How Do College Coaches Make Offers?

As a high school athlete who is being seriously considered by college coaches, you can expect to receive a scholarship offer. In fact, you can probably expect to receive multiple offers, but you are probably wondering, how do college coaches make offers?

A college coach can offer a potential student athlete in many ways, such as, in person, in an email, or over the phone. The conditions of the offer vary by sport and the particular needs of the coach at the time, as this is the moment where coaches will reveal how much scholarship they can give you and where they see you fitting into their program. Receiving an offer can be very exciting, however, it is crucial to take some time to think about the offer as there are several things to consider before accepting.

There can be a lot of ambiguity in recognizing an offer and understanding what it actually means. Your first instinct may be to accept the offer on the spot but it is crucial to take some time to think about it as well as keeping an open mind. To better understand the specifics of an offer, we have a few points you should take some time to think about.

Types Of Offers

When a coach extends an offer to a high school athlete, they are offering how much scholarship money they are able to provide in addition to laying out their expectations if the athlete were to accept. Not all offers are created equal and there are several different forms that they can take. Here are some terms you should be familiar with when discussing the conditions of the offer:

Full Scholarship: A full athletic scholarship covers tuition, room and board, book fees, and cost of attendance. The athlete and parents should expect that all costs required to attend the institution will be taken care of.

Partial Scholarship: A partial scholarship will only cover a portion of the expenses. A partial scholarship can cover as little as 1% of expenses to as much as 99% of expenses. It all depends on what the coach has available for a particular athlete.

Head Count Sports: In Division I, head count sports are men’s and women’s basketball, football, women’s gymnastics, women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball. ‘Head count’ means that scholarships can only be awarded in full for an entire year. This means that the athletes of these specific sports have either 100% full scholarship or no scholarship, which in that case, would take the form of a walk-on. However, it is possible to effectively be on a partial scholarship while participating in a head count sport. For example, an athlete can have a full scholarship for their first two years and be off scholarship for the remaining two years.

Equivalency Sports: All other sports not mentioned above and Division II sports fall into this category. In equivalency sports, coaches can divide up their scholarships as long as they do not exceed the total allowable scholarship for their sport. For example, Division I baseball teams have 11.7 scholarships to give and wrestling has 9.9.

It is possible for athletes to be on a full scholarship while participating in an equivalency sport. Every coach you encounter will offer you different things depending on how much they want you to be a part of their program. Once you understand the specifics of the offer, you will be able to make an informed decision about what to accept. So, how do you accept an offer? And what does it mean to accept an offer before your senior year?

Verbal Commitments For Division I

Initial offers made to potential student athletes take the form of a verbal commitment, as written commitments are solidified on signing day of one’s senior year. While it may seem unusual that a verbal commitment holds the fate of your college career, this is completely normal, as most (if not all) potential collegiate athletes undergo this initial agreement.

Verbal Commitments Are Non-Binding: One thing to consider while under a verbal commitment, is college coaches and high school athletes reserve the right to end the commitment at any point, due to this being a non-binding agreement. While it is rare for a coach or player to defer a verbal commitment within the realm of college athletics, it is important to keep that in mind.

Read The Coach: It’s very common to be concerned that your verbal commitment will not be honored. To feel more comfortable with your commitment, it is important to have honest communication with the coach. This can be a great opportunity to assess the quality of the coach and whether or not he/she is someone that you can genuinely see yourself play for. This is why it is crucial to understand the conditions of the offer, as you will get a better handle on the specifics and whether or not you sense the agreement will be honored.

Division II And Division III Offers

Division II and Division III offers often take place much after that of Division I offers. In these divisions, the verbal commitment period is very small (if at all). In many instances, coaches of Division II and Division III schools often do not extend offers until the senior year of high school athletes. In this case, the high school athlete will instantly go on to sign his/her National Letter of Intent to solidify their acceptance of the offer.

After receiving an offer, it is important to ask questions to be as informed as possible about the offer. So, what questions should you be asking after receiving an offer?

Questions For A College Coach After Receiving An Offer

  • How long do I have to decide?
  • Have any verbal agreements you made in the past been deferred?
  • Where do you see my role in this program?
  • Will I have the opportunity to gain more scholarship money?

National Letter Of Intent

Offers are not legally finalized until a high school athlete signs his/her National Letter of Intent (NLI) in their senior year. This is a binding legal document that states how much scholarship the athlete will receive at the school they have accepted an offer to. Any athlete of any division who is accepting any form of athletic scholarship will sign an NLI in their senior year. Those athletes who commit to play within Division III athletics do not have an NLI to sign, but can arrange a “non-binding standardized celebratory form” after the athlete has been accepted into the institution.

Things To Keep In Mind

Not All Offers Are Created Equal: You must be aware of the different types of scholarships that exist so you can make an informed decision. Based on the types of offers you are receiving you can use them to your advantage as leverage to negotiate other offers.

Don’t Be Afraid To Negotiate: If you feel you are getting a lesser offer than you deserve, it is completely okay to negotiate for the offer to increase. Honesty is extremely important in this scenario, and you should not be afraid to talk about what you want. The worst thing a coach can do in this instance is say “no”, and you never know, you may receive more!

Ask Questions: If you are seriously considering accepting an offer, do not be afraid to ask as many questions as possible. Even if you think you know the answer, the coaches and the program may surprise you in their response. Transparency is extremely important in this process, as you need to know as much information as possible about the school you potentially agree to go to.

Coaches Make Verbal Agreements All The Time: If there is anxiety surrounding whether or not your verbal commitment will be honored, it is important to know that all Division I coaches around the country do this. If you truly feel like your agreement will not be honored, that is a good indicator that the program may not be right for you.

Keep An Open Mind: If you are not happy with an offer you got from your ideal school, there are several ways you could potentially work towards earning more scholarship. Many times, coaches feel restricted by their scholarship quota and aren’t always able to offer what they want. It is very common for things to change or shift when it comes to scholarship allocation. Keep an open mind!

Take Your Time: Above all, this is your college experience and your life. If a coach is pressuring you to make a decision sooner than what you want, this could be a good indicator that the program is not right for you. Coaches who really want you to be a part of their program will respect your needs and the time it takes to make that decision. All in all, this is a BIG decision.

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