"I'M A CROSS COUNTRY STAR-WHERE IS MY SCHOLARSHIP?"
BY MANNY BAUTISTA
HEAD CROSS COUNTRY COACH
SAN DIEGO MESA COLLEGE
(AUTHOR'S NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS INTENDED TO GIVE IMPORTANT INFORMATION ON WHAT IS REALLY OUT THERE AS FAR AS COLLEGE ATHLETIC SCHOLARSHIPS FOR DISTANCE RUNNERS. THERE ARE TOO MANY UNINFORMED ATHLETES, COACHES AND PARENTS THAT NEED TO KNOW THE FACTS ABOUT COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS AVAILABLE. MY INTENT IS NOT TO PUT ANYONE DOWN OR BREAK ANYONE'S HEART. IF YOU ASK WHERE MY INFORMATION IS COMING FROM, I HAVE HELPED PLACED A LARGE NUMBER OF MALE AND FEMALE DISTANCE RUNNERS IN UNIVERSITIES, MANY WHO DID NOT RUN FOR ME. I WAS A FORMER RECRUITING COORDINATOR FOR A BIG 12 SCHOOL AND THIS IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF MY JOB.)
This is the time of year when a distance runners season begins to slow down and move into the transition phase of training and if your are a senior you are wondering where you will be running next year. The first thing you need to know is there is no such thing as a cross country scholarship. The NCAA does not fund cross country, they fund track and field. (The NCAA does the same thing to Men's water polo.) Therefore, even if you had a great cross country season, what you ran on the track as a junior really has an impact on your early (fall/winter) recruiting. What you are really getting, if you are lucky, is a track and field scholarship or grant in aid. The next important item to understand is the maximum number of scholarships available for track and field; those numbers are 12.6 for men; and 18.6 for women. (Football gets 85 and basketball gets 13). These are not per year, these are total. Example, if school A uses 12.6 this year and 4 seniors graduate, then there are only 4 scholarships available for next year. The next point to understand is that not all schools are fully funded, some schools may only have 8 scholarships, some maybe only four. Remember, there are about 23 track and field events at the Division I level. That means that your dream school may only spend 3 scholarships total on distance runners. You should ask the coach that is recruiting you if they have a full allotment of scholarships. As far as full allotment of scholarships goes, there are more schools outside of California that are fully funded than there are in California. In the Midwest and East, because of the weather, indoor track is pretty big. If you are asking how fast do I have to run to really get noticed, the magic number seems to be between 4:12-4:15 or better (I'm just using the 1600 because it is easier for everyone to understand). For girls it is about 4:55-5:05 or better.
You might be asking what do I need to run to get a full scholarship. Do not even ask that question if you are a male. Most men do not get a full scholarship as a freshman. Most freshman males cannot make an impact on their team, on the other hand freshman girls can. Just look at the results of the 1999 NCAA Division I Meet; there were two freshman males in the top 100. Last year's Footlocker Champion, Jorge Torres placed 47th, he was the second freshman. This past March, I was the senior team leader for the USA Cross country team to the World Championships in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Jorge Torres and Adam Tenforde were on our junior team, and we spent some time talking about where they were going and how much they were going to get. Jorge got about 50% to attend Colorado, Adam got less than that to attend Stanford. Adam won Arcadia last year in 8:57, he placed 237 at this year's NCAA cross country meet. It is very rare for a freshman to qualify for the NCAA's in track, the marks are very hard. (1500 3:41 for Men /Women 4:18) Most conferences have qualifying marks also. I would recommend you ask the coach if the conference you want to run in has qualifying marks. The PAC-10 does have marks, for example you have to run under 3:50(4:07 for 1600) for 1500 to get in. Now you see why your track times are important.
If you are thinking of walking on to a program you should check with the coach on what the school's policy is. Since Title IX has been implemented some schools are pretty strict when it comes to numbers. What I mean is this, if University A has 12 women on their cross country then they can only have maybe 15-16 men. That includes everyone, walk-ons and scholarship athletes. This is all about numbers, since football has so many men on the team, other sports have to cut back. If you plan to walk on, ask the coach the walk on policy of the school, it varies from school to school because the NCAA has not mandated this yet but it might be coming soon. If you are a walk on, you may be asked to leave at any time.
What should you be doing now if you want to compete next year at the university level? First of all, if no one is talking to your right now, you should be a bit worried but there is still time. First thing you want to do is make a list of all the schools you might want to attend. Do some research on the total school not just the track and cross country program. Go ahead and contact the coach, a nice typed letter with some newspaper clippings is a good start. Make sure you take the SAT and/or the ACT as early as possible make sure you register with the NCAA Clearinghouse right away and in January apply for any and all financial aid. By the time you read this you should have already applied to the schools you might be interested in, that are in California. Out of state schools can get you in later than California schools. You should also sit down and have a good heart to heart talk with your parents and find out how much they can really pay towards your education. Many parents want their child to earn a scholarship so they can tell their friends.
Here are a few things to remember during the recruiting process. You should be up front with the coach from the beginning. If you are contacted by a school and really have no desire to go there, tell that coach right away, don't waste their time. Let your parents and your high school coach know what is going on, who is calling, who is writing you, etc. Don't let your high school coach or any one else for that matter become your "agent." Most coaches hate this and it could come back to hurt you in the long run. Don't be insulted by what is offered to you, I hear this all the time. Remember what I said earlier, there is not that much money available in the first place. If you get an offer of 50% or less as a freshman that is not too bad. Remember this, if you were to get a full scholarship as freshman you have no place to go but down, if you are offered less, you can usually get more as you improve. Something else to consider, all scholarships are year to year, not for four years. In theory, you could have a scholarship one year and lose it the next. Another member of our junior team in Belfast was Steve Slattery from U of Colorado, as a freshman he ran 3:44 for 1500 and 8:42 for the steeple, he was on about 10% at Colorado and paying out of state tuition. In fact, no one on the USA Junior team to the world championships had a full scholarship, these are the best 19 year olds and under in the U.S.
Cheyne Jones who ran for me at Mesa had a 3.85GPA, a 1150 SAT score, and PR'S of 3:49, 1:52, and 15:01; he's now at Arizona State on 25%. David Burke from Torrey Pines walked on at ASU and ran 3:45 last year and just earned a small scholarship. ASU was ranked in the top 15 in cross country all year, both of these guys were in the top seven and both are paying out of state tuition.
So far this is all related to Division 1. If you feel you are not good enough for this level, look at Division 11. D-11 has less money and no age limitations like D-1. Therefore there are older and larger numbers of foreign runners in D-11. D-111 is a non-scholarship Division, NAIA has scholarships, but these tend to be private schools and the cost is somewhat high in some cases. The key is to be honest with yourself and put yourself in a position to continue running and improving. When I competed in the 1984 Olympic Marathon Trials there were D-2 guys, D-3 guys and NAIA guys as well as the D-1 guys; in fact the guy who won the 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials was a D-2 guy from Humboldt State. (Mark Conover-now coaching at Cal Poly-SLO).
As you finish out your cross country season and move deeper into the recruiting process keep in mind some of what was written. As a coach in San Diego county my goal is to see as many young men and women as possible continue their running after high school. If you are not sure about something during your recruiting, feel free to contact me at Mesa College, your coaches know how to get a hold of me and my e-mail is available on this web site under colleges. Best of luck and congratulations on fine cross country season.
Editor's note: Coach Bautista's email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
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