College track and field recruiting standards
Track and field recruiting standards are the general baseline that student-athletes need to meet in order to get recruited by a track and field program. These standards vary depending on the level of competition you wish to pursue.
Recruiting standards also differ from college to college, even within each division level. A men’s sprinter in good academic standing with personal bests of 10.8 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 21.7 seconds in the 200m has a good chance of meeting the recruiting standards for the University of Pennsylvania but may need to improve their times to 10.5 and 21.5 seconds to land a roster spot at the University of Michigan—both D1 programs.
The best way to get a sense of each school’s individual recruiting standards is by asking their track and field coach, but recruits should also look at current rosters for individual stats or find a program’s specific recruiting standards on their website. The tables above provide general outlines for the times, heights or distances needed to meet the recruiting and scholarship standards for schools across all division levels.
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Track and field walk-on standards
Recruited walk-on standards are the minimum times, heights or distances coaches expect an athlete to have on their teams. There are two types of walk-ons at the college level, recruited and non-recruited. Though they won’t receive athletic aid, a recruited walk-on is guaranteed a roster spot from a coach—as long as they can apply and get admitted to the school and maintain or improve their stats, too. A “non-recruited” walk-on may be asked by the coach to continue improving their times or marks and be invited to try out for the team once they apply and get admitted, but they are not guaranteed a roster spot.
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How do you get a track and field scholarship?
Ultimately, it’s up to college coaches to award track and field scholarships, and depending on a coach’s own recruiting standards, their coaching philosophy and the amount of scholarship funds available, the amount of athletic scholarship money each recruit receives will vary. Prospective student-athletes should target the right division in order to maximize their scholarship potential. While a recruit might meet the minimum D1 track and field standards, they might make more of an impact at a D2 or NAIA school. As a result, they could receive more scholarship money at the D2 or NAIA levels while making a greater impact on those teams. Recruits will receive either a full-ride or partial scholarship offer.
- Full-Ride Scholarship: Because there are only 12.6 total scholarships per team at the D1/D2 level (12 at NAIA programs), these are extremely rare. Coaches will offer full athletic scholarships to either the most elite recruits or to recruits who have the ability to make a huge impact on the team by competing and scoring in multiple events. Full-rides cover tuition, room and board and any additional fees.
- Partial Scholarship: These are more common, as many coaches like to split up total scholarships across multiple athletes. However, this doesn’t mean all partial scholarships are equal. Certain recruits may receive more athletic aid than others depending on whether they hit scholarship standards or how many events they’re likely to score in.
Insider tip: Landing a roster spot doesn’t automatically mean you’ll get a scholarship. Recruited walk-ons are guaranteed a spot on the team but will not receive any form of athletic aid, at least during their freshman year. Non-recruited walk-ons won’t even get a guaranteed spot on the team—just an open invitation from the coach to try out when they get to campus.
If an athlete has achieved what college track coaches look for in their recruiting times and marks, they must then meet the remaining eligibility requirements to enroll at the school of their choice. Academically, a recruit must complete 16 core courses, have a minimum GPA of 2.5 in those core courses and meet the minimums of the sliding scale in their combination of core course GPA and SAT/ACT test scores. Recruits must also maintain their amateurism by not taking any compensation that exceeds actual and necessary expenses. This includes accepting payment for media appearances, endorsing commercial products or accepting prize money beyond actual and necessary expenses.
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How do colleges use track and field scholarships?
Men’s track and field is an equivalency sport at the collegiate level, which means that coaches divide their allotted number of scholarships per team among any number of athletes. For example, Division 1 coaches can award a limit of 12.6 total scholarships across their rosters each season. An average D1 track and field team has 34 athletes on its roster. For a team that is right on the national average, a coach might decide to award:
- 12 full-ride scholarships and one additional partial scholarship that covers 60% of the cost of tuition, leaving 21 non-scholarship athletes in the squad.
- 34 partial scholarships by dividing the 12.6 scholarships equally among all recruits.
- More scholarship money to athletes who hit recruiting or scholarship standards in multiple events—for instance, a sprinter who is also a hurdler—or to athletes who compete in certain events. For example, San Diego State is known for its competitive pole-vaulting program.
Besides looking at an athlete’s ability to improve in their discipline and points potential at the conference, regional and national meets, coaches will also consider whether a potential recruit can meet the academic requirements for admission and their capacity to remain academically eligible once in school and graduate within a certain time-frame.
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How do college coaches decide which recruits will get a scholarship?
Coaches also tend to give athletic scholarships based on a recruit’s performance in individual or multiple events:
- Sprinters who show an ability to compete and score across multiple events are often prioritized athletic aid. Coaches are willing to work on technique and form as long as a recruit is fast.
- Middle distance runners with good biomechanics and top-end speed should be comfortable trying different events at the college level—recruits have to be willing to step up their distances and some may even be asked to run cross country.
- Distance runners will be recruited based on how well their running style will fit in with a school’s training program. These recruits are assets in both indoor/outdoor programs, in addition to running cross country.
- Throwers with good size, athleticism, and room to improve—college weights are heavier than those at the high school level—are a valuable addition to any team—strong shot or discus throwers can put up high scores at meets. A willingness to try out new events also helps, as some events like hammer and javelin are not as popular at the high school level.
- Jumpers who can join a team and score points right away are invaluable—coaches look for athletes who have proved they can land good marks and will undoubtedly improve with year-round training.
High school recruits can pursue college track and field scholarship opportunities at the NCAA D1 and D2, NAIA and junior college levels. The number of scholarships available at any given school depends on how many scholarships the coach has committed to the current roster, whether they have a fully-funded or partially-funded athletics program, and how the coach likes to utilize or disperse their scholarship money, along with several other factors.
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