Jack Welch

JACK WELCH From the Bleachers

Students desiring to participate in collegiate sports have a vast range of opportunities.

Most people think of college sports to be associated with the NCAA only. The NCAA has three divisions for all sports (Divisions I, II, and III) except football, which has four (division one is divided in FBS and FCS).

NCAA divisions I and II offer scholarships, and division III is non-scholarship for athletics but does offer academic scholarships. In addition to the NCAA, there is another four-year collegiate conference. This conference is known as the NAIA, which is the oldest collegiate conference of all conferences. For junior colleges, there is an NJCAA conference. Both the NAIA and NJCAA offer scholarships. The NAIA is often compared to the NCAA Division II.

The National Association for Intercollegiate Athletics was founded in 1937. With mostly smaller, private colleges, student-athletes have an opportunity to earn an athletic scholarship in 27 different sports at more than 250 NAIA colleges nationwide. Full-ride scholarships are available to NAIA athletes just like in the NCAA. Approximately 77,000 student-athletes compete in NAIA sports, accepting over $800 million dollars in scholarships. The NAIA hosts 27 national championships.

Regardless of size, all NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA colleges are in competition for students. Student-athlete participation at NAIA schools have increased over the last five years. This gives student-athletes more chances to further their athletic careers.

Many NAIA athletes have had successful professional careers. Harvey Martin, East Texas State, was a Super Bowl MVP. Other great NAIA football players include Walter Payton, Jackson State; Jerry Rice, Mississippi Valley; and Ali Marpet, Hobart and William Smith; to only name a few. Basketball players Terry Porter, UWSP; Dennis Rodman, Southeastern Oklahoma; and Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, Central Arkansas; were some of the NBA’s greatest players.

The success of these players and many others is a testament to the exposure of the NAIA. So many players consider higher divisions to be the only way to participate in collegiate sports. That is why the transfer portal is full of players searching for another college to play. After finding out there are too many players stacked at a position, it would be better to play at a school where they have a better fit and opportunity.

If a student desires to play, there are colleges available.

Thought for the week, “You want to play…We find a way.” — Jack Welch

Jack Welch grew up in Osawatomie. He holds a Doctor of Education degree and has been a college and high school football coach for 39 years. He can be reached at jackwelch1975@gmail.com.

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