Your Guide to the Complicated World of College Football Scholarships


Getting a football scholarship to a top college is the ultimate goal for most athletes during the football recruiting process. Football scholarships are available to talented student-athletes at a wide range of colleges and universities in the United States. Families frequently have questions about how to apply for college football scholarships, and we've answered them here. Learn about the college football recruiting process in order to increase your chances of playing college football.

How many scholarships does a football program have each year? 

Every year, it's impossible to know how many football scholarships are given out due to the fact that not all football programs are fully funded and able to award the maximum number of scholarships. There are, however, some facts that we do know, as outlined in the following table.

Division Level

# of Teams

Total Athletes in Division

Average Team Size

Scholarships Limit /Team

D1 - FBS

129

15.2K

118

85

D1 - FCS

125

13.0K

104

63

D2

170

18.9K

111

36

D3

248

25.7K

104

N/A

NAIA

85

9.1K

107

24

JUCO

68

5.1K

76

85

CCCAA

68

5.4K

79

N/A

*Stats from NCSA

Typically, college football teams offer more scholarships than roster spots and scholarships they have available when it comes to scholarships. This is due to the fact that certain prospects are expected to sign with another team while others are expected to leave after the first year. Teams can make a variety of offers to clear roster space. Among them are:

  • Redshirt: The student-athlete will have a scholarship but can’t compete for one year. They will get an opportunity to play four seasons in five years.
  • Blueshirt: Like a redshirt, the student-athlete will practice with the team but won’t be allowed to play for a year. Unlike a redshirt, the student-athlete must be unrecruited.
  • Grayshirt: The student-athlete postpones enrolling full-time and participating with the team for one semester.

Greenshirt: The student-athlete enrolls a semester early and participates with the team 

Requirements for Football scholarships

To receive a football scholarship, athletes must meet both athletic and academic requirements. Each school's football team is largely responsible for determining athletic eligibility requirements. Athletes are selected for a coach's roster in different ways, so the recruiting process is critical. Take a look at the team roster to get a sense of what a college coach is looking for in your athlete's position. Alternatively, the athlete can write a letter or email to the coach and ask.

Athletes wishing to compete at the NCAA Division 1 or Division 2 levels must meet specific academic requirements set by the As a general rule, athletes who meet or exceed the NCAA Eligibility Center. The Division 1 requirements are listed below. requirements for Division 1 competition are also eligible to compete at the Division 2 level. However, keep in mind that each school has its own set of admissions requirements for athletes to meet. 

  • He or she must also be a high school graduate.
  • Their GPA must be a minimum of 2.3 in their 16 required core courses. The following is a list of the course prerequisites: 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 additional year of English, math, or science; and four years of religion, philosophy, foreign language, or additional years of any of the categories previously listed..
  • At least 10 of the 16 core courses must be completed by the junior year for athletes.
  • Take the SAT or ACT, and score at least 400 on the SAT (mathematics and reading only) or 37 on the ACT (sum score).
  • The NCAA Sliding Scale stipulates that their core course grade point average and SAT/ACT scores must meet the minimum requirements.

How many scholarships do Division 1 football teams get? 

The maximum number of full-ride scholarships that can be given out by Division 1 FBS teams is 85. The maximum number of scholarships that can be awarded to Division 1 FCS programs is 63. Athletes who receive a full-ride scholarship at the DI FBS level are awarded 85 scholarships, which are headcount scholarships. The 63 scholarships offered by FCS are equivalency awards. As a result, a coach has the option of awarding partial scholarships to a greater number of athletes.

Division 1 FBS football programs are likely to take on a full 2021 class and be close to 105 scholarship athletes in the fall of 2021 because of the expansion of eligibility for 2020–21 and the ability of college programs to go above their scholarship cap. In 2022, a number of programs will be forced to reduce their player counts to 85.

Division I recruiting is the focus of this information. Division 1 events tend to have a ripple effect on other division levels, as well. Future college basketball players in the Class of 2022, as well as the following years, must be proactive in their recruiting and careful not to miss out on opportunities. 

Football scholarship differences between NCAA football scholarships and NAIA 

College sports are governed by two major organizations: the NCAA and NAIA. Both have their own unique methods for awarding and regulating football scholarships and recruiting. 

D1 and D2 colleges and universities can award NCAA football scholarships, but D3 colleges and universities do not. Athletes seeking Division 1 or Division 2 football scholarships must meet or exceed the NCAA's eligibility standards and provide proof of amateur status. College coaches are also limited in how and when they can contact recruits by the NCAA's D1 and D2 recruiting rules and calendar. 

Any college or university that is a full member of the NAIA can award a football scholarship to a deserving student. Student-athletes in the NAIA must meet their own academic eligibility requirements, but they don't have the same set of recruiting rules as the NCAA. This year's recruiting cycle is less predetermined, with each school free to set its own recruitment rules and schedules.

The inside scoop: While athletic scholarships aren't available at NCAA D3 schools, many of them offer generous financial aid packages that end up covering a significant portion of students' tuition and fees. Learn how to lower the cost of attending a D3 school.

If a program's budget is slashed or its rosters become overburdened with seniors, more scholarships may be withdrawn in the upcoming seasons. This does not imply that recruits should accept the first offer they receive, but they should not wait too long before making a decision.. The best way to find out if a recruit is still wanted by a college is to have a direct but polite conversation with the coach.

How to get a football scholarship 

It is up to the coach of each team to decide whether or not an athlete is eligible for a scholarship. Athletes, have to demonstrate the ability or potential to be a key players in the future needs to be demonstrated in their current position. This is why it's so critical to find the appropriate athletic division. As long as they meet the eligibility requirements, recruits can play for a Division I college, but they may be more effective at a Division II or NAIA school. At the D2 or NAIA levels, they'll be able to have a greater impact on the team and thus earn more money and playing time. 

Recruits must be academically eligible to play at the school in addition to their athletic ability. NCAA and NAIA eligibility requirements are not enough; they must also meet a school's more stringent admission requirements, which are often more difficult to meet than NCAA eligibility requirements. In other words, the more schools a recruit can attend based on their grades and test scores.

Do walk-ons get a scholarship?

Athletic scholarships are not given to walk-ons. Walk-ons are often the backbone of a great football team, despite the fact that they do not receive any athletic funding. What if you looked at it this way? There are 85 full-ride scholarships available to D1 FBS teams. Most FBS D1 teams have 118-130 student-athletes on their roster; these walk-ons fill the remaining spots. Consider becoming a walk-on.

What is the difference between a verbal offer and an official offer?

College coaches and recruits make informal, non-binding agreements known as "handshakes" in which the coach promises to reserve a scholarship for the athlete in question if the recruit accepts the offer verbally. However, both coaches and recruits have the option to renegotiate a verbal agreement at any time—and it has! An athlete's verbal offer may be withdrawn if they are injured their junior year after receiving it their freshman year.

Once you sign the National Letter of Intent, or NLI, a "official" offer is still essentially the same as a verbal offer. Offers from college coaches are still handshake agreements that they'll provide you with a scholarship to compete at their school until you sign the NLI or any other legally binding document.

What’s the difference between a committable offer and a non-committable offer?

Athletes at the same position in the same recruiting class may receive verbal offers from the same coach because D1 football programs are so large. Some of those recruits are expected to leave because of competition from other organizations, academic ineligibility, or some other reason. As a result, no matter how things shake out, they should be able to cover all of their bases. Some schools go so far as to extend over 100 offers to a single recruiting class, which is a little excessive.

When a coach extends a verbal offer to an athlete, the athlete has the right to inquire as to where he or she stands in the recruiting process. It is important for a prospective student to know that their school's offer may fall through if the coach mentions that the player is after a few top athletes at that position.

If a program's budget is slashed or its rosters become overburdened with seniors, more scholarships may be withdrawn in the upcoming seasons. This does not imply that recruits should accept the first offer they receive, but they should not wait too long before making a decision.. The best way to find out if a recruit is still wanted by a college is to have a direct but polite conversation with the coach.

I got an offer through social media—now what?

Until Aug. 1, 2016, high school juniors and seniors could receive "official offers" from college coaches via social media. In most cases, you'll see a graphic or image informing you that you've been offered a scholarship by that particular school. This is wonderful news, but keep in mind that until you sign a binding contract, the offer is only a verbal one. As soon as you receive the scholarship offer, you should contact the coach to find out what's included, where you stand in the recruiting process, and when the coach expects to hear back from you.

 “Buyer’s remorse” and decommitments 

Coaches at colleges who do not host camps or high school visits have fewer recruiting tools with which to work before making offers to prospective students. Ben Weiss, CEO of Zcruit, says that so far in 2020, there has been more "copycat" recruiting than most. Coaches use their rivals as a primary source of new players to keep an eye on. All of this is leading to early Division 1 offers.

Some of this is due to the fact that more and more Division 1 recruits are signing on the dotted line to attend a college even if they are only mildly interested in it. In this current recruiting climate, college campuses have become increasingly difficult to visit, and more and more recruits are accepting offers because they are unsure how many they will receive. They're tired of the uncertainty and the process, and they just want it to be over.

The amount of time and information available to prospective students and colleges is decreasing. "Schools are taking more chances in the evaluation process because they can't see many top targets on campus. Schools used to wait until recruits' measurables were confirmed before making an offer. Schools are now putting their money where their mouth is and extending their invitations. There will be an abnormal amount of "buyer's remorse" and "under-recruited gems" that end up at schools below their playing level because of this, says Weiss.

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