The opportunities for athletic scholarships for girls and young women have never been better. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 changed the sports scholarship landscape in favor of female student-athletes. Originally not directed toward female sports, Title IX opened many new doors for female sports stars to receive many more scholarships. Title IX accomplishes two important things for female student-athletes. First, it mandates that schools offer as many female sports teams as for men. Second, it permitted schools to offer more scholarships to girls and young women.
The original regulation, which ironically makes no mention of sports opportunities, was designed to expand the nondiscrimination provisions of the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964 to offer equal opportunities for men and women for all education issues. Over the years, the primary inequality corrected has been sports and athletic scholarship opportunities, which were vastly expanded for females. All schools that participate in federal student loan and grant programs must adhere to this equality regulation. Even those schools, such as Division III and Ivy League universities, must offer an equal number or female sports as those offered to male students.
Although the major women's sports, such as basketball, softball and soccer, generate the most attention, athletic scholarships are also available for non-revenue producing and less prominent sports teams, such as cross-country, swimming, and tennis. The NCAA allocates a different number of maximum scholarships for teams depending on the number of players required. All member schools in the same division, however, have the same number of scholarships offered. Division I and II schools participate in the women's sports scholarship program. Division II schools do not offer athletic scholarships. But they offer an equal number of sports teams for men and women, often offering partial or full academic scholarships to women athletes they recruit.
Typical Women's Scholarship Sports
Although women's sports teams differ from school-to-school, the following list is typical. Scholarships are often offered for tennis; field hockey; indoor and outdoor track; cross-country; golf; volleyball; ice hockey; archery; gymnastics; skiing; swimming and diving; basketball; soccer; and softball. The size of the school often determines the number of sports teams it supports. There is no minimum number of sports schools must sponsor. However, they must offer equal opportunities for male and female students. For example, a school might decide to offer only five sports for women. It then can only offer five sports for men. Regardless of size, all Division I and II schools will have the same maximum number of scholarships for each sport offered.
Division III Scholarships
Division III is composed of smaller schools and many of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the United States. Although they do not offer sports scholarships, they often offer many academic scholarships to student-athletes, which accomplish the same goal of tuition payment and sports opportunities. These schools still recruit athletes, particularly those with outstanding prep and high school academic performances.
Most schools seldom offer full athletic scholarships, except for the revenue producing sports, such as basketball and football. They are allowed to "share" scholarships to offer partial athletic scholarships to more student-athletes. For example, if a women's sport can offer six full scholarships annually, the school and athletic department can choose to give the "equivalent" of these to more students. They could choose to offer up to 12 half scholarships, allowing them to recruit more good players.