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All You Need to Know About How a Football University Works

How to play at a football university.

College football is one of the world's most popular sports. This is evidenced by the fact that eight of the nine largest stadiums in the world are home to college football teams. All eight of those have a capacity of 100,000 or more, and they're often or always sold out for the football university games played there. In the 2018 season, five football universities averaged more than 100,000 fans a game with University of Michigan football leading the way at 110,736. The Wolverines were followed by Penn State University (105,485), Ohio State University (101,947), University of Alabama (101,561) and Louisiana State University (100,819).

A football university or college offers an opportunity to take advantage of a top-class education and play this sport at a high level. University football scholarships are available for top players too. Being able to play university football is a unique opportunity throughout the world as the United States is the only country that has such passion for university sports, a passion that ultimately provides the finances necessary for university football scholarships. Conversely, in the rest of the world, it's generally not possible to receive a free education that's awarded based on sporting ability or be able to play in front of fan bases as extensive and as enthusiastic as those found in the U.S.

Football offerings

Those who are in the enviable position of receiving football scholarship offers consider several factors when deciding on which one to accept. Of course, the culture of the football program and the quality and personality of the coaching staff and the team play significant roles. However, much of the university experience takes place away from the stadiums and the practice fields. Most notable are the academic offerings of the schools as well as the overall university cultures that are found there. These need to be considered too.

NCSA has put together a list of the best football universities for student-athletes, taking into account many factors, including academic rankings, graduation rates, and average cost. The top five schools on this list are:

  • Stanford University
  • UCLA
  • University of North Carolina
  • University of Florida
  • University of Michigan

College Choice also ranks every football university. Its rankings consider the quality of the football programs, the success of its alumni, the game-day experiences there, and their influence and overall culture. Its top five are comprised as follows:

  • Ohio State University
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Alabama
  • University of Southern California
  • University of Oklahoma

Requirements at football universities

If you're looking to be involved with the football recruiting process and want someone to consider you for a football scholarship, it's important to consider the recruiting guidelines for your position and D1 football, D2 football, D3 football and NAIA football. For example, an incoming quarterback for a D2 football program will generally be about 6'1" and 198 pounds, been all-conference for multiple seasons and be able to throw the ball from the 50-yard line through the goalpost. Of course, exceptions do exist but do keep these guidelines in mind. Also, make sure that you bring other things to the university football table such as academic excellence and professionalism.

How to play at a football university.

D1 football, D2 football, D3 football, and NAIA football

University football separates into several divisions. NCAA football – D1 football, D2 football, and D3 football – is where many of the top players play while NAIA football also provides tremendous opportunities to combine continuation of a football career with a quality education. The general skill level of NAIA football teams is roughly between D2 football and D3 football. More than 700 schools sponsor college football at one of these levels. Note that D1 football separates into FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) and FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) with FBS being home to the most-known teams.

Also, 69 junior colleges sponsor football teams. These are often great options for those who need to improve athletically or academically before making a move to a four-year institution.

NCAA football and NAIA football

The main organizations that oversee college sports have a lot of similarities and some significant differences. Probably the most significant difference is that the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) is responsible for the top football universities, the ones that are regularly broadcast on television and that play in front of the biggest crowds, while the best NAIA teams have more low-key followings.

NCAA football sparked the formation of this organization. A meeting that involved discussions of the sport's playing rules took place in 1905, and, at that time, 62 schools created the IAAUS (Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States), a name changed to the NCAA in 1910. In the years that followed, the NCAA has brought more and more sports under its umbrella.

The NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) was formed in 1940, three years after a national college basketball tournament tipped off in Kansas City, Mo., a postseason event involving top NAIA teams that still play there every year. In 1956 the NAIA first oversaw football. Like the NCAA, the NAIA is responsible for a significant number of sports in addition to its high-profile ones.

College football rankings

Several organizations provide rankings of the best teams. Before the season, one of the best sources is Athlon Sports. It ranks all of the FBS teams and includes breakdowns on each of them.

During the season, the most respected university football rankings are those put out by the College Football Playoff. It's what is used to determine the four teams that participate in the postseason playoffs. However, the initial edition of this weekly poll does not release until around Nov. 1. The other two major polls, both of which are released preseason and weekly during the season, are the Associated Press Poll and the USA Today Coaches' Poll. The latest editions of all three of these university football rankings can are viewable on the NCAA website.

Football College scores and stats

The number of options for checking out how the best university football teams are doing every Saturday is extensive. All of the major sports websites provide university football scores while schools have links to live stats posted on their schedule pages. One of the best resources for university football scores is ESPN. Head here to view all of the live and updated scores for FBS schools. You can also use that website to see FCS, D2, and D3 scores. Another option for scores for all NCAA football teams is the NCAA website.

If you're interested in university football stats and have a specific team in mind, head to that school's website. For example, the best resource for University of Texas football stats is TexasSports.com. Meanwhile, ESPN is a good source for comparing university football stats between teams and players.

How to play at a football university.

University football news

Some of the top resources for news on the best university football teams include ESPN and Sports Illustrated. Also check the major news outlets in the area of any teams that interest you as they tend to offer the most in-depth, knowledgeable reporting since they're around the program every day.

Football season

The football season is underway in the last half of August. The first games of the 2019 campaign took place on Aug. 24 with University of Miami football taking on the University of Florida in a highly anticipated game. D2 and D3 football teams tend to start a little later with the initial D3 games of that campaign scheduled for Sept. 5.

The best university football teams take part in postseason play: a four-team playoff and bowl games for FBS squads and national tournaments for the rest. The final game of the 2019 campaign, the FBS national championship game, has been scheduled for Jan. 13, 2020. The university football championship for FCS schools is generally played a couple of days before then. D2 and D3 teams wrap up their campaigns in December. All university football championship competitions are single elimination, meaning that a loss ends that team's season.

Prior to that point, most teams will play a mix of non-conference and conference games, the latter determining which schools win those league championships or divisions. In most cases, conference games are the only ones considered for league honors.

The best resource for a specific team's schedule is that squad's official website. For example, head here for the latest University of Tennessee schedule. Otherwise, utilize the resources that are put out by news outlets such as ESPN and the NCAA to see when teams are playing.

University level football recruiting

All of these players who are playing on Saturdays on televisions and college campuses across the country got to do so after successively navigating the university football recruiting process. Some of them were able to secure a football scholarship while others received other benefits from being on teams. These not only included the character-building experience of playing for a football university but, in many cases, also included a considerable amount of non-football financial aid. For example, some top players use their skills to help them get into schools that they otherwise might not have been able to have it not been for that extra benefit that they brought to campus.

To find out who the competition is and who are expected to have the best classes, check out football recruiting rankings such as those put out by 247Sports.com.

Note that taking part in university football camps can help the football recruiting process. At these university football camps, you'll be able to combine experiencing college atmospheres and receiving quality coaching with, hopefully, impressing coaches who you might play for in college.

Football university-level scholarships

At most universities, football scholarships can be divvied up amongst players with partial scholarships generally being the rule. However, this is not the case at FBS and D3 schools. At the former, no scholarships are split. You'd either receive a full scholarship or none. In the latter case, no football scholarships are offered, although these schools do tend to offer a bit of non-athletic financial aid. Also note that some other schools don't offer scholarships, Ivy League institutions being a few noteworthy examples.

If you're looking to impress coaches and get the most out of your recruiting experience, possibly earning a football scholarship, it's essential to educate oneself about the process. Learning how things work will allow you to find the best fit possible, which is important as this will be one of the most important decisions of your life. You should know how to initiate talking to coaches, what to say and how to impress them as well as how to find the best football school for you.

That's something that NCSA has done for a couple of decades, ever since Chris Krause, its founder, realized his vision of helping student-athletes get the most out of the football university recruiting process with its founding in 2000. He had difficulty with his football recruiting experience in the 1980s before he ultimately found success and his fit at Vanderbilt University. However, he wanted to ensure that later student-athletes wouldn't experience the confusion and stresses that he did.

NCSA has employed people who understand all of the ins and outs of football recruiting. Some of them also have firsthand experience as players and as coaches, many of those with the sport of football. When that experience combines with the expansive network of tens of thousands of college coaches that NCSA offers, student-athletes are better able to control and understand their recruiting experiences.

If you're looking to join the 24,000 NCSA athletes who committed to play sports at a university over the past year, fill out your free profile and get the process started today. If you have any questions about the form or about how NCSA can help, call 866-495-5172.

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