Posted On: 11/28/18 10:26 AM

One of the biggest misconceptions with regards to college athletics, especially small college athletics, is that just because a school is permitted to offer athletic scholarships, we think every kid is on a full athletic scholarship.  There couldn’t be anything farther from the truth.  In this article, I will focus on each level of college basketball and help break down scholarship allotments, how schools divvy up scholarship money, and also point out some tips and tricks to earning additional scholarship money through academics, grants, etc.



NCAA Division-I:  13
NCAA Division-II:  10
NCAA Division-III:  0
NAIA Division-I:  11
NAIA Division-II:  6
NJCAA Division-I:  16
NJCAA Division-II:  16
NJCAA Division-III:  0
USCAA Division-I:  Unlimited (in theory)
USCAA Division-II:  0

Now, these numbers are a representation of what the national associations (NCAA, NAIA, NJCAA, USCAA) permit schools to distribute based on their division.  But there are other determining factors that come into play.  First, some divisions allow for tuition, books, room & board, meals, etc., and some even offer a stipend to student-athletes each semester.  Other divisions only allot for tuition and books.  What the money is used for is typically determined by the national associations, not the individual schools, so don’t get offended if a school tells you they can’t pay for room & board…they probably aren’t allowed to by their national association.  Second, each individual school can limit those scholarship numbers even more if they don’t want to spend that kind of money on their athletic programs.  There are situations I know of in this state where “School-X” is an NAIA Division-II school and allowed to have 6 scholarships worth of money.  However, that school has determined they are only going to give the men’s basketball program 3 1/2 scholarships worth of money to fund their men’s basketball program each season.  Third, coaches from individual schools can limit how many scholarships they issue out.  This happens most often at the NCAA Division-I level.  For example, I have heard UConn women’s Head Coach Geno Auriemma say publicly that he typically only carries nine or ten full-scholarship kids because, and I’m paraphrasing here, “why would I carry 13 All-Americans and then have six of them transfer each year unhappy about playing time?”  He looks to carry nine or ten traditional scholarship players, then fills the roster with preferred walk-ons, and generally offers them scholarships if they prove themselves to be hard workers, etc.



There are several different ways small colleges get creative in finding money for student-athletes.  And please understand, there aren’t many, if any, small college kids on full athletic scholarships.  Colleges split athletic scholarships based on need and talent / ability.  Below are just a few examples of how schools can get creative in their scholarship spending.

–  Academics are an easy way to generate more money for the team.  If an incoming freshman has qualifying academics, they can be eligible for academic discounts.  This is NOT the case for every university, but it does happen at a lot more places than you’d think.  I have a former player of mine who is currently at an NAIA school.  The school costs roughly $25,000 per year to attend.  Because of that student-athlete’s qualifying academics, they are receiving $12,000 in academic money.  The basketball program is giving them another $10,000, or just 40% of an athletic scholarship.  So they are then using Pell Grant money, loans, etc., for just $3,000 a year.  Instead of paying $100,000 over four years to get a degree as a “normal” student, that student-athlete is going to only owe $12,000 for four years of college…less than half of what a single year would cost the “normal” student at that college.  I’ve even seen a few NCAA Division-III schools who don’t offer athletic scholarships find academic money and match what some NAIA schools can do for students.  At the end of the day, it’s ideal to maintain a 3.5 core GPA as a high school student, and the higher it goes, the better the academic money you could be eligible for.

–  Going back to Pell Grant money, that is one option of “free” grant money you can apply for.  But, there are a ton of government funded grants that people are unaware of.  You can either research it yourself, or find someone who commonly is involved with higher learning grants to help you apply for grants you might be eligible for based on income, profession, gender, nationality, etc.  There is a lot of unused grant money year after year.

–  Don’t quickly dismiss scholarship applications that your high school might offer through your guidance office.  Who knows, there might be a $1000 or $2000 yearly scholarship you can earn through your school.

–  It’s not as common / popular anymore, but some colleges have offered academic scholarship money based on the major you want to pursue.  Sometimes it’s a matter of boosting enrollment in that particular field, and sometimes there are minority scholarships in particular fields.  If you are undecided on a major, it’s always good to explore majors at specific schools and see if there are scholarships available to you because a major isn’t popular.

–  If you aren’t yet in high school, it would be good to look into the 21st Century Scholar program.  The 21st Century Scholar program is based upon your high school academic success.  Each year of high school you have requirements you must meet, but if you meet them, then the state of Indiana will pay for four years of tuition at participating in-state colleges.  If you want to attend an in-state private school, the state will pay the tuition equivalence of what it costs to attend four years at an in-state public school.  Being a qualifying 21st Century Scholar is a HUGE boost in recruiting, and you’ll have several schools knocking down your door (if you can play) because you are essentially “free” to them.



When talking to small colleges, please understand that their recruiting pool is much bigger than maybe an NCAA Division-I school.  So, it benefits you to be front and center if scholarship money is going to be a major factor in your decision.  Have a plan going into on-campus visits, and know what you are comfortable spending for a four-year degree.  Please understand that college coaches want to know exactly what you’re thinking, so it is absolutely okay to discuss finances when that part of the conversation comes up.  It is NOT proper to demand anything from them, or to use it as a negotiating tool, but it is fair to let them know you aren’t comfortable spending a certain amount when they show you a bottom line.  Be genuine with them…it’s actually preferred if you’re blunt.  A couple of years back, I was sitting at a July event.  Three college assistants all sitting near me received texts at approximately the same time.  It was from the same recruit telling them thanks, but no thanks.  His decision came down to a couple of thousand dollars per year, not the stature of the programs they represented or his potential playing time.  He was blunt about it from the get-go, and they were appreciative and could move on.  Recruiting is a very fluid world, but there needs to be more transparency.  College coaches will be excited if you commit to them, and if you say “no thanks”, they may be disappointed, but they won’t ever be angry if you handle everything with class and respect.


Header photo of Kyle Mangas courtesy of