What Is Your WHY

The final of a three part series by UCLA Football Recruiting Analyst Branden Jones. Including an extensive list of how the divisions of college football operate.

What is your WHY for college football? Is it a pipeline to the NFL? Is it for the love of the game? It it for the college degree? Is it to prove doubters wrong? Whatever your motivation, there is a place in college football for you; however, just because you want it doesn’t mean you’ll get it. We have talked about presenting yourself for a college program in the proper manner, but what is out there in terms of college football? Here are the levels of college football, starting from the top and working down.

FBS - Power 5
65 schools with 85 scholarships per team. This is the highest level of college football comprised of the ACC, Big Ten, Big XII, Pac 12, and SEC.

FBS - Group of 5
64 schools with 85 scholarships per team. This is comprised of AAC, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt.

124 schools with 63 full scholarships per team. These scholarships can be divided into partial scholarships, but the majority of players get the full scholarship.

Division 2
169 schools with 36 full scholarships per team. Similar to FCS, these scholarships can be divided; unlike FCS, rarely, if ever, does a player get awarded a full scholarship.

92 schools with 24 full scholarships per team. While not a member of the NCAA, this fully accredited governing body is similar to division two from a scholarship standpoint and comparable to division three from a funding/talent standpoint.

Division 3
249 schools with 0 athletic scholarships. While they do not award athletic scholarships, these schools offer merit based academic scholarships, as well as need based financial aid. Most Division 3 schools are smaller colleges with very strong academic reputations and admission requirements.

Junior College - CCCAA
66 schools with 0 athletic scholarships. This is the California governing body for junior college football. The talent level, matriculation to college rate varies greatly, but the rosters are made up of recent high schoolers, bounce backs from any of the previously mentioned levels of football, and everything in between. Season 5 of Netflix’s Last Chance U highlights Laney College.

Junior College - NJCAA
 58 schools with varying scholarships. This is junior college football for the rest of the country. Just like California JUCO football, the talent level varies greatly. Seasons 1-4 of Netflix’s Last Chance U highlights these programs.

The competitor in an athlete always says you are the best, you can rise to the occasion, that you’re being slept on; your hunger, heart, and desire can’t be measured in any combine setting or film. While this may be true, this is not the main measuring stick for college programs in their quest to build their roster. While every college has their own blueprint to build their roster, it is important to look at yourself, unbiased, to see what they are looking at. This is the self-scout:

  • Objective, Tangible Traits - Height, Weight, Speed, Strength, and Academics

This is your NFL combine information. This is the judging of a book by its cover. This is the first step when combing through your qualifications as a prospect. This may seem shallow and there is a lot more to you as an overall student-athlete, this is a quick filter to comb through the thousands of prospects that roll across their desks. Compare your traits to the top players on a given roster that you are interested in. Coaches are looking to add impact starters to their program with their scholarships, not just fill out a roster. If your traits don’t align with a majority of the starters on a roster you are interested in, you may have an uphill battle cracking their scholarship recruiting board.

While looking at the book cover factors/combine data/track times of their starters in comparison to you, watch their high school film and compare to yours. What did the coaches see in his film to award him a prized scholarship? Are you as dynamic, dominant, versatile, etc? It’s hard to admit to defeat sometimes, but a hard look in the mirror is needed to avoid the headache of possibly chasing a level that may not be the right fit for you. I coached a first team all-CIF linebacker who led the entire San Gabriel Valley in tackling and was the defensive MVP of the league. One of the best high school athletes and overall kid I have ever had the privilege of coaching; he was 5’10” 190 pounds and received interest from Division III programs. I played FCS ball and I love the kid, but he just wasn’t an FBS, FCS, or Division II football player. In college, he played five games as a freshman, nine games as a sophomore, receives a ton of aid because of his diligence in the classroom, gets to play locally in front of his family, and will earn a top notch bachelor’s degree to set himself up for life.

While you go through this recruiting process, rule number one is to never burn a bridge or slight a coach/program because you feel they are beneath you. Any coach/program who is interested in you is a blessing that can’t be ignored or shoved aside. Learn as much about their program so you can give you and your family options if college football is what you really desire. No matter your why, the how you get there, especially the look in the mirror research you put into it, will make attaining your goal that much more palatable and less frustrating.


Part 1 of 3: How to: Highlight Films for ALL positions

Part 2 of 3: Academics and Character