply have more participation in one sport over another, which contributes to the success of individual teams within that state and the state of Ohio is an excellent example for football. Mount Union College, a small D3 school in Ohio in the fall of 2003 had victories of 58-0 and 66-0, had won 46 straight games and 100 of its last 101 games at one point. In 2015 they were champs again. That my friends is a D3 powerhouse, and they have players that could compete at the D1 and D2 level, but chose not to. Ohio is a hotbed for high school football and there is another strong D3 team called Ohio Northern. Ohio Northern has about 100 players listed on its roster and only 19 are from outside of Ohio. This is a good example of a coach not having to do a lot of outside recruiting because there is so much talent in their own state. If you wanted to play football for Ohio Northern or Mount Union and lived in say, New Hampshire, you’d better have some compelling information and skills for the coach to recruit you. The Ohio State men’s hockey team (a D1 program) on the other hand shows us another perspective. In 2003 the hockey roster listed ZERO players from Ohio, and Ohio is obviously not known for their youth hockey programs. In 2016 they had 3 players from Ohio. It’s no secret either that Florida is filled with many talented high school baseball players, and the majority of the baseball programs in Florida (regardless of division) are very competitive. The next section will illustrate this point.

How does climate affect my athletic recruiting process?

Climate – Is it any surprise that baseball teams in Florida compete at a high level? Not only is baseball the most popular youth sport in Florida, but the players get to play and practice 365 days out of the year if they want to. So not only are there a high number of baseball players in the State, but talented baseball players. Due to Florida’s size, the number of talented baseball teams, and Florida’s tuition reciprocity program at state schools for academic achievers, there is little incentive for local players to leave the State to play. Sure, we have all heard of the success of the Miami Hurricanes baseball program, but smaller schools like Rollins College (D2), Florida Southern (2), or Nova Southeastern (D3), attract extremely talented players as well; while many of these teams are “D2” or “D3”, realistically, you have to be a top D1 caliber player to attend these schools. The lure of playing baseball in Florida for many recruits from other states is a powerful one. Unfortunately, many players coming from colder climates do not understand the talent needed to play college baseball in Florida. Other states have similar patterns. In the New England area, hockey is king and the majority of schools that have competitive hockey programs can put their rosters together with local players from the 100 plus private schools that attract top hockey players from around the country. Ditto for Minnesota and hockey, the majority of schools that compete in hockey in Minnesota have no problem finding local players or players just over the border in Canada. The 2016 Golden Gophers hockey roster has 23 players from Minnesota. California is another state with nice weather and a high participation in athletics. California also has a huge state school system and many coaches at all levels do not have to recruit far from their state, and since their scholarship dollars stretch further with in-state players, there is little incentive to leave the state to recruit if they can find the talent locally. For more information on this see our post on How Weather and Climate can affect your athletic recruiting process.

Obviously there are many factors to evaluate when trying to select individual colleges that might be a good fit for you. This is why simply choosing schools by division does not work. You need to look deeper at individual colleges and teams to see how successful they are and to see what types of players they are recruiting and where those players are from. I can spend 30 seconds looking at a college roster and tell how competitive the program is and how they conduct their recruiting process. It is also one of the reasons why sending mass marketing emails or letters to college coaches does not work either. If you are having trouble trying to figure out the individual talents of a particular team, ask the coach and they may be able to explain the level they play at in more detail.

How do Summer Athletic Camps Help my Athletic Recruiting Process

Will a summer athletic camp help high school athletes get recruited?

How do college coaches use summer athletic camps for recruitment?

Many families inquire as to the effectiveness of attending college athletic camps for the purposes of getting recruited. Some people will have you believe that college camps are a waste of money if you are trying to get recruited and others believe they are the best thing since sliced bread. The truth lies somewhere in between.

Most college camps are run for a few purposes: (1) to provide the coach, staff, and program with some additional income and (2) to provide a venue to see several hundred players who may be interested in attending your school and playing for your program. There are other coaches that simply love coaching and run camps as a benefit to local athletes and the community because they enjoy passing on their knowledge to younger students but let’s stick with the first two.

A summer camp for a college coach is an easy way to see several hundred players in one place over the course of a week. Not just to see them play but to meet them and learn about them as a person. The summer for a college coach is the time of the year when they are free to really recruit at camps, tournaments, summer games, and showcases and they take full advantage of the summer in any way they can. During their season, they are not really afforded the opportunity to attend your high school games because they are playing their games at the same time.

With that being said, it’s extremely important to be realistic about certain camps. Many kids sign up for camps at schools they have no realistic shot of playing at and they then wonder why they weren’t recruited after the camp. This sometimes has a residual affect as they tell future families not to waste their money attending camps for recruiting purposes because “you won’t get recruited!”

How do I choose what college summer camp to attend?

The first step is to identify this school as a school you “might” like to attend. If you honestly don’t have any interest in a school, then going to that camp for the purposes of trying to get recruited doesn’t make sense. If you want to go for skill-building purposes, then that is up to you.

The second step you need to take is to identify whether your skills would allow you to play for this particular program in the near future. If you are a 170-pound linebacker, attending camps at Notre Dame, Michigan, and Ohio State won’t get you recruited by those programs to play linebacker. This is a fact of life that some people don’t want to accept and they keep attending camps at colleges they won’t be able to play for. There are 1,100 NCAA schools and your ability to find a program where your skills match up will in the end be the most important recruiting task you can perform.

The third important step is communicating with the college coach. Many people simply sign up for camp, run past the coach for a few days and then expect a phone call a few weeks later from the coach because they scored a bunch goals at camp. Some college camps may have 100 players or multiple sessions so if the coach doesn’t know who you are or that you are interested in their program, they simply may not notice you the way you want to be noticed.

Summer Camps and the Athletic Recruiting Process

Summer Camps and the Athletic Recruiting Process

If you call the coach before the camp and begin to build a relationship with them and communicate that their school is a place of interest for you, you will have a far better chance of being noticed by that coach and making the camp circuit work. But you have to do some research on the school and program first and you have to be realistic about your athletic skill. It doesn’t matter if you attend 1 camp or 100 camps, if you cannot realistically play for that school, the camp circuit might not work for you. If you find schools and programs that better fit your skills and desires, and you communicate with the coach prior to the camp, you will have a far better chance of getting recruited via a summer camp at a college.

At the end of the day you have to realize that the coach may only be recruiting 5 or 10 players a year and may already have recruits in their pipeline or committed, so the odds of you simply being discovered at a camp are not always in your favor. There is a process that needs to take place before you attend camp. We also know that virtually every college coach we have spoken to places a great deal of emphasis on their college camp each year and sees it as a valuable tool in allowing them to see athletes and allowing athletes to see them and we have met many players who have all benefited from attending college camps.

There is also a hidden benefit to some camps. Many college camps have other college coaches working at the camp. A rule of thumb is that two colleges that compete for the same type of recruits will not work each other’s camp, but many D1 camps have D2 and D3 coaches working and vice versa. This allows you the opportunity to be seen by other coaches from other schools where you might be a better fit at and we have met several players who were discovered by coaches working at an entirely different camp.

A college camp is one step in the recruiting process and requires some research and communication with coaches on your part prior to the attending a camp. You may find you are getting many camp flyers in the mail or personal requests from college coaches you are speaking to. It doesn’t mean they are recruiting you, but it’s an opportunity to possibly get recruited.

View it as an opportunity to expand your skills, meet some new players, get a sense of your ability, and as a way to be seen by college coaches.