How do you know if the offer your son received to play college baseball is a good offer or not? It’s a crucial question since a player will usually make his decision to attend (or not attend) a certain college based on the offer(s) received. But the answer is different for every player. You just can’t sit back and be happy that he received an offer. To help you better evaluate an offer before he verbally commits, you first need to understand the components of the scholarship itself and then understand the types of offers that coaches can make. And if you’re fortunate to have multiple offers, I’ll then go over how best to stack them against each other.
Components of a Baseball Scholarship
Starting on August 1, 2015, a full-ride scholarship can now cover 100% of the total estimated cost of attendance (COA). This is actually much better than the prior way of computing a full-ride scholarship, also known as a full grant-in-aid scholarship, which was only tuition, room, board, and required fees and books. Here’s an article by the NCAA that describes the switch to COA. The total estimated cost of attendance for a particular college is now determined by that college’s office of scholarships and financial aid and will include the following components for two (2) full-time semesters:
- Books & Supplies
- Personal and Miscellaneous Costs (estimated)
- Other (estimated)
Here’s an actual example of Alabama’s Cost of Attendance for 2017-2018 which should give you some idea of how it’s figured. Each college will post their official cost of attendance on their website.
So, slam dunk right? Not so fast. Unlike D1 Football and D1 Basketball, where ALL players receive full-ride scholarships, D1 Baseball programs are limited to 11.7 full-ride scholarships to spread between a maximum of 27 players. Granted, the baseball team may roster up to 35 players per NCAA rules, but only 27 can be on scholarship. Each of the 27 players must receive at least 25% of a full-ride scholarship. So doing the math, 6.75 full-ride scholarships are tied-up by simply giving 25% of a full-ride scholarship to each of the 27 players. That leaves roughly five additional full-ride scholarships to distribute among the 27 players. That’s where the fun begins.
Types of Baseball Scholarship Offers
Let’s assume that the COA = $30,000 (Tuition: $12,000, Fees: $1,000, Books: $3,000, Room: $7,000, Board: $4,000, Other: $3,000)
1. “Percentage-of-COA” Offer
This is the most popular type of offer and was the same type of offer that my son eventually accepted. A coach might say, “We will offer you a 45% scholarship.” If the total estimated cost of attendance is $30,000, then the school would provide a $13,500 athletic scholarship and the family would be responsible for the remaining $16,500. The average Percentage-of-COA offer for a baseball player is between 25-55%. Pitchers and outstanding position players may indeed get more.
2. “Flat Amount” Offer
One of the offers my son received was a flat amount offer. A coach might say, “We’ll offer you $13,500 flat amount.” It’s simple to figure because you take the COA and subtract the flat amount to determine what you’re responsible for. Therefore, the family is responsible for the remaining $16,500. So you ask, “What’s the difference from the Percentage-of-COA example?” It’s subtle, but as the COA rises, the family is left paying the increase because the college simply continues to pay the original flat amount. With the Percentage-of-COA, the amount a player receives will increase as the COA rises.
3. “Percentage-of-Component” Offer
This offer is a percentage of one of the COA components or combination of COA components. For example, a coach might say, “We will offer you 70% of tuition and fees.” Okay, so tuition and fees equal $13,000 which means that the athletic scholarship is $9,100. The family is responsible for $20,900. You really need to pay attention and make sure you clarify which components are included in the calculation and that the coach didn’t mean to say “70% of the cost of attendance,” instead.
4. “Athletic and Academic Combo” Offer
It would be typical to hear a coach say, “We’ll give you 60% athletic scholarship and based on your academics, we can get you an additional $4,000 academic scholarship.” So, for entire scholarship, the amount of athletic scholarship is $18,000 combined with the $4,000 academic scholarship would provide $22,000 total. This is really The family would be responsible for $8,000. The concern is if the player cannot maintain the academic scholarship. The family needs to prepare for that possibility.
5. “No Money” Offer
A coach might say, “We don’t have any money available for your freshman year, but you can take a non-scholarship roster spot and then the next year we’ll move you to a scholarship roster spot and provide 25% scholarship.” Be careful. There are no guarantees. Most likely this offer will only be verbal. What if the coach is fired or leaves? Better check when the coach’s contract expires.
Comparing Multiple Baseball Scholarship Offers
The first objective when comparing multiple offers is to see how much the family will be out-of-pocket for each offer. Once you understand the financial picture, then you can start the evaluate the academics and other factors involved.
Let’s assume Player “A” gets two offers:
- Offer #1: “We’ll offer you a 90% scholarship”
- Private D2 College
- COA = $30,000
- Offer #2: “We’ll offer you a 70% scholarship”
- In-State D1 College
- COA = $10,000
Offer Comparison: Out-of-pocket is $3,000 vs. $3,000. Both of these offers are outstanding. Now, look at the other factors. Does the private college want the player more? Which one will the player have the better chance of seeing the field sooner? Which has the better academics? Farther versus closer? Does that even matter? Which one has the major/minor that he’s interested in? D1 vs D2?
Let’s assume Player “B” gets three offers:
- Offer #1: “We’ll offer you a 25% scholarship and our lottery academic scholarship can provide $8,000 based on your grades and SAT scores. Probably going to play a utility role during your freshman season, but you never know. “
- In-State D1 College in Major Conference
- COA = $20,000
- Offer #2: “We’ll offer you a flat amount of $20,000. And you’re going to be our starting shortstop.”
- Out-of-State D1 College in a Group of Five Conference
- COA = $50,000
- Offer #3: “We’ll offer you 100% of Tuition, Fees, and Books.” Head Coach’s contract expires after your HS senior season.
- Private D2 (close to home in the same state)
- COA = $25,000 (tuition, fees, books= $15,000)
Offer Comparison: Out-of-pocket is $7,000 vs. $30,000 vs. $10,000 per year. Financially, Offer #1 appears to be the best setup. But what if he loses the academic scholarship? Now the family is out-of-pocket $15,000 per year instead of $7,000. That would make Offer #3 better financially. Just be prepared for that possibility if you go with Offer #1. Verbal comments about position and playing time are not binding. Buyer beware. There’s also no guarantee that a school will renew a coach’s contract. If the current coach is no longer there, you may not be what the new coach wants. How successful is the program? Who has the best academics? Where will he likely play sooner? Major conference vs. Group of Five conferences? D1 vs. D2?
As you can see, there are no easy answers. But having multiple offers is a good problem to have. Just make sure that you confirm with the coach how long the offer is “open.” Is it a week, month, or as much time you need? Try to get the coach to give you his timeframe if he doesn’t say anything. My son had one coach that said You’re our guy. No rush, but sooner the better because it’s kind of like musical chairs. Wait too long and there might not be any chairs. My son agreed to get him an answer within a month.
Within a month, we re-visited another school to spend more time with the head coach and see a football game. My son had received an offer over the phone from this head coach after a campus visit during the end of his summer showcase season. This particular head coach did not put a timeframe on when my son had to get back with him. He just said to visit as much as possible during the fall. Come see a football game and observe a fall practice or two. Feel what it’s like when all the students are on campus. Just make sure that before you accept any offer that you have all your questions answered and select the situation that you feel is the best fit for you. Again, no pressure. You’re our guy.
Manage the process. Don’t let the process manage you.