Want to play football in college? Check your grades

Published 10:32 pm Tuesday, February 7, 2017

National Signing Day has come and go, meaning for the majority of the country, the recruiting frenzy has come and gone. Alabama and Auburn had completed their classes by nightfall on National Signing Day, as had most of the other Division I schools around the country.

But for many other schools, recruiting was nowhere near over.

There’s a misconception nationwide about how the recruiting process works, when it starts and when it ends. Signing Day, which has become a blown out of proportion national event, is the first day that athletes can sign a letter of intent to play college football. Although it’s the day many athletes sign, especially high profile ones, it’s just the beginning of the final portion of recruiting.

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Locally, four players signed on National Signing Day, but many others are still hoping to nail down an offer from schools filling out their roster. On Monday, Dallas County High School’s Patrick Haskell signed with the University of West Alabama. It was four days after signing day, but the scholarship, the moment and the importance of the accomplishment were still the same.

Haskell was not only talented, but he also put himself in a position to get a scholarship off the field. Since he had good grades and made a high enough score on his ACT, UWA was able to give him a partial athletic and partial academic scholarship. Southside’s KeAndrae Rutledge and Chris Edwards received the same half and half type scholarship.

That’s why many coaches spend a great deal of their time hollering about academics. There are only so many athletic scholarships to go around.

According to the National Federation of High Schools, a total of 1,085,272 high schoolers play football, making it the most popular high school sport. About 1 percent of high school football players go on to play football at the NCAA’s FBS level, where Alabama, Auburn, South Alabama and Troy play.  Each FBS school can have the equivalent of 85 scholarship players on their roster at one time and give out about 25 scholarships each year.

The scholarship numbers get more restricted as you go lower in division. FCS schools, such as Alabama State or Alabama A&M, can award a total of 63 scholarships.

Teams in the National Junior College Athletic Association can offer up to 85 scholarships and schools in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics limit each team to 24 total football scholarships.

In the lower divisions, it’s easier for schools to hand out partial athletic scholarships and partial academic scholarships because it leaves them flexibility with the roster. If they find a great student who can also play football, it’s a no-brainer to sign that student. Not only will he qualify for financial assistance because of his academics, he’ll also leave the team with an athletic scholarship to give someone else.