Story: Recruiting Process

By Randy Rodgers : 3rd In A Series

Last week, we explored the non-athletic path to college; this week we’ll take a look at three other options where a prospect has an opportunity to play college football.

Option I: Division I scholarship

This is obviously the dream of most high school players in their junior year. For those that distinguished themselves as juniors, the recruiting mail has already been arriving. The fact that you are receiving mail from Division I institutions indicates that you are a Division I prospect. However, you should not assume that you are a Division I recruit. The fact that you are receiving mail merely means that you are on the mailing lists of the schools that are sending you material. You are being evaluated as a potential scholarship athlete, but until you are offered a scholarship, that is all that it means. Some players have already been offered and some have already made verbal commitments. However just because you are receiving letters doesn’t mean you are getting recruited, it just means you are being evaluated.

If there is a particular school that you are interested in, but isn’t currently sending you any mail, simply write the head coach of that school a letter indicating your interest in his program, and it will probably generate a letter with a questionnaire to fill out and return.

By all means, fill out every questionnaire and return it. Don’t be so narrow minded that you only reply to schools on your “wish” list, because if you want to be offered a scholarship, there are 117 Division I schools capable of offering you that type of award.

Option 1-A: Division I non-scholarship player:

While most every players dream is to earn a Division I scholarship, about 97% won’t. At some point, all that recruiting mail might dry up. As schools evaluate players, they begin to rank-order prospects position by position. You never know where you rank and that probably won’t be determined until some time in your senior year.

However a prospect needs to think about that possibility. If you dream is to play at the Division I level and you aren’t awarded a full scholarship, then one option is to attend as a non-scholarship player or “walk-on”. Each Division I school can only carry 85 scholarship players on their roster. If you have ever attended a Division I game or seen one on TV, you know there are far more than 85 players suited up for home games. Most teams carry at least 105 players and some carry as many as 175 on there practice squads. Some of those non-scholarship players are instrumental in special teams play and some earn scholarships during their tenure on campus. It is a good option if you are willing to be patient and work hard.

It also requires getting admitted to the school of your choice on your own, so academics are really important to this phase of the process.

Option 1-B: Small school player:

If your desire is to really play in the games and you don’t earn a Division I scholarship, attending a smaller school, like a Division II, Division III, or junior college is a good option. Smaller schools afford you a better chance of playing in games than trying to walk-on at a Division I school and you have an excellent chance of receiving some type of financial assistance.

Division II schools do have football scholarships. While most scholarships to entering freshman are partial scholarships, Division II coaches work hard at helping families obtain other sources of aid, like grants, loans, jobs, etc. Division III schools, by rule, are not allowed to offer athletic scholarships, so their financial assistance is through need-based assistance, and academic scholarships, similar to the non-football assistance at the Division II level. Junior Colleges are more like Division II in terms of assistance, but the real advantage is that players compete against players their own age, since junior colleges are two-year institutions. The other advantage of attending junior college is that after two years, you do have an opportunity to be “re-recruited” by a larger four-year school.

For many high school players who are not receiving any recruiting mail right now, thinking about one of these two latter options is probably a good idea. Most Division II, III, 1-AA, and Juco’s don’t really begin their recruiting process until after the Division I schools begin to sort out their recruiting, but it is never too soon to begin exploring possibilities and learning about schools.

Next week, we’ll take a look at the academic process of recruiting.