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Smaller schools feast on the leftovers



Published: Mon, February 10, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



It's recruiting time for talented players who aren't quite good enough for Div. I, but still want to play college football.

By JOE SCALZO

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

If you're like most high school football players, you're probably not a big fan of signing day.

You didn't get a phone call from Joe Paterno. You didn't get steak dinners or a campus tour from pretty coeds. You didn't sort through full-ride scholarship offers.

No problem. You've still got options.

"By this point, most players already know they aren't going Division I," said Mark Bercik, author of "America's Complete Sports Scholarship Guide." "They're still going to hope and wish, but chances are, they're not."

According to the NCAA, about 265,000 seniors played high school football last fall. Less than one percent will get a Div. I scholarship.

Those are long odds. Which is why recruiting season heats up after signing day.

"After signing day, we have a better idea of which student-athletes will not be going to the bigger schools," Westminster coach Jack Schmitt said. "It's a really busy time for us."

Westminster, a Div. III school in New Wilmington, Pa., had more than 30 area players on its football team last fall.

The Titans, along with schools like Mount Union, Geneva, Malone and Walsh, recruit heavily in the area, picking up talented players who aren't quite good enough for Div. I, but still want to play college football.

"I always tell kids that it's important to keep their options open," Schmitt said.

Money matters

One of the main things to consider is cost.

Westminster's tuition is about $25,000 a year and Mount Union costs more than $30,000. Div. III schools cannot offer athletic scholarships, but offer other forms of financial aid.

"About 90 percent of our students get some sort of financial aid," Schmitt said.

NAIA schools like Malone, Walsh and Geneva, however, can give athletic scholarships.

"A lot of it comes down to financial need," said Bercik, who lives in Brookfield. "Say you go to Baldwin-Wallace, which is about $25,000, and the coach gives you $10,000. Where's the other $15,000 going to come from? Well, there are a lot of scholarships you can apply for."

Especially if you have good grades. Student-athletes with a grade-point average of 3.0 or better, or with good test scores, are scholarship candidates.

Walk-ons

If you still want to play Div. I football, you can try to walk on and earn a scholarship later.

"There are no guarantees, though -- a walk-on is just going to have to prove himself," Bercik said. "I know YSU has preferred walk-ons that are a level above the others. But if you get in and shine, you're still not going to get any money for at least a year."

State schools like YSU, Akron and Kent don't cost as much as private schools. For some athletes, walking on is worth the risk.

"Some kids mature later in life," Bercik said. "Maybe you're a borderline Division I recruit, but you grow a little bit in college. That might be a good reason to wait."

Warren Harding coach Thom McDaniels, who had two sons play college football and has dealt with college recruiters for more than 20 years, gives his players a questionnaire about choosing a college. It stresses what questions to ask a recruiter and what to look for in a school.

"It's very important that you go to a school where you're going to be comfortable," Schmitt said. "College is hard enough as it is. Sometimes it's worth it to pay a little more to go somewhere where you feel like you can succeed."

XBercik's book is available at the YSU bookstore, or by visiting www.athleticscholarshipbook.com.




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