11 December 2018

Before You Start, Learn the Rules of the Game

In the previous article, we introduced you to the US college* golf pathway, and its advantages. In this issue, we are uncovering the landscape and the rules guarding the college golf recruitment process.

Let’s start with the NCAA.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is one of the three governing bodies of US college sport and is considered the premier governing body because the universities under the NCAA offer the most scholarship opportunities. The NCAA is divided into three divisions based on the number of scholarships the universities in each division can offer a junior athlete, and as such, there are different performance benchmarks.

NCAA Divisions 1, 2, and 3
Division 1 (D1) universities offer the most sports scholarships. The schools in D1 are the bigger, more well-known schools like the Ivy League, UCLA, UC Berkeley, University of Michigan, etc. They are followed by D2 schools which offer fewer scholarships but are still good schools, such as UC San Diego, University of Tampa, and the University of Chicago. While D3 schools do not offer any athletic scholarships, the schools in D3 are very academic. They include schools such as MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), John Hopkins, Tufts, and Swarthmore.

Boys interested in D1 golf teams should have a tournament scoring average of under 74, around 77 for D2, and around 79 for D3. Girls interested in D1 golf teams should average under 76, around 79 for D2, and around 83 for D3. The minimum GPA required by the NCAA is 2.3, but most universities require around a GPA of 3.0 and above. Universities use a sliding scale to match SAT/ACT scores and GPA to determine eligibility – lower test scores require a higher GPA, vice versa.

The NCAA also sets the rules of the college sports recruitment process, and the two important rules to take note of are:

College Coach Communication
It typically takes two years for a student-athlete to build a strong relationship with a college coach before admission is offered. As such, student-athletes should begin reaching out to college coaches at the middle of Grade 10 (SMA 1). The NCAA has a rule to prevent certain electronic communication between a college coach and a potential recruit before the recruitment begins in Grade 11 (SMA 2). The rule allows recruits to send as many emails to coaches as they want, but college coaches are only able to respond with, “Thanks for the update!”, and most do not bother responding at all. Sending out emails to highlight great performances without getting any acknowledgment usually disheartens most recruits. You need to be patient and trust the process, or simply seek the help of a recruitment firm to manage the relationship with college coaches on your behalf.

Maintaining Amateurism
College sport is an arena for amateur competition, and the NCAA requires all incoming student-athletes to prove their amateur status by completing a questionnaire. In general, junior athletes should not sign contracts with professional teams or sports agents, or accept prize money from competitions. However, allowances and/or training grants provided by the athlete’s National Team are acceptable.

There is a common misconception that only National Team athletes can make it to college golf. Well, this is not true. Depending on your level of play in your sport, there are over 3000 schools under the NCAA, and each provides different opportunities for players at every level academically and athletically. It all comes down to finding the perfect fit school for you!

This is the second article of a six-part series that walks you through the entire US college golf recruitment process from start to finish. The next issue will provide you with a checklist and tips on how to initiate the college golf recruitment process. In the meantime, don’t forget to #DreamBig.

*In the US, the term “college” and “university” are the same thing, the only difference being universities have Ph.D. programs, whilst colleges only run undergraduate programs. 

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