NCSA: The role of the college coach in the admission process

USA TODAY High School Sports has a weekly column on the college recruiting process. Here, you’ll find practical tips and real-world advice on becoming a better recruit to maximize your opportunities and play at the college level. Joe is a former college athlete and coach at the NAIA level, where he earned an NAIA National Championship. Joe is just one of many former college and professional players, college coaches and parents who are part of the Next College Student Athlete team. Their knowledge, experience and dedication, along with NCSA’s history of digital innovation and long-standing relationship with the college coaching community, have made NCSA the largest and most successful athletic recruiting network in the country.

Ask college coaches, parents and athletes what the role of the college coach in the admission process is and there’s a good chance you’ll get some different answers. Athletes and parents often think that college coaches have tremendous influence on the process, while many coaches may think their influence is minimal. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle. Read on to find out the main ways college coaches get involved.

College coaches serve as the first barrier to getting admitted

During the recruiting process, most athletes will have to reach out to dozens of coaches to gauge their interest in extending an offer from their program. But before athletes do so, they should have a good understanding of how they would fit into both the athletic program and the school overall.

Why? College coaches know the ballpark requirements that athletes must meet to get admitted to their school, and if they see that an athlete may not meet the academic or athletic standards to be on their team, then coaches may not even bother responding. After all, it’s pretty difficult to convince the admissions department at an Ivy League school to admit a recruit who has a 2.5 GPA when there are hundreds of other interested athletes with strong grades. Most athletes who are set on playing in college won’t bother applying to a college where the coach has no interest in them, so in effect, the coach serves as the first hurdle that potential college athletes need to clear.

Read more: Academic eligibility requirements for student-athletes

Helping secure other forms of financial aid

For athletes that play in equivalency sports, college coaches can divide athletic scholarship funds as they see fit, giving most to a few athletes or spreading them out more evenly. But if you’re going to compete at the Division III level — the division with the most college student-athletes — athletic scholarships are not available. However, academic scholarships, need-based aid and other forms of financial help are available, and college coaches can help athletes coordinate with their college to line up financial assistance for recruits. Without this assistance, many athletes would not be able to attend.

Read more: Do Division III schools give scholarships to athletes?

Walking your application through

Do college coaches have pull in admissions offices? Yes … to an extent. This really matters depending on the college, the sport and the influence of the coach in question, but college coaches usually do have some sort of input on recruits being admitted.

With that said, coaches are more willing to advocate for an athlete they think is an elite talent. This process is oftentimes referred to as “walking your application through,” but even the most powerful college coaches have a limited amount of influence with admissions and they are going to use that influence only for the recruits they want the most. Understandably, providing admissions support to recruits who don’t have good grades at a school like Yale would be a lot more difficult than it would be at a school with less-rigorous academic standards.

Recently, a college admissions scandal has brought college coaches and admissions departments at some elite colleges under scrutiny. The scandal showed how certain coaches exerted their influence to help applicants get admitted in return for bribes. However, even in most of these cases, applicants had cheated on their standardized tests or had their scores altered, and even fabricated their athletic resumes. Most coaches still needed this fabricated or altered information to help get applicants admitted.

The policies that govern the relationship between athletic departments and admissions are set by each school and they are all different. As a potential recruit, your best bet is to meet the academic and athletic standards to compete for a roster spot at a specific school. Otherwise, you’ll be depending on luck and other factors.

Read more: Are you good enough to play college sports?

Ready to start reaching out to college coaches? Read the NCSA College Recruiting Guide to get much-needed information.

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