How to Get Recruited Guide
NAIA Athletic Scholarships

NAIA Athletic Scholarships

What is the reality of NAIA Athletic Scholarships?

Are you counting on full ride NAIA athletic scholarships? In our previous look into Division I Athletic scholarships and Division II we saw that full ride scholarship are rare for most sports. In our look into Division II Athletic Scholarships we saw that the scholarships were smaller and got an idea how coaches divide up their scholarship money

This is the third in a four part series on the amount of scholarships actually available on college rosters. Today, we focus on NAIA athletic scholarships. (Need to know more about the NAIA? Check out the post What is the NAIA?)

 There is no place better to get answers than go the coaches handing out those coveted scholarships. The NAIA caps how much athletic scholarship money each sport is allowed to give out. You need to be aware of the available athletic scholarships.  

The coaches have a certain dollar amount that can be split among multiple athletes in any proportion they choose. To illustrate, baseball is allowed the amount of 12 full scholarships. The coach multiplies the cost of the college by 12. The total dollar amount is what the coach has to work with for the entire team. If the baseball team has 24 players (typical) on scholarship, the average scholarship would be half of the total cost. Pretend the cost of attendance is $40,000 per year. If one players receives $30,000 another would have to receive $10,000 to balance it out. Baseball rosters will typically have another 5-10 players on the roster beyond the 24 who receive no athletic scholarship. See the chart below for the number of scholarships allowed by each sport. The baseball analogy above is an example of how to understand the chart.

NAIA Allowed Scholarship Numbers
Baseball 12
Basketball (Division 1) 11
Basketball (Division 2) 6
Cross Country 5
Football 24
Golf 5
Soccer 12
Softball 10
Swimming & Diving 8
Tennis 5
Track & Field 12
Wrestling 8
Volleyball 8


NAIA colleges decide independently how to distribute money and how much to give

There are not very many full ride NAIA athletic scholarships, but there are a number of partial scholarships available. Like the NCAA, the NAIA places a cap on the amount of scholarship money that can be give. Each school decides if they want to give out the amount of scholarship money allowed by the NAIA or less. Many schools give away less than the permitted amount. The NAIA schools have a certain amount they can spend, but the NAIA schools themselves have more flexibility than the NCAA in how they function financially.  Coach Saenz attempted to clarify how different NAIA colleges are from each other in how they work.

Scholarships range depending on the college. Certain colleges have a maximum amount they can give, while others have the funds to give a wide range of scholarships. Some are based off of an average system so at the end of the day when the roster is complete the average scholarship per player should be near the goal set by the budget. The way our college works is that our scholarships vary depending on the needs of the team, the position of the player, and also what the player can bring to the team as a whole. It is up to the coach’s discretion to make a scholarship offer to our Athletic Director, if approved the scholarship will be awarded.”

Coach Carlos Saenz, Men’s Soccer of Mount Marty College

Coach Zartman shows even further how different each NAIA school can be in how they award money. Most of the money at his college is academic and need based. Only 30% of their roster has an “athletic scholarship” as well.

“We work under a scholarship system that primarily relies on academic and need base aids. Roughly 98% of our roster falls under one or both of these categories. Roughly 30% of our roster receives an extra Athletic Appeal Scholarship on top of the academic and or need base monies.”

Coach Seth Zartman, Baseball of Bethel College (Indiana)

  • Tip to understand: With all colleges, it doesn’t matter what the college calls your scholarships and aid. If you receive a $10,000 athletic scholarship and $0 in need based package, it is the same as receiving $10,000 need based package and $0 athletic scholarship. The only difference is your pride, but you are paying the same amount.

There is more money in “Student-Athlete”, than in just “Athlete”

I will continue to say this whenever I talk about scholarships, because you need to know it and act on it if you want the best chance to afford college. There is more money by far in academic scholarships than there is in athletic scholarships.

“Building a roster from the ground up, has meant that I have spread athletic scholarship dollars across a range of players. I work very closely with our enrollment office along the way. Student athletes who invest as heavily in the classroom as they do on the field, will tend to garner more institutional aid along the way.

Coach Bruce Deaton, Women’s Soccer of Evangel University

“As an NAIA division II school we have a budgetary cap but each individual institution may also have their own cap. As a coach, we have to manage the resources that our school gives us to build a competitive roster. We do not have unlimited resources. If a student athlete has an academic scholarship it makes it a lot easier for us to give them a more aggressive financial aid package. If they also get any need based aid like Pell grant, then we can really come up with a very competitive offer.”

Coach Jamey Batten, Women’s Basketball of Ohio Christian University

  • Tip to get a good athletic scholarship: Be talented and communicate well with coaches.
  • Tip to get a good financial package: Be smart!
  • Tip to a great financial package: Be smart and poor!

What do NAIA athletic scholarships look like on college rosters?

As we talked about earlier, coaches have a limited amount of money to give out. The following coaches will give you an glimpse into who gets the money and the amounts typical athletes receive. Who gets the most money? Players in impact positions such as pitcher, catcher, goal keeper, quarterback, etc. Are they getting full rides including room and board? Most of the time: NO

“With limited scholarships, money is spread out. Some students that we consider impact players in an impact position tend to receive more. No one here is getting a full ride.

Coach Adrian Dinkel, Baseball of Southeastern University

For most programs pitchers, catchers, shortstops, and center fielders receive the highest scholarships.  Then add the players who have an outstanding skill. Power hitters or potential elite conference players at any position would probably see a higher scholarship.”

Coach Steve Babinski, Softball of Indiana Wesleyan University

“We hope to bring in 20 women and 20 men each year in our recruiting. Our recruits averaged just under $3500 in athletic aid last season.

Coach Scott Bahrke, Track & Field of Northwestern College

If a school costs $35,000 – $45,000 (cost of most private schools) to attend, is the athletic scholarship going to take care of you? From interviews with state school coaches where the costs are closer to $10,000-$20,000, the athletic scholarship average still range at about 10-20% ($1500-$2000). There is still much more to pay than the athletic scholarship will cover.

What does “stacking” mean and why does it matter to you?

Colleges handle the money they give out in different ways as discussed above. You should be familiar with the term “stacking.” Some colleges stack scholarships and others don’t. When looking at individual schools it makes a huge difference in how they will handle your financial aid package (scholarships, grants, and aid). Stacking is when a college allows the coach to give whatever amount of athletic scholarship they want and then the admissions department adds or stacks the academic, need based money, and other grants/aid on top of the athletic money. Not all schools stack scholarships (this will be for an article probably later this year).

“Check with the school if they allow stacking of scholarships. My highest package athletes have a combination of athletic and academic aid because they were just as serious in the classroom as they were with their softball training.

Coach Steve Babinski, Softball of Indiana Wesleyan University

In my article, Division II Athletic Scholarships, we saw other two coaches who use stacking to their advantage. There are a lot of schools who don’t stack scholarships as well. This doesn’t make either kind of school have better or worse financial packages, just different in how they hand out their money. They are giving out similar amounts of money overall, but this could have a big effect on you as an individual. Following is an example of a school that does not stack.

“All of our players are on some sort of scholarship. We cannot stack academic or athletic here at Carey, so the students are on an athletic or academic, usually whichever is higher. We cannot give athletic full scholarships, so most everyone is paying something to attend Carey. Now, we have a few students who have qualified for full academic scholarships based on their ACT score (29 or higher), so those players are probably on the largest amount of scholarship given by the school, not soccer program.”

Coach Danny Owens, Women’s Soccer of William Carey University

Two final thoughts that will affect your wallet and your opportunities as you pursue your NAIA athletic scholarships

As you are looking at potential schools and preparing yourself to be the next college athlete, here are two things to keep mind. Academic money is more important than athletic scholarships. Focus, Focus, Focus, on being a good student and studying hard all the way through high school.

Every school handles financial packages differently and this can have a huge impact on your wallet. Whether schools stack or not, give most of their money for academics, athletics, or need based will determine how good your package is based on who you are as an individual. Some colleges will be more attractive financially to you, but it will be different for everyone (there is no this is better and this is worse system overall). For your family, this means paying attention to the total financial package a school offers, not just one scholarship. Here is another great article about scholarships: Little Known Secrets About Athletic Scholarships.

If you want to be a college athlete… If you are frustrated because coaches are not calling you… How to Get Recruited

If you are ready to get coaches to notice you… Then the How to Get Recruited Guide will give you a step-by-step plan to turn your talent into offers. There’s a lot to learn about the recruiting process. How to Get Recruited condenses mountains of advice, and converts it to simple action steps that will get college coaches calling.

How to Get Recruited: Got Talent. Get a Plan. Get Recruited.

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Thanks, Bryan

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