The Odds of Playing College Sports

Last Updated Apr 4, 2011 12:49 PM EDT

Every year, March Madness generates great basketball, as well as passionate complaints about the Basketball hoop with ball against blue skyexploitation of collegiate athletes.

In March Ralph Nader and the League of Fans rolled out a proposal to eliminate sports scholarships. The Drake Group, an organization committed to reforming college athletics, also weighed in with its own suggestions.

I think college athletics need reforming, but what bothers me just as much is that so many families believe that the best way to afford college is for their student athletes to focus on sports and win an athletic scholarships.

The odds of winning an athletic scholarship are minuscule. About 2% of high school athletes end up capturing a sports scholarship to an NCAA school.

The Odds of Playing College Sports

I asked the NCAA for statistics on the odds of playing college sports. The NCAA provided me with the figures for the five men and one women's sport that can feed into professional teams. Here are the odds:

Men's Sports

Basketball

  • 3.1% senior high school players (less than 1 in 35) end up on teams in college.
  • 1.2% senior basketball players in college (1 in 75) are drafted by a National Basketball Association team.
  • .03% of high school basketball players (3 in 10,000) will eventually be drafted by an NBA team.

Football

  • 6% of high school seniors (1 in 16) will play football in college.
  • 1.7% of senior football players in college (1 in 50) will get drafted by a National Football League team.
  • .08% of high school seniors (8 in 10,000) will eventually be drafted by an NFL team.

Baseball

  • 6.4% of senior high school players (3 in 50) will play baseball in college.
  • 8.9% of senior baseball players in college (9 in 100) will be drafted by a Major League Baseball team.
  • .44% of high school seniors (1 in 200) will eventually be drafted by a MLB team.

Ice Hockey

  • 10.8% of high school senior players (less than 3 in 50) will play hockey in college.
  • 3.8% of college senior players (1 in 26) are drafted by a National Hockey League team.
  • .32% of high school seniors playing hockey will eventually be drafted by a NHL team.

Soccer

  • 5.6% of high school seniors (less than 3 in 50) will play soccer in college.
  • 1.6% of college senior players (less than 1 in 50) are drafted by a Major League Soccer team.
  • .07% of high school seniors who play soccer will eventually be drafted by a MLS team.

Women's Sports

Basketball

  • 3.5% of high school seniors playing basketball (3 in 100) will play college basketball.
  • .9% of college senior basketball players (less than 1 in 100) will be drafted by a Women's National Basketball Association team.
  • .03% of high school seniors playing basketball will eventually by drafted through the WNBA.

Bottom Line:

The odds of playing sports in college is minimal and the odds of being paid to play a college sport is even worse. Your best bet for capturing college money is to succeed in the classroom.

Lynn O'Shaughnessy is author of The College Solution, an Amazon bestseller, and she also writes her own college blog at The College Solution.
Sports scholarship image by Ryan_Fung. CC 2.0.

More on CBS MoneyWatch

6 Ways to Win a Sport Scholarship
Athletic Scholarships: Do You Need a Sports Recruiter to Find Them?
What's Wrong with America's Dream Colleges?

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