Thole: Be aware of realities when chasing athletic scholarships


I still hear parents and fans talking about the possibility of their son or daughter obtaining a college athletic scholarship, but they should pay close attention to that often-repeated TV ad that says most of the more than 400,000 NCAA student athletes go pro in something other than sports.

So being a pro some day is almost totally out of the question when you consider that only 1.7 percent make it in football — in fact only Bob Nelson and Bill Barnett out of Nebraska and Nate Dwyer of Kansas are the only former SAHS gridders drafted by NFL teams. Nelson and Barnett are vested.

Going forward, we find baseball leading the pack with 11.6 percent of college athletes turning pro, hockey 1.3 percent, soccer 1 percent, men’s hoops 1.2 percent and women’s 0.9 percent. Face it, the pro angle is slim pickens.

Let’s stick to college scholarships.

NCAA Division I and II schools provide more than $2 billion in athletic scholarships each year to more than 126,000 student-athletes. Remember, Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships as money at that level is awarded on need and academics. So, if someone tells you that Hercules Jr., got a football scholarship to St. Thomas, pay it no mind.

Most athletic scholarships are granted for one year, however, schools are allowed to provide multi-year scholarships. This protects the students if they have an injury, don’t live up to predictions or if the coach and his staff head to greener pastures.

Let’s say that a college wants to reduce or eliminate a student-athlete’s aid — this usually comes from the coach and can be appealed by the student-athlete. Sometimes you hear that a coach will try to pull a scholarship, but they are reluctant to do so because of keeping relationships with high school coaches.

A full scholarship covers tuition and fees, room, board and required books. Many athletes receive scholarships covering different portions of these costs, however, NCAA Division I schools can only offer full scholarships for football and basketball. They can offer full packages for the other sports, but they are not required to do so.

According to the NCAA, the average value of an in-state public college is $15,000 and a private school it jumps to $35,000 per year. For an out-of-state student-athlete the average cost is 25K. Having been there, I know that student-athletes earn them, but the rewards outweigh all that.

Every year, this newspaper runs photos of Ponies who sign a National Letter of Intent. The purpose of an NLI is to limit pressure on student-athletes from recruiters by having them make a binding commitment to a school.

The NLI sets forth the terms of the financial agreement between the student-athlete and the school for the upcoming year. The scholarship and NLI will arrive in the student-athlete’s hands at the same time. If a student-athlete signs an NLI, they can break it if they attend a service academy or Ivy League school. The reason for the latter is it takes them past the signing date to complete their aid packages.

Yes, student-athletes can receive other non-athletic aid. Lots of student-athletes benefit from such programs as the Division I Student Athlete Opportunity Fund and the need-based federal Pell Grants. Make sure that you check with your school’s financial aid office to make sure they are complying with all the rules.

Most of these colleges get aid partially through NCAA revenue distribution and various alumni groups. My wife Karen and I are members of the NDSU Team Makers that raises money to provide scholarships for the Bison.

The NCAA states that two percent of high school athletes are awarded athletic scholarships. That’s right, sports fans — only two percent — so your best bet is to study harder.

I think it’s OK to have a college athletic scholarship as your goal, but I would hope that the thrill of sport itself would be well worth your time.

Parents, remember all the fun you have attending Ponies athletic contests. Go Big Red!

In the huddle

It’s a girl born to former Ponies basketball coach Keven Seim ’94 and his lovely wife Jessie (Stomski) earlier this month. Sloan Isabella (7 pounds, 5 ounces, 20 inches) was delivered Feb. 1. Seim played basketball for SAHS and later coached his alma mater before taking over the reins at Totino-Grace. His wife was a star basketball player at

Tartan High School and the University of Wisconsin…. Former Ponies All-American diver Emily Keefer ’03 teaches math at Triumph High School in Cheyenne, Wyo., and is also the diving coach at cross-town South High School in Cheyenne. Keefer was a captain and

Stillwater graduate Maggie Keefer was named Big Ten Diver of the Championship last weekend after helping the University of Minnesota to its second straight conference title. (University of Minneosta photo)
Stillwater graduate Maggie Keefer was named Big Ten Diver of the Championship last weekend after helping the University of Minnesota to its second straight conference title. (University of Minneosta photo)

all-state performer for the Ponies. Her younger sister, Maggie, was a two-time state diving champion for the Ponies and currently competes at the University of Minnesota. In fact, Maggie was just named Big Ten Diver of the Championship for the second year in a row while helping the Gophers defend their Big Ten Conference championship last weekend at the University of Minnesota Aquatic Center. Maggie accounted for 53 of the U of M’s 831.5 points in the meet — only Indiana’s Lindsay Vrooman with 56 scored more in the meet — after claiming titles in 1-meter (351.45) and 3-meter (392.25) diving and finishing sixth in platform diving. She was one of eight Gophers named to the All-Big Ten First Team. Keefer’s score of 317.05 — which included two 10s on her fourth dive — in platform ranks second on Minnesota’s all-time list…. Speaking of college athletic scholarships, Stillwater’s all-conference soccer standout Maddie Schaak will play for Indiana State University in Terra Haute next fall…. Yes, that was former Ponies football coach Scott Hoffman working the ninth green

Legendary sports columnist Sid Hartman will be the guest speaker for Tuesday’s M.V.P. banquet at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater.
Legendary sports columnist Sid Hartman will be the guest speaker for Tuesday’s M.V.P. banquet at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater.

at the Phoenix Waste Management Open golf tournament on Feb. 2…. You will not want to miss Tuesday’s M.V.P. (Men. Value. Purpose.) banquet at Trinity Lutheran Church in Stillwater. The guest speaker will be legendary Star Tribune sports columnist and WCCO radio personality Sid Hartman. The evening kicks off in the Garden Room at 6 p.m., and includes a traditional Vittorios Italian meal, which is first-rate dining, sports fans. Tickets are just $25 and on-line registration is available at: Don’t miss it…. There is not a good reason to tread on me…. finis

Today’s rumination #607

Difficulty at the beginning usually means ease at the end.

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George Thole retired as head football coach at Stillwater after the 1999 season. He ranks among Minnesota’s top coaches in history with a 285-69-2 record (.805 winning percentage), including four state titles and two state runner-up finishes among 22 championship seasons. He co-authored (with Jerry Foley) “Coaching the Veer Offense,” second edition. His column appears Thursdays in the Gazette. To contact the hall of fame coach e-mail: [email protected]