NCAA Scholarship Rule Puts Davidson at Disadvantage

Sam Thomas ‘20

Sports editor 

As an institution, Davidson will always have to balance the cost that Division I athletics incur on the college’s reputation for competitive academics and vice-versa. Though President Carol Quillen and Athletic Director Chris Clunie ‘06 have repeatedly voiced that the two can co-exist, there are undeniable pressures placed on student athletes especially. Davidson College may commit to prioritizing academics over athletics. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), on the other hand, institutionally favors schools unlike Davidson through its scholarship rules.

In terms of affordability, Davidson positions itself alongside fellow academically-competitive, private, small liberal arts colleges across the country. The cost to attend Davidson per year currently sits at $65,819. That number presents Davidson as financially comparable  to the likes of Williams ($71,450), Amherst ($70,260), and Middlebury ($70,890). Though many students take out student loans, Davidson guarantees that it will match 100% of what it calculates as need provided by students after admitting them on a need-blind basis.

Athletically, the NCAA limits the number of scholarships that teams can provide through the roster size by sport. For example, the NCAA restricts the number of field hockey scholarships that every member school can provide to twelve per team. Davidson Field Hockey’s roster had 21 players listed at the end of the season.

The NCAA views scholarships provided by the team and need-based financial aid provided by institutional financial aid offices as one in the same. So, if a college calculates that a student has fully demonstrated need and provides a non-athletic scholarship to an athlete, then the NCAA will recognize that scholarship as one of the team’s allotted scholarships.

For most schools, providing both need-blind admission and guaranteeing need-based scholarship for 100% of calculated need does not inhibit athletic success. The schools that have comparable financial aid policies to Davidson, which take form as those similarly profiled academically-competitive, private, small liberal arts colleges, do not have competitive Division I athletics.

There are multiple perspectives through which we can view the impact of this rule. For one, the NCAA has proven repeatedly that it is more important for them to regulate a loop-hole than the valuation of academic institutions upholding their standards. Another may be that it would seem that coaches are incentivized to recruit athletes from more affluent upbringings to avoid running into violations of the NCAA regulation.

However, the most impressionable lens by which we can see our situation is as thriving in the perpetual abyss between being both academically and athletically competitive. Davidson continues to climb through the ranks of the Atlantic 10 (A-10) Conference merely five years after our admittance. Two years ago, The Davidsonian ran an article asking the question of whether moving from the Southern Conference in 2013 was the right decision for our institution. That conversation on-campus has been replaced with how long will we stay in the A-10 before we look to move to bigger conferences like the ACC. 

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