Paying for an Education by Doing What You Love

The lowdown on athletic scholarships

Every parent with a college-bound teenager dreams of two things: that their son or daughter will get a good education and that it won’t cost them a cent. College scholarships abound in every category imaginable, but an athletic one comes with the most recognition. At Historically Black Colleges and Universities, scholarship money is not all equal. In Division I-AA football, for example, which includes the Southwestern Athletic Conference, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and independents, the maximum number of scholarships allowed is 63. In Division II, it’s 36. In Division I basketball, the number is 15; in Division II, it is 12. But just because a coach can have the maximum doesn’t mean he’s going to get it. In Division II, where coaches have to be as adept in accounting as in teaching Xs and Os, awarding a full scholarship is a rarity.

“He would have to have an ‘S’ on his chest,” says N.C. Central football coach Rod Broadway, referring to Superman.In D-II, “partial” is the buzzword. A student-athlete receives partial money from athletics, and then the school makes up the difference with other funds.

“What we try to do is meet the needs of the young man so that he has a zero balance and doesn’t have to take out a loan,” St. Augustine’s football coach Michael Costa says. “We combine with his scholarship any outside monies, such as federal, that will help us get to a point where most of his money is free.”At D-I-AA Morgan State, coach Donald Hill-Eley has 60 full scholarships. At state schools, in-state players are cheaper than out of state. Hill-Eley says potential recruits are evaluated more carefully. “When you recruit, you have to really budget your finances,” he says. “You have to go out of state based on need, and it helps in one way because it forces you to recruit local talent to help your gate receipts; but in another way, it limits you because we lose two in-state kids for every out-of-state one we choose, so he really has to be a barn-burner.”

Once an athlete receives a scholarship, it doesn’t mean he or she is set. Certain criteria have to be met.“Technically, you can’t say that it’s a four-year scholarship; you say it’s one year and that it’s renewable providing the student-athlete does what he or she is supposed to do,” says Debra Clark, Florida A&M’s women’s basketball coach. “We’re talking coming to practice, following team rules, and being academically eligible. But when we recruit, we expect them to stay four years.”

Football and basketball are not the only athletic scholarships available. With Title IX and gender equity, colleges now offer scholarships in volleyball, softball, track and field, baseball, etc. Student-athletes have been known to receive a full scholarship by playing two or three different sports.Allyson Hardy, a junior guard at Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland, says being on scholarship takes hard work.“Being an athlete is a job because someone is paying you to go to school, and you have to work to keep your scholarship,” she says. “The expectations are a lot higher, so you have to have a strong mind and strong heart because it’s easy to drop off when you’re a student-athlete. A lot of people think you can just get by with playing ball, but it’s not that easy.”


This article was written by Bonitta Best

Bonitta Best is the sports editor of The Triangle Tribune, a weekly African American newspaper in Durham, North Carolina.

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