Inside Compliance: Head Count Awards vs. Equivalency Awards

On the first Wednesday of every month, a member of the Georgia State compliance staff will give InsideGSUSports a look at what is going on in their department. Over the course of every month, each department will be featured at least once. Coming Monday: Ticketing.

For many of us, this is an exciting time as admission letters from all across the country are disbursed, giving many students across the country the ability to further their education. However, considering the rising costs of financing a secondary education, the majority of incoming students will need some sort of aid to finance this next step. The federal government and many colleges and universities across the country help to cover costs associated with attending the institution of your choice by providing scholarships, grants and loans.

This population also includes many student-athletes who, in most cases, are fortunate enough to have their academic career partially, and in some cases fully, funded due to their achievement on the field, court, or track. Under NCAA regulations, these student-athletes are called “Counters,” and are more affectionately referred to as “Athletic Award Winners.”  Typically, two different types of awards can be considered athletically-related financial aid at the Division I level: Head-Count awards and Equivalency awards.

Head Count Sports

The scholarship sports you are probably most familiar with, Football and Basketball (men’s and women’s), and make up three of the six total “Head-Count Sports”; the others include Women’s Court Volleyball, Gymnastics, and Tennis. Head-Count Sports typically award their aid on a full scholarship basis as each award will count as a full scholarship no matter the value of the award. For instance, if a women’s basketball student-athlete is awarded a scholarship valued at $1, for NCAA legislative purposes her award will be equivalent to her teammate’s full scholarship valued at $20,000.  Each sport is prescribed a certain number of allotted scholarships to ensure equity across the country; for example, Football is allotted 85 and Women’s Tennis is allotted 8 full scholarships.

Equivalency Sports

All other NCAA Division I sports are considered “Equivalency Sports.” Equivalency Sports are also prescribed an allotted number of scholarships per sport. However, this differs from Head Count aid as coaching staffs are given the ability to award aid based on the student-athletes value to his/her team and/or their financial need. Each student-athlete receiving athletically related aid is considered a counter and there is no limit on the number of counters per sport (with the exception of Baseball which maxes out at 27). A great example of an equivalency sport is Women’s Golf. Women’s Golf teams are permitted 5 full scholarships which can be divided however the coach sees fit. For example, 10 student-athletes could receive a 50% award, which would total the 5 permissible full scholarships allotted by the NCAA. Similar to Head Count sports, the allotted number of scholarships per sport are the same across the country. Examples of limits include Softball (12), Men’s Tennis (4.5), and Women’s Soccer (14).

Financial aid is a complex area further compounded by the addition of NCAA governance regulations.  Hopefully the information listed above provides a better understanding of how athletically-related financial aid operates, specifically with regards to athletic scholarships.

–Michael Sainte

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