College football games televised every fall do more than entertain us; they generate revenue that translates into financial aid for players. Founded in 1906, the National Collegiate Athletic Association governs U.S. college athletics, from rules of competition to expected academic achievement. The NCAA supports student-athlete education with revenue generated from marketing and television rights, bowl and championship games, investments and other income. It distributes the money to member universities and colleges who, in turn award player scholarships. NCAA refers to scholarships as “athletics grants-in-aid” and restricts the number of them a school can offer based on division membership.

NCAA Membership

The NCAA created three divisions in 1973. These divisions represent levels of competition in which a college can choose to compete. Since 1978, Division I has included I-A, the Football Bowl, and I-AA, Football Championship, subdivisions. The NCAA lists 120 schools in Division I-A, 118 in Division I-AA and 170 in Division II with football programs in 2010. Only Division I and II schools can offer football scholarships, according to athletic recruitment information site Varsity Ivy League schools, however, do not offer NCAA athletic scholarships even though they belong to Division I. Across both divisions, the NCAA allows more than 23,000 football scholarships, of which only those in Division I-A are guaranteed, full rides.

Division 1

Each NCAA Division I-A football program can offer 85 athletic scholarships – one for each team – while Division I-AA schools must divide the 63 scholarships allowed per team by the NCAA among their 85-player team roster. Academic eligibility requirements for incoming Division I freshmen includes 16 core high school courses: four years of English, three of math, two years each of social studies and science, one additional year of either math, science or English and four years of other subjects such as foreign language or philosophy. According to the NCAA, Division I uses a sliding scale of grade-point average and SAT scores. The lower a student’s GPA, the higher the minimum SAT score. Student-athletes must also meet the university admission requirements and obtain amateurism certification.

Division 2

The NCAA allots 36 football scholarships annually to Division II schools.
According to the NCAA, Division II student athletes must have taken 14 core courses in high school: three years of English, two each of mathematics and science, two years of additional English, math or science and three years of additional courses such as foreign language or philosophy. A 16-core course rule will go into effect for the 2013-2014 academic year. Division II requires a minimum SAT score of 820, 2.0 GPA and ACT score of 68. As with Division I, student-athletes must meet university admissions standards and obtain amateurism certification.


Getting an NCAA football scholarship requires effort. According to sports recruiters at Athletic, most athletes need to promote themselves to college coaches. The College Sports Scholarships website agrees, noting student-athletes must introduce themselves to college coaches and tell them “what they can offer.” Both sites suggest providing coaches with a profile and sports resume. Recruiting services prepare a sports resume and video for submission for a fee.

Related Articles