Home Junior A Tier II What Does an NCAA or CHL Scholarship Actually Cover – Full Rides are a Myth

What Does an NCAA or CHL Scholarship Actually Cover – Full Rides are a Myth

by Jason Nadeau

What Does an NCAA or CHL Scholarship Actually Cover – Part 2


To read part 1: WHL/CHL Scholarship Guarantees

Everyone worries about securing their hockey and academic futures. They agonize for months, if not years, over choosing the correct path for their lives, be that the CHL or the NCAA routes. Once they finally make a decision and earn their OHL scholarship or NCAA letter of intent, they think, INCORRECTLY, that everything is just fine and their future is secure. Today I want to look at the realities of what actual guarantees you have when you sign your NCAA National Letter of Intent (LOI).

What Does a NCAA Scholarship Cover?

Frankly, most players assert that they have 100% ‘full rides’ when the reality is that most players do NOT get that offer nor do they actually get that contractual guarantee.

There is in fact, NO such thing as a GUARANTEED 4 YEAR NCAA FULL RIDE SCHOLARSHIP!!! If anyone tells you they have one, they are either lying or mistaking as to their legal guarantees.

Comparing Scholarship Details

If you recall, the WHL scholarship guarantee includes: tuition fees, compulsory student fees and necessary textbooks. The NCAA Letter of Intent covers what the NCAA defines as “Cost of Education.” What is this you say? Well, it is in fact more comprehensive then its CHL counterpart. Their award covers the cost of tuition, student fees, student housing/room, daily meals and books.

So what is the big difference between the two? Essentially, the NCAA provides room AND board whereas the CHL does NOT! You can draw your own conclusions as to any additional cost.

Amount of Scholarship

When a player signs his LOI contract it lists the actual percentage of the overall cost PAID by the team. Below is the actual offer for one of my former NCAA family Advisor clients.

As you can see for this institution, the total yearly cost is $21,531.20 for the two combined Terms. The Offer made by the team in this instance is an 80% scholarship offer. So, in black and white terms, if this player were to sign this LOI Scholarship contract, the family would still have to pay 20% of the overall costs for this year which comes out to a total of $4306.20. If we were to assume that he received the same scholarship guarantee for ALL four years, he would get an $86,120.80 education for a total price of $17224.8. Not a bad deal!!! However, we have made an assumption that might not be very reliable to bank on! That assumption is that if you look at the offer above, it is ONLY for the Fall 2007/Spring 2008 Terms.

There is no mention of the other three years of his four year deal….

Play for Pay Scholarship

Earlier, I argued that people LIED or were mistaken when they bragged of having a 4 year scholarship. The reason behind my bold statement is that a number of years ago, the NCAA moved away from contractually guaranteeing 4 year scholarships. This gave them the flexibility to get out from underneath expensive commitments if the player underperformed or failed to live up to predicted expectations. The reality is that the NCAA ONLY contractually guarantees 1 YEAR of scholarship with its LOI contract. The remaining three years are only verbal guarantees that amount to what is sometimes referred to as a ‘Play for Pay’ Scholarship. By this name or any other, the result is that players must perform each season to an ‘adequate’ level (whatever that is, as determined by each individual team) or there is the possibility that teams can either terminate a players scholarship, reduce the level of the money offered or refuse to increase the amount offered in the final years of the scholarship entitlement.

OK let me break this down…

Actual Standard Offer

As you saw above, players get a 1 year concrete offer. In addition to this, the team is verbally guaranteeing up to three more years. In our example above, our client was offered 80% for the first two seasons. If he ‘panned out’ and became a core player in his final two years, they would ‘bump’ up his scholarship offer to cover 100% of his costs. The verbal understanding was that IF he played well, they would reward him with a ‘FULL RIDE’. If he did NOT perform adequately, then they would retain him at the initial level offered, in this case, 80%. This is ALL done in a nudge-nudge, Wink-wink arrangement. They don’t really discuss in practical terms what happens if the player fails to meet expectations…

Conclusion – Perception is Reality

Now the important thing to realize here is NOT that the sky is falling. Rather, you need to focus on the importance of perception of NCAA scholarship legitimacy. What I mean is this:

1) Teams Verbally guarantee 4 Years of Scholarship money
2) If it became known that ANY or ALL teams reneged on their verbal offers, people would stop signing with them.
3) In this case, the perception that teams HONOUR their commitments is as important as the reality of the situation.
4) So as a result, even though there is ONLY a 1 Year Legal commitment, there is a De facto 4 year guarantee that you can count on.
5) In most cases, even if a team is not happy with a players’ level of play, they will still only resort to terminating the verbal agreement in the most extreme of situations so as to protect their reputations.
That isn’t to say that teams don’t have proven methods of ‘removing’ players from their rosters… However, that is another discussion for another day…

Much like their CHL/WHL counterparts business is business and we must all realize and acknowledge that neither party is entirely altruistic in their intentions towards their product/players. As long as you know your rights you can better prepare and protect your future education and career.

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