Your Guide to the Complex World of Football Scholarships
For most athletes going through the football recruiting process, snagging a football scholarship to a great school is the ultimate goal. Here’s some good news: there are approximately 896 football programs across the U.S., and the majority of them offer football scholarships to talented student-athletes. Here, we explain the football scholarship requirements and answer families’ most-asked questions about getting college football scholarships. Maximize your chances of playing college football by learning the college football recruiting process.
How many scholarships are given each year for football?
It’s impossible to know how many football scholarships are awarded each year, as not every program is fully funded and able to give out the maximum number of scholarships. However, there are certain pieces of information we do know, listed in the table below.
|Division Level||Number of Teams||Total Athletes in Divsion||Average Team Size||Scholarships Limit Per Team||Scholarship Limit Type|
|D1 - FBS||129||15,167||118||85||Headcount|
|D1 - FCS||125||13,028||104||63||Equivalency|
Football scholarships requirements
Athletes must meet both athletic and academic criteria in order to get a football scholarship. The athletic criteria are largely up to the football program at each individual school. Every coach has different methods for determining which athletes are right for his roster, which is why the recruiting process is so crucial. If you’re not sure what a college coach looks for athletically in your athlete’s position, check out the roster. Or, better yet, the athlete can send the coach an email to ask.
The NCAA Eligibility Center has specific academic requirements that athletes must meet to be eligible to compete at either the NCAA Division 1 or Division 2 levels. We’ve included the Division 1 requirements below. A good rule of thumb is that, if an athlete meets or exceeds the D1 requirements, they will be eligible at the D2 level, as well. However, always bear in mind that each individual school has its own set of admissions requirements that athletes will also have to meet.
- The athlete must graduate from high school.
- They must complete 16 core courses and receive a minimum GPA of 2.3 in those courses. The core course requirements are as follows: four years of English; three years of math (Algebra 1 or higher); two years of natural or physical science; two years of social science; one extra year of English, math or science; and four years of religion, philosophy, foreign language or additional years of any of the categories above.
- Athletes need to complete 10 of their 16 core courses before junior year of high school.
- Athletes must take the SAT or ACT and score a minimum of 400 on the SAT (math and reading only) or 37 on the ACT (sum score).
- Their core course GPA combined with their SAT/ACT score must meet the minimum requirements as laid out by the NCAA Sliding Scale.
How many scholarships do Division 1 football teams get?
Division 1 FBS teams can give out a maximum of 85 full-ride scholarships to athletes. Division 1 FCS programs can provide a maximum of 63 total scholarships. The 85 FBS scholarships are headcount scholarships, which means every athlete who receives a scholarship at the DI FBS level gets a full-ride scholarship. The 63 FCS scholarships are equivalency scholarships. This means a coach can divide these scholarships up, giving more athletes partial scholarships.
The difference between NCAA football scholarships and NAIA football scholarships
NCAA football scholarships can be awarded by both D1 and D2 schools—D3 colleges and universities do not give out any athletic scholarships. To receive Division 1 football scholarships or Division 2 football scholarships, athletes must meet or exceed the specific eligibility requirements created by the NCAA, as well as get their amateurism certificate. The NCAA also enforces their recruiting rules and calendar for the D1 and D2 levels, which detail when and how college coaches are allowed to contact recruits.
NAIA football scholarships can be awarded by any fully funded member college or university. The NAIA does have its own set of academic eligibility criteria that student-athletes must meet, but they don’t have set recruiting rules like the NCAA. The recruiting process is less scripted, and it’s up to the individual schools to determine their own recruiting rules and calendar.
Insider tip: While NCAA D3 schools do not offer athletic scholarships, most have competitive financial aid packages for students that, in many cases, end up covering a large portion of their tuition and fees. Learn more about how to knock down the price of a D3 school.
How to get a football scholarship
The short answer: It’s up to the coach of an individual team to award an athlete a scholarship. Athletes must show that they have the ability to make an immediate, positive impact at their position or they need to demonstrate that they have the potential to develop into a key player. This is why finding the right division level athletically is so important. A recruit might technically qualify to play at a D1 school, but they could be a more impactful athlete at a D2 or NAIA school. So, they would likely get more money—and more playing time—at the D2 or NAIA levels, as they will be able to make a bigger impact on those teams.
Layered on top of athletic ability, recruits need to be academically eligible to compete at the school. Not only do they need to meet the NCAA and/or NAIA academic eligibility requirements, but they need to comply with the school’s specific entrance requirements, which are often tougher to meet the NCAA eligibility requirements. In other words, the higher a recruit’s grades and test scores, the more schools will be available to them.
Do walk-ons get a scholarship?
Walk-ons do not get athletic scholarships. Despite not receiving any athletic money, walk-ons are often the backbone of a great football team. Think about it this way: D1 FBS teams can give full-ride scholarships to 85 athletes on their roster. However, most FBS D1 teams will have 118-130 student-athletes on their roster, and those additional spots on the team are filled by talented walk-ons. Learn more about being a walk-on.
What is the difference between a verbal offer and an official offer?
Verbal scholarship offers are non-legally binding "handshake" agreements between a college coach and recruit, indicating that the coach is reserving a scholarship for that athlete on his team. However, coaches and recruits both can back out of a verbal offer at any point—and it does happen! If an athlete gets a verbal offer their freshman year and gets injured their junior year, the coach might pull the verbal offer.
An "official" offer is still essentially the same thing as verbal offer until you sign the National Letter of Intent, or NLI. Until you sign the NLI—or any other legally binding document—offers from college coaches are still handshake agreements that they’ll be providing you a scholarship to compete at their school.
What’s the difference between a committable offer and a non-committable offer?
Because D1 football programs are so large, coaches will extend verbal offers to multiple athletes at the same position in the same recruiting class. The idea is that they will lose a few of those recruits to other programs, academic ineligibility or other factors. So, when everything shakes out, they should still have all their positions covered. Some programs take this to more of an extreme than others, sometimes extending over 100 offers to a single recruiting class.
When an athlete receives a verbal offer, they can ask the coach where they are at on the coach’s list of recruits. If the coach mentions that the player is after a few top athletes for that position, the recruit knows that they should continue the recruiting process with other schools of interest, as their offer might fall through.
As of Aug. 1, 2016, the NCAA permitted college coaches to send out “official offers” via social media to high school juniors and seniors. It’s typically some kind of graphic or image letting you know that you have a scholarship offer from that school. This is great news, but remember: until you sign with that school, it’s still a non-legally binding verbal offer. You need to reach out to the coach immediately to discover what is included in the scholarship offer, where you’re at on the coach’s list of recruits and the coach’s deadline to receive your decision.