The West Chester Golden Rams have enjoyed a lot of success in the past decade, having brought back five Division II National Championships in that time frame. With as much success as we’ve had, it could be easy to assume that our athletic department has all the resources in the world to bring in talented athletes across the country. While that may be the case at storied Division I universities like Penn State or Villanova, that is quite simply not the reality here in West Chester. In this article, I will go about describing the processes and limitations that our teams have when recruiting students so that we can greatly appreciate their ability to have maximized their resources and continue to compete at the highest level in Division II.
In most people think about athletic scholarships, the term “full-ride” is thrown about constantly. While full tuition is certainly something that is often covered by household-name collegiate athletes, the idea of a full-ride scholarship hardly exists here at West Chester.
“A lot of people, when they think about the NCAA, when they think about college sports, they think about those programs, and is it true, that Villanova’s men’s basketball probably has 13 players on their team getting full scholarship, all expenses paid, yes,” West Chester’s Athletic Director, Terry Beattie, said. “But here that’s not close to being the case.”
In fact, the average scholarship amount given, among the 300 or so student athletes here at West Chester that are on athletic scholarships is about $3,000. Obviously, averages can get pretty skewed, and as I was told by Director Beattie, the number 3,000 probably represents a handful of students who might be getting upwards of $20,000 of athletic scholarships, versus the many, many students who may only be receiving $500.
To put those numbers into perspective, the average tuition cost for an in-state student here at West Chester is $23,207. This means that on average, our student-athletes that are on athletic scholarships are receiving about a 13% discount through those scholarships. This, obviously, is nowhere close to a full ride.
“We don’t generally give full rides, but it’s not because we’re not allowed to, it’s because we don’t have the funding to do that,” Assistant Athletic Director Kelli Milliner stated.
When referring to scholarship amounts, our athletic department prefers to talk about full scholarship equivalencies, meaning that one full scholarship equivalency is worth $23,207 (our average in-state cost). They do this in order to even the playing field when comparing numbers with other schools so that it’s easier to understand.
To give an example, say another team in the PSAC offers an athlete that’s being recruited a $15,000 athletic scholarship, if West Chester offers a $7,000 scholarship to the same athlete, we would immediately think that they would choose the other school. But if that school’s average cost is $60,000, the tables are turned. Now West Chester is offering a 0.3 scholarship equivalence, versus the other school’s .25 scholarship equivalence.
This terminology is important because it shows how coaches at West Chester are able to compete with private schools that may have more funding and resources, simply by communicating our scholarship offer in the context of our overall cost.
The funding is the real key to the puzzle here because as a public institution, the hands of our athletic department could have been tied given the small amount of money that we are given from our university to use for athletic scholarships.
“Think of it like there are many different buckets, so we don’t just have x amount of dollars and this is your athletic scholarship that you’re allowed to work with,” head baseball coach Mike LaRosa said. “So we get some funding from the university, we get some funding from endowed scholarships and we get funding from what we fundraise for.”
So there are three primary sources of funding that contribute to the fundraising pool, some straight from the university, some from endowments which are donors and then what they make from fundraising efforts.
The baseball team themselves are given about 1.7 scholarship equivalencies to distribute among the team, which is about $56,000 that’s split up among about half of the baseball team.
“The way we’re funded,” LaRosa continued, “we have a $6,000 base budget from the university that’s given to us for athletic scholarship, we have about another $4,000 that’s endowed through endowed scholarships so that puts us at about 10 [thousand], so that leaves us about $46,000 that we fundraise for, so about 82% of our scholarship pool is actually fundraised by our program, by us coaches and support staff.”
To me, this was a very impressive statistic, that not only has our baseball program been incredibly successful in recent years, but they are primarily self-funded, at least in the scholarship department.
This also isn’t something that’s unique to the baseball team, every program here at West Chester hosts fundraisers year-round in order to collect money for athletic scholarships, and that serves as their primary source of funding.
The final piece that contributes to how scholarships are allocated here at West Chester, is simply the process by which players are given certain amounts.
“There are a few things that go into it, so we recruit a player and based on their talent level, their academic profile, their character, work ethic… we determine what we believe their value to be,” LaRosa said. “And then there’s multiple factors that go into it, like are the being recruited by other schools, and what other scholarship offers do they have?”
Overall, the coaches are responsible for balancing how much they offer players so that they’re able to fill a full roster and be successful.
“I don’t get involved in who they’re offering that money to. They know their roster needs better than I do.” Athletic Director Beattie said.
That type of trust between our athletic department and our coaches is what allows our athletics program to thrive with seemingly little resources, and will hopefully continue to bring championships back to West Chester.
Dylan Edelman is a third-year Mathematics major with a minor in Journalism. DE936681@wcupa.edu