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October 9, 2013

College Scholarships - Football vs Tennis

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Each year more than $1 billion is awarded to over 126,000 student-athletes across the country.

Chances of a high school athlete competing in College Tennis * Men Women
Number of High School Tennis Players 195,966 218,093
Number of College Tennis Players 10,122 10,737
% of high school players competing in college 5.2% 4.9%

** NCAA I women's tennis is a headcount sport, so there is a limit of 8 players that can be under scholarship annually. All other NCAA tennis programs are equivalency sports for scholarship purposes, so partial scholarships can be awarded to meet the NCAA limit per school. For example, an NCAA Division I school can award 9 male tennis players each a 1/2 equivalent scholarship and still meet the limit of 4.5 per school. All NAIA sports are equivalency sports for scholarship limits whereas all NJCAA sports are head-count sports for scholarship limits. NJCAA II tennis is not an official sport sponsored by the NJCAA, so NJCAA I full scholarship awards are limited to 3 per team in order to allow traditional NJCAA II programs the opportunity to more effectively compete.

*** NCAA & NJCAA Division III schools do not award athletic scholarships, but provide other financial assistance that student athletes may qualify for. These numbers are maximums - schools can elect to fully fund athletic scholarships to the limit, award none, or fund somewhere in between. Additionally, these are annual limits for the entire school team; so for a 4 year school only about 25% of the limit per school will typically be available for incoming students. See our page on scholarship limits for more information.

There are 115 colleges with NCAA Division I football programs, give or take half a dozen in any given year. These colleges can offer up to 85 scholarships per year, but every team has some non-scholarship players, so let's estimate that there are an average of 110 players on a Division I team. A quick check of the rosters shows that each team has between 10 and 20 seniors. So let's say that each team has an average of 15 seniors. That makes for a total of 12,650 players, with 1,725 seniors. But that doesn't count Division II, which has roughly the same number of teams, so double those numbers to 25,300 players and 3,450 seniors. So the first lesson that our foray into math offers is that not every college football player makes it to his senior year, and being offered a scholarship out of high school is no guarantee of eventually entering the NFL draft.

So, including the 50 or so underclassmen who leave college and declare themselves eligible for the NFL draft, that's a pool of 3,500 players who could be drafted. Now consider the number of players that were drafted by NFL teams in 2011: 254. In other words, only approximately 7% of eligible players get drafted. Those players then have to compete with everyone else on the roster, plus any undrafted college free agents (that is, players who weren't drafted but are still offered the chance to try to make the roster), plus any other veterans or players from other leagues the team might want to check out, just to make it onto the Week 1 roster.

To make a long story short (too late), the odds of going from high school football to college football to the NFL are not good.

There are more than 1,000 Division I and Division II universities that offer almost 3,400 tennis scholarships across the country. What's even more amazing is that some of these scholarships go unused every year. I will occasionally get a phone call from a random college coach asking me if I know of a good kid looking to play college tennis because they have a vacant scholarship available.