Athletic scholarships sparse for high school athletes

Ian Howard | Staff Writer

While teenage athletes may look at their high school sports as potential tickets into collegiate athletics, less than 5.7 percent of high school athletes advance to the National Collegiate Athletic Association level on paid scholarships, according to’s Cross Country Coach Tom Rapp received 90 percent of his athletic scholarship to Pennsylvania State University in 1977. On the other hand, Rapp said that his son, Chris Rapp went to the University of Tennessee without any scholarships.

“He was number six in the state for cross country and he was a walk-on, [because he] didn’t get a scholarship,” Rapp said.

Athletic Director Scott Stemple said that this deficit in sports scholarships has came as a result of Title IX, which was enacted in 1972. Since this time, Stemple said it has become increasingly difficult for men to receive scholarships.

“Title IX says that there needs to be equal opportunity across the board [for male and female athletes],” Stemple said. “So, whatever sports [schools are] offering, there needs to be a balance.”

The balance is the strict monitoring of the number of sports that women and men play, while also equalizing the number of scholarships offered for each, according to Stemple. Because the vast majority of men’s scholarships are required by the NCAA in football and women have no sport that’s similar in popularity, this translates into a discrepancy in the opportunities provided for men in sports other than football and the opportunities provided for women athletes. Stemple said that wrestling is also affected by these requirements.

“In the past five years you’ve seen a lot of…the low Division I schools like Miami [University] and [Ohio University] drop their wrestling programs, and they’ve added to their female programs,” Stemple said.

The NCAA mandate that every Division I school must offer seven men’s sports and seven women’s sports or eight women’s sports and six men’s sports affects how schools approach athletic budget cuts. This rule comes into play in men’s soccer as well, according to Varsity Soccer Coach Paul Reedy.

“A lot of schools that we think of as Division I schools don’t even have men’s soccer,” Reedy said.

While soccer and wrestling, both considered spectator sports, are affected by these budget cuts, swimming also loses scholarships due to Title IX regulations and other factors, according to Varsity Swim Coach Mark Sullivan.

“Right now, the women in our program have been receiving a lot more scholarships,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said he has seen athletes go to top swimming schools such as The Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh and Georgia Institute of Technology. However, Sullivan said that full ride scholarships are generally limited in race sports where lower spectator appeal results in fewer scholarships.

Chip Dobson, women’s cross-country coach and head coach of track and field, said he has also seen this force in action.

“There [are] a lot of partial [scholarships] out there, but full rides are hard to come by,” Dobson said.

This is made evident by the fact that, according to the NCAA Gender Equity Report, female NCAA athletes received $148 million less in available athletic scholarships than male NCAA athletes. This discrepancy is likely caused by the refusal of Division II schools to pay the maximum number of scholarships per sport, whereas Division I schools are required to pay the maximum number of scholarships. While men are offered smaller numbers of   scholarships, women are at loss to spectator sports in Division II schools. Even in this relative inequality of women’s and men’s scholarships there is still a constant of excellence in the search for the athletic scholarship.

This line between professional and living in the past glories of high school team captainship is straddled by many players on the women’s golf team. A team that started in 2001 with a 5-8 season has became the holder of a state championship title during 2008-2009.

“In golf, because such few girls actually play the sport, you have a much better chance of getting money for golf if you’re just simply decent,” Fred Reeder said.
Reeder has been the coach of the women’s golf team since its creation. Despite the sport’s large amount of success in Mason High School, Reeder said he has yet to see a full ride in the area.

“In the last five or six years, we’ve seen a definite increase in the number of girls playing golf, increasing the standards for getting a college scholarship,” Reeder said. “[Collegiate golf athletes] have to be very good now.”

The small amount of extra chance in getting an athletic scholarship is robbed of female golfers through the sport’s rising popularity and low number of scholarships per the average team size.

Football Coach Dave Sedmak said he does not see the same lack of scholarships as in most sports. He may not think it is easier to get a scholarship in football, but there are unarguably more football scholarships available.

“Out of 25 seniors, we have one full ride and four or five partials,” Sedmak said.

So about 20 percent of football players receive some kind of financial aid for their athletic ability, while the statistic stands at about 5 percent for other athletes to advance to the NCAA level. Not only do football players hold this advantage in obtaining sports scholarships, but there are certain requirements on a school’s minimum partial scholarship.

“In Division IA football they cannot break those [scholarships] up; they have to give full scholarships,” Sedmak said.

The guarantee of financial security without the division of scholarships makes football the best collegiate sport for athletes that want a full ride.

“He could have gotten 30 or 40 percent at a max school Miami or Kent State places like that,” Rapp said of son Chris. “But he wanted to run Division I at the top level and there was no money for it so he was a walk on.”