Southern Cal doesn’t offer cross-country scholarships? That’s hardly a shocker

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Southern Cal spent $76 million on its athletic programs last season, a total that includes expenses related to travel, scholarships and equipment, among other things. The university spent more than $20 million on its football team, the only sport at USC that generated a net profit last year. Few teams generate a net profit – even at a larger, successful program like Southern Cal’s, despite what most people will have you believe. But that’s okay. Neither academic nor athletic programs are developed to generate income. Education is a university’s mission. Yet, sometimes a disparity, or inequity, is worth noting. Last week, the Daily Trojan revealed that the women’s cross country team does not have any scholarships. Instead, the team relies on walk-ons and track runners. The story does not dive into this inequity, nor does it offer specific reasons behind the team’s relative success against Pac-10 rivals, but the story does offer enough information to make you wonder how a varsity team at a major athletic university can get slighted like this.

The average NCAA scholarship is routinely as low as $2,000 for sports other than football and basketball, according to the New York Times. Men’s and women’s ice hockey pays the highest average athletic aid ($20,000-plus) while men’s riflery ($3,608) and women’s bowling ($4,899) earn the lowest average scholarships. The reality is that most universities do not fully fund sports outside of basketball and football. Few (if any) students on baseball, swimming, or track teams get a full ride. Instead, most coaches are forced to split scholarships into many parts, giving one player $1,000 here and another player $2,000 or $3,000 there.

Ms. Milhous, whose Villanova field hockey team plays in the competitive Big East Conference, must make tough choices in recruiting. The N.C.A.A. permits Division I field hockey teams to have 12 full scholarships, but her team has fewer.“I tell parents of recruits I have eight scholarships, and they say: ‘Wow, eight a year? That’s great,’ ” she said. “And I say: ‘No, eight over four or five years of recruits. And I’ve got 22 girls on our team.’ ”

That can mean a $2,000 scholarship, which surprises parents.

“They might argue with me,” Ms. Milhous said. “But the fact is I’ve got girls getting from $2,000 to $20,000, and it all has to add up to eight scholarships. It’s very subjective, and remember, what I get to give out is also determined by how many seniors I’ve got leaving.”

Every NCAA sport is limited to a set number of scholarships. For example, baseball coaches can offer no more than 11.7 scholarships while volleyball programs are set at 12.

Looking for a good story? Check out the total numbers of scholarships, or athletic grants-in-aid, that are allowed for each sport at your school. Then, compare how many athletic grants your university offers. Then, compare these total to those offered at other schools in your conference. Afterwards, you can interview coaches, administrators and athletes, as well as key people at the NCAA. This would be a story well worth reading – and a story that would prove invaluable as a clip for your own professional advancement.

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