Bill Pennington is a writer for the New York Times. Back in 2008 when his children were going through the recruiting process, he wrote many excellent articles detailing the various aspects of recruiting and scholarships. One of my favorite pieces was “Recruits Clamor for More From Coaches With Less.” In it, he interviews several college coaches about the balance of recruiting an athlete and having to explain to them the limited scholarship money available. While the article is now over 5 years old, much of the advice is still relevant. Here are some of the the key points.
Non-Revenue Sports Aren’t Full-Rides
“Then I tell them I have a 25% scholarship for them… And no one believes you, but that’s a good Division I baseball scholarship. You have to convince his parents that you’re being really fair.”
Unless you play a head-count sport (guaranteed full-rides) your scholarship will probably be a partial scholarship. When we talk about “negotiating” a scholarship, we don’t mean keep looking for a full-ride. Often times a successful negotiation is going from a 10% scholarship to 25% or an unrecruited walk-on (not guaranteed a spot on the team) to recruited walk-on (on the team but no scholarship).
Coaches Talk to One Another
“Families will try to play the coaches off each other… What they don’t know is that we coaches all talk to each other… We will call the other coach”
I am a big proponent of having multiple schools recruiting you and being able to tell coaches you have interest or offers from other schools; this is really your only way to negotiate with a coach. But you have to be 100% truthful about the nature of the interest coming from other schools. It is tempting to exaggerate an offer, but when one coach calls the other, they will get the truth and both schools could stop recruiting you if they found out you lied.
You Will Feel Pressure to Decide
“I’ve waited patiently in the past and lost all three.”
This is a coach talking about how she makes scholarship offers. She will make the same offer to three recruits and let them know, the first one to commit gets the scholarship, the other two lose out. When or if this happens to a family it can feel almost unfair. The truth is you can’t go through the recruiting process without feeling pressure from coaches. Recruiting is competitive and scholarships are hard to come by. At some point you need to be prepared to just make a decision or have other options.
Talk to Those Who Know
“Go sit with the parents of the current players… By the end of the game, they’ll know everything — good or bad. And that’s what really matters.”
It is a great idea to talk to parents of college athletes or former athletes, but, I would caution against trying to talk with the parents of the school you are getting recruited by (as is suggested by the coach in this article). Technically, the parents are considered “boosters” for the program and per NCAA rules aren’t allowed to communicate with recruits or their families. You can always talk with former college athletes or their parents and often times their perspective will open your eyes to the true recruiting process.
It is critical you understand the realty of scholarships for your sport. Not every team has 85 full-ride scholarships like NCAA DI FBS football. Most sports have to stretch their scholarship money and expecting to get full-ride is going to leave you and the coaches recruiting you frustrated. If you have questions about your scholarships in you sport or are feeling unsure about the types of feedback you are getting from coaches, leave them in the comments below or email me directly firstname.lastname@example.org.