NCAA and Student AthletesAthletic talent can be a significant factor in the admissions process. Before you become overly optimistic about how influential your athletic accomplishments will be, you must be aware of the different levels of collegiate competition and assess realistically where you might fit into a program. Here are some items to consider.
Many collegiate sports, regardless of level, require a year-round commitment. Depending on your coach, the sport’s relative prestige on your campus, and the sport itself, your free time could be impacted drastically. On the plus side though are the camaraderie of the team, opportunities to travel, some educational bonuses (tutoring for example), and the personal rewards of your accomplishments. Only you can determine how passionate you are about your sport. If you are not prepared to make a significant time commitment to your team, it would be unethical to mislead a college coach into supporting your application.
Levels of Competition
The NCAA divides schools into three Divisions-I, II, III. Divisions I and II can offer scholarships while III does not. While it may seem that Division I is the big time and the other divisions are not, this is an over-generalization. Some Division I programs are non-scholarship (e.g. I-AA), while some Division III programs compete at a very high level. Here are some issues to consider when talking to coaches:
- Division I: Most of the scholarships will be delegated to the revenue producing sports, so you need to determine how many scholarships are available in your sport. Remember that few programs can field a team entirely with scholarship athletes. Does the coach allow walk-ons or is the team "by invitation only?" Will the coach help you find alternate sources of financial aid?
- Division II: In Pennsylvania, most Division II programs are state-related schools, (e.g. West Chester, Millersville). In other areas, like New England, many private schools are Division II. Scholarships are available to athletes in this division if coaches feel they don’t meet the height/weight/talent requirements to compete at a higher level.
- Division III: There are no athletic scholarships for Division III. Coaches do recruit, and the NCAA has rankings and tournament results which you can access on their website. Recent research publications have pointed out the distinct advantage athletes have in the admissions process at Division III schools.
Pro-active recruiting occurs when a student initiates contact with a coach. The CAC office has a resource with coach’s names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, etc. and you can easily find out how good a program is on the internet by checking its conference records. Remember that most coaches prefer coaching to recruiting so they are quite impressed when a student contacts them first. In the Appendix you will find a sample letter you could use as a starting point. Attach a resume with your accomplishments, both school and community. For sports with objective statistics, like times and distances, this is easy, but with the more subjective sports, coaches will rely more on the strength of your league. Almost always, Division III coaches will follow up with a phone call or letter regarding your compatibility with both the program and the school. You should certainly reply and visit if possible.
This is often the difficult part. At what level can you compete? At what level would you derive the most satisfaction, i.e. how much playing time will you get? Obviously your coach at the Prep is in a good position to evaluate your skills. However, it would be wise to get a second opinion because not every coach is familiar with every college program, and realistically, not every athlete gets along equally well with all their coaches. Other sources for guidance would be Showcase Camps, Instructional Camps, or other community resources. Be aware that no one really knows what is going through a college coach’s head. Two athletes with identical performances may be viewed differently by several coaches based on —intangibles. The strength of your sport in the Catholic League is often the best predictor of your ability to play in college. Our advice for you and your family is to go into this with an open mind and a clear head. Don’t assume that your talent makes you an automatic acceptance at some school, and along that same vein, that you can’t play at that level. Let the coaches decide!
The NCAA has established rules regarding recruiting and regarding the academic requirements to be eligible to participate as a freshman. All of this information is available on their website, along with the forms needed to be completed by the student. The CAC office will forward transcripts to the Clearinghouse after receiving a waiver form from the student. Website is www.ncaa.org. If you have any interest in competing in college, even as a walk-on, you should fill out a form. All student/athletes, regardless of how well they have done in high school must register with the Clearinghouse in order to compete at a Division I or II school. The Clearinghouse is a large bureaucracy, so start early to avoid any frustrating delays in your certification.