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Head Count Sports vs. Equivalency Sports: Which One do you Play?

The availability of athletic scholarships in college may have a lot to do with which sport you play. The NCAA puts their sanctioned sports into two categories: head-count sports and equivalency sports.

Head Count Sports Equivalency Sports

Head-Count Sports

Scholarships within head-count sports are restricted by a set number, and they are all full scholarships. Hence, if a sport offers ten scholarships, ten new athletes on that team can receive full scholarships each year. Head-count sports are those sports that generally bring revenues to the school. For men, revenue sports include Division I basketball and Division IA football. For women, head-count sports include Division I basketball, tennis, volleyball, and gymnastics.

Equivalency Sports

Equivalency sports also have a set number of scholarships, but these teams are allowed to divide the scholarships between multiple athletes. For example, a team with six scholarships available could award four full scholarships, divide the fifth between two athletes, and divide the last one between three or more athletes. Most of the time, incoming freshmen are not offered full scholarships in equivalency sports unless they are capable of being in the starting lineup or winning a conference championship as a freshman (for individual sports). The teams that use the equivalency method are usually nonrevenue sports for the institution.

Knowing which category your sport falls into can be an advantage. When you know the scholarship numbers that the college coaches are working with, you have a better idea of what to expect in scholarship availability.

Because head-count sports only offer full scholarships, you know that the competition for these scholarships will be very high, and only a few student athletes actually earn these. They are given to the most elite athletes. If you participate in an equivalency sport, you know that although the competition for scholarship money is still high, there is a better chance of earning even a partial scholarship.

In your discussions with college coaches, make sure to ask the right questions, including whether your skills are high enough to be considered for a scholarship and what you can do to help increase your chances.

Scholarships Categorized in Sport/Division

Men’s Sports
Head-count Sports in Division I:

1. Football
2. Basketball

Equivalency Sports in Division I:

Baseball, Rifle, Skiing, Cross-Country, Track and Field, Soccer, Fencing, Swimming, Golf, Tennis, Gymnastics, Volleyball, Ice Hockey, Water Polo, Lacrosse, Wrestling

Women’s Sports
Head-count Sports in Division I:

1. Basketball
2. Gymnastics
3. Tennis
4. Volleyball

Equivalency sports in Division I:

Bowling, Lacrosse, Rowing, Cross-Country, Track and Field, Skiing, Fencing, Soccer, Field Hockey, Softball, Golf, Swimming, Ice Hockey, Water Polo

Note: All Division II and NAIA programs are equivalency sports.

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