Football best chance for college scholarship

Published 11:29 pm Saturday, July 24, 2010

A word of advice to high school students who play one or more sports: make good grades and enjoy the moment.

Student/athletes should treat high school as their professional careers and play more than one sport. Not only do you get a chance to enjoy more activities, it also increases the odds you may be more attractive to college coaches and helps you develop all your skills.

Students should work hard and try to maximize their time and success as a team and individual because the chances of that career extending beyond their senior year of high school are not that promising.

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Oh, it’s nice to have goals, dreams and expectations. Shoot for the moon and maybe you’ll hit a star. But hit the books just as hard. There is more college money available for academics than athletics unless you get a Division I or I-AA athletic scholarship.

The numbers aren’t very compelling when looking at a chance to play at the collegiate level, and they grow even smaller if you are thinking of making a living at a sport on the professional level.

One of the worst chances of playing at the next level is men’s college basketball. Less than one in 35 high school seniors — about 3.0 percent — will play at an NCAA level. That total includes Div. I, II and III.

Athletic scholarships are available at the Div. I level and there is some money at the II level, but III and NAIA are based on financial aid, often tied to academics.

And for those making it to the NCAA level, only one in 75 or 1.2 percent will be drafted. That means three out of every 10,000 or 0.03 percent of high school seniors will one day get drafted by the NBA.

In Lawrence County, current Ironton City Schools assistant superintendent Bill Dressel got a full Division I scholarship to play basketball a Canisius in 1973. The next Lawrence County basketball player to sign at the Div. I level was Brigham Waginger who went to Western Carolina in 2006.

The small total doesn’t include three other players. Ironton’s Dennis Gagai passed on a mid-major scholarship to walk-on at West Virginia. Chesapeake’s 6-foot-8 Rick Edwards didn’t sign out of high school but instead played a year at a prep school and then went to Richmond.

Ironton’s Ty Barnes was the best prospect to come out of the area and turned down William & Mary, St. Bonaventure and Coastal Carolina to play close to home. He did play one year of professional basketball in Australia.

The two most prominent names before the 1970s would have been Carl Large to Ohio State and Ralph Snead to Ohio University in 1958.

How do you like your odds of getting a Div. I basketball scholarship so far?

Football and baseball have the highest odds for players who want to play at a higher level, especially football.

There are about 254,000 seniors who play high school football each year and hope to get one of 5,042 available scholarships. The odds initially are one in 50, but actually when including Div. I-AA and Div. III schools, the odds are one in six will play at the next level.

The 119 Div. I schools offer an average of 21 scholarships each year per school and I-AA had 63 scholarships per team or an average of 16 each.

An average of 1.8 percent of college players will eventually be drafted by the NFL, or one in 50 each year that breaks down to eight in 10,000 high school seniors who will eventually get drafted.

Ironton has had nearly three dozen players receive a Div. I or I-AA full football scholarships during the Bob Lutz era alone and several more walked on and earned a full ride. There were several more prior to Lutz’s arrival and there have been about eight or 10 more players from the county who have gone to a Div. I school on a full athletic scholarship.

Baseball’s numbers have three in 50 or 6.1 percent going to the NCAA Div. I level with 9.4 percent of college players being drafted. That figures to be 0.45 percent high school players who will eventually be drafted.

More high school girls have a chance to play basketball at the NCAA level than other girls’ sports, but only one in 100 college players will be drafted. For high school senior girls, that means one in 5,000 will eventually get a shot at the WNBA.

Other sports for boys and girls fall more in line with the numbers associated with boys’ basketball.

As the NCAA ad says, “More than 94 percent of its senior athletes will go pro in something other than sports.”

Here’s to good grades and high school sports.

—— Sinatra ——

Jim Walker is sports editor of The Ironton Tribune.