September 23, 2013

Recruited vs Non-Recruited Volleyball Walk On

Hello Coach,

I appreciate your web site and the information that it contains.  I’m hopeful you can provide insight into a decision that we have to make around my daughter being either a recruited walk-on or non-recruited walk on at her intended school.  She will be playing at a D1 school and the coach is saying she can be either in the coming year.  Apparently there are pro’s and con’s to each status and as much as I thought I understood these when explained by the coach I’m getting a bit confused and we need to make a decision over the next few days before she makes a visit to the school (official vs. non-official visit).  

The coach said volleyball is a counter sport so if she receives any academic aid that would count against the team limit of 12 scholarships which is fine as I do not believe my daughter would qualify for academic aid as she has a 3.2 with a 1620 SAT.  Respectable but not overly impressive at this academic state school.  My question is while I do not believe that my daughter will qualify for academic aid I am hopeful she can qualify for financial aid as we will have two daughters in school next year paying out of state tuition.  

Our EFC (family contribution) would suggest that we could expect to receive $8-10K in financial aid from the college from the total expense of $42K that the school estimates its costs for annual tuition and housing.  My daughter would prefer to be a recruited walk on as it allows more interaction with the coaching staff before attending the school and she thinks she would feel better about her status on the team but I do not want to walk away from the potential of $8-10K toward her college expenses especially when I’m responsible for 2 daughters in college at the same time.

Obviously the coach does not want to risk having her count against her overall scholarship until she earns an athletic scholarship which is why she wants us to be real clear on the distinction between recruited and non -recruited walk on as once we decide that will be her status for the visit that she is making.  Does my daughter being a recruited walk on prevent her from accepting financial aid from the institution?  If so, perhaps its best for her to join the team as a non-recruited walk on.  I would value your guidance and advice.

Thank you,


Glad to hear that has been a resource for your family, and I have written quite a bit about NCAA rules and understanding the nuances within Inside College Volleyball.

Unless the rules have significantly changed, the NCAA Division I coach is confused about the terminology and rules.

Women's Volleyball is a Head Count sport with 12 scholarships allotted to women's volleyball.  Per the rules, 12 heads may be on an athletic scholarship as this is the head count allowed for DI women's volleyball scholarship athletes (only 12 heads may be on an athletic scholarship whether that scholarship is a dollar of a full).

If a player is not on any athletic scholarship money as a DI volleyball student-athlete, then that player has the ability to attain any non-athletic scholarship support (within certain parameters, such as not receiving a high school booster club funded or community funded scholarship based upon athletic prowess).  This means that academic, merit and need based scholarships are available to athletes.  

Your daughter's academic scholarship, would not count against the Head Count scholarship total because the Head Count only concerns athletic scholarships.  What the coach may be confused about is that full athletic scholarship athletes may not 'stack' or receive additional scholarships (academic, merit, need) on top of their full athletic scholarship.  The coach will turn in a scholarship roster document to her compliance officer in the athletic department, and this will list the 12 players who are on athletic scholarships.  She will also turn in a roster to the compliance officer which will list all players and say which ones are on athletic scholarships and which ones are not (thus walk-ons).

Again, unless the rules have changed, there is little difference between a recruited and non-recruited walk-on.  My knowledge is that a non-recruited walk on is allowed to receive non-athletic scholarship support up to the cost of attendance, while a recruited walk on is limited to receiving non-athletic scholarship supported equal to a full athletic scholarship.  At most schools, this difference in cost of attendance versus full athletic scholarship is about 2 to 4 thousand dollars.  As you might surmise, this only affects the most academically elite who may qualify for a school's presidential or regent scholarship, in addition to packaging different merit scholarships which would enable them to reach the cost of attendance level - In my many years of DI head coaching, at both private and public schools, I only had one athlete reach this level over the course of having many, many walk on student-athletes.

What triggers the difference between a recruited or non-recruited walk on is that an official visit would automatically qualify an athlete as recruited, but also, having more than one conversation in person or over the phone (parents or player) qualifies an athlete as a recruited walk on.  I would think that since you are making visit arrangements, and are a senior, there have been multiple conversations.

In terms of how the players are treated or their access to coaching and facilities, there should be zero difference because there is zero difference in the rules.  The NCAA do not qualify that scholarship athletes are treated one way and non-scholarship athletes another when it comes to facilities, coaching, academic or training support.

It concerns me that your future coach does not have clarity on the rules; but, they may have changed within the last year, because the NCAA likes to constantly tweak minor rules while letting major infractions and concerns just float in the wind.  

Because of your specific situation, my suggestions:

1.  Go on the Official Visit, as this is money saved by you and DI schools have a good budget for this.

2.  This makes your PSA a Recruited Walk-on, which means nothing other than you don't get 2 to 4k if she had a 30 ACT score.

3.  Aggressively pursue any and all non-athletic scholarship opportunities on the campus. 

Number 3 is really the biggest issue - You should be working directly with the admissions and financial aid office at the school as they are the key holders for non-athletic department financial support.  DI coaches don't concern themselves with the nuances of non-athletic scholarship opportunities because they don't have to, unlike DII/III and NAIA coaches.   Financial aid and admissions offices don't have an unlimited supply of scholarship money; their resources are on a first come first given protocol, so the sooner you get moving with these offices, the more scholarship support you will have.

My last comment is one which you should be familiar with if you have read the site; walk-on to scholarship avenues are filled with land mines.  I get very nervous when families are accepting DI walk-on to scholarship promises/opportunity/suggestions because there is just too much unforeseen.  I consider myself a honest coach, but I had to delay an athletic scholarship award to a walk-on player because we had an injury to a key position, and I had to replace that position with a scholarship player.  I have seen and heard of so many athletes which come in as walk-ons and never get the scholarship; remember that there are going to be a complete new batch of walk-on athletes next year and who's to say they won't be better than your PSA?

If she is good enough to walk on a DI, then I strongly suggest your family slow down the recruiting process and wait until the winter club season rolls around.  I am always stunned by how many DI scholarships open up after the collegiate volleyball season; injuries, academics, job changes, boyfriends, crazy coaches, too much pizza and beer, etc., all result in DI's re-opening their senior recruiting efforts to award scholarships.  

And I have not even touched upon DII, which allows for stacking of scholarships with no head count limitations, because they are an Equivalency sport.

And, and I have not even touched upon the fact that most walk-ons are practice players (at best) and see the court about as often during a season as I get to go surfing......not much. 

Good luck!

Coach Matt

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