If you’re a college football fan, you know that the most important day in February isn’t Valentine’s Day, or Presidents’ Day, or even Fat Tuesday. It’s National Signing Day, which falls on the first Wednesday of February each year. This is the first day where high school (and junior college) players can officially sign a formal letter of intent to play football at NCAA schools.
Programs jockey for the most highly sought-after gridiron recruits in the country and sports experts rate the schools’ recruiting classes in an effort to foretell the top teams of the near future. This is the time of year that you hear all about high school stats, heights, weights, and 40-yard dash times.
But in a rarity that is seldom seen in the sports world, what never seems to get mentioned is the money that changes hands. We’re talking about the funds that the universities will provide to these prospects, so that the youngsters don’t have to fork over tens of thousands of dollars to enroll in their school. Given that student loan debt is at an all-time high in the United States, the awarding of these athletic scholarships is a fiscal boon for these athletes, most of whom would not be financially able to attend the schools with whom they sign.
It should be noted that football scholarships don’t cover every single expense that a student incurs. The athletes still have to come up with funds for various supplies, non-mandatory fees, and other “hidden” costs associated with higher education. At some universities, these expenses can add up to thousands of dollars per year.
However, the major costs like tuition, room, board, and mandatory fees are usually included in the scholarships offered to football players. Since some universities cost more than others, the actual dollar value of these scholarships vary as well. Of course, some of the country’s most expensive universities either don’t have football teams or don’t offer athletic scholarships. With that in mind, here is a list of the ten schools whose football scholarships add up to the highest amount of money per year (based on full-ride scholarships as determined by costs in the 2012-2013 academic year):
10. University of Pennsylvania – $56,106
The Quakers have a rich football tradition, having won sixteen Ivy League championships in its history. However, last season was disappointing for Penn, when they finished sixth in the eight-team conference. Penn actually won four of its first six games (and its first three conference contests) before dropping the final four matchups of the season. Their 2014 recruiting class consists of just two players: athlete Antonio Woods from Cincinnati (who played quarterback in high school) and defensive tackle Louis Vecchio from Villa Park, California (who actually turned down Harvard because they gave him an ultimatum). The school, which is based in Philadelphia, was founded way back in 1740.
9. Bucknell University – $56,190
Located in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, which is less than three hours northwest of Penn, Bucknell is known as America’s largest private liberal arts university. The Bison play in the FCS’s Patriot League, which just permitted their members schools to start offering athletic scholarships in 2013. This month, Bucknell inked an impressive 18 recruits to letters of intent, 14 of which are listed as defensive players. The team hopes that this class will continue the Bison’s improvement after posting an above-.500 record for the second time in three years. After starting 2013 with a 1-4 mark, Bucknell finished by winning five of its last six games.
8. Georgetown University – $56,362
To be sure, the Hoyas are known more for their hoops than their football prowess. It doesn’t help that Georgetown finished last in the Patriot League in 2013, with an overall record of 2-9 (though they did win their final game over Holy Cross). Not coincidentally, head coach Kevin Kelly resigned his post in January in order to accept a position on the coaching staff at Ball State. Given that the school is still searching for a replacement, Georgetown has only received one commitment for 2014: quarterback Sam Vaughn of Fort Pierce, Florida. While attending college in the District of Columbia can be exciting, it can also be expensive; even setting aside the university’s hefty price tag, the cost of living in DC is among the highest in the country.
7. Boston College – $56,516
Even casual college football fans know about Doug Flutie’s alma mater and Eagles fans have cause to be excited for 2014. For his first full recruiting class, head coach Steve Addazio inked a whopping 30 players to letters of intent, which blows away the 17-recruit 2013 class. Included in this year’s haul were three four-star recruits, two transfers from the University of Florida, and one ESPN 300 player in running back Jonathan Hilliman from Jersey City, New Jersey – not to mention the nephew of the aforementioned height-challenged gunslinger (quarterback Troy Flutie of Natick, Massachusetts). BC qualified for the AdvoCare V100 Bowl with a 7-5 record after failing to attain bowl-eligibility status in the previous two seasons.
6. Tulane University – $56,780
As you might imagine, it can be difficult for the New Orleans school to ink top area talent when it has to compete against the likes of LSU (as well as other FBS schools in Louisiana). Still, in 2014, the Green Wave managed to assemble what head coach Curtis Johnson called the best recruiting class in his three-year tenure. Two dozen players signed letters of intent to suit up for Tulane, and they will join their teammates on the sidelines this fall for the Green Wave’s first-ever football game at the newly-built Yulman Stadium on campus. Tulane played its final contest in the Superdome in December, when it fell to Louisiana-Lafayette in the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
5. USC – $56,903
You can insert your own Reggie Bush joke here. But despite the seemingly unending drama that goes along with being a college football team in the nation’s most populated city (which doesn’t have an NFL club, remember), the Trojans are consistently among the nation’s best in recruiting classes. Even though USC only had 19 scholarships to offer in 2014, over half of them went to players in the ESPN 300. The group was led by three in-state standouts: #7 cornerback in the nation Adoree’ Jackson from Gardena, fellow five-star recruit Juju Smith of Long Beach, and 370-pound guard Damien Mama from Bellflower. The 2013 Trojans ended the season in the top 25 after pounding fellow Golden State school, Fresno State, in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.
4. Occidental College – $57,028
What? You mean you aren’t familiar with the Tigers of NCAA Division III? Aside from the fact that our current president spent two years at this L.A. school, it doesn’t get much attention outside of California. Occidental plays in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and posted a 5-4 overall record in 2013, finishing third in the conference. They do play in Jack Kemp Stadium, named after the alum who played pro football before turning to politics and earning a spot as Bob Dole’s running mate in the 1996 presidential election.
However, Occidental does have its own quirky football tradition known as “The Shoes.” It’s a bronzed, footwear-shaped trophy awarded to the annual winner of Occidental’s game with Whittier College. As the story goes, Tigers players stole the shoes of Whittier’s All-American running back Myron Claxton prior to their 1939 matchup. Even though Claxton had to play in his work boots, his Poets still blanked Occidental 36-0. Whittier took the overall series lead with a 59-52 win in the rivalry game in 2013.
3. Northwestern University – $57,108
As the joke goes, there are two types of Wildcats’ football fans: those with strong hearts, and those who are deceased. That’s in reference to the wild fluctuations in Northwestern’s football fortunes over the years. Case in point: the Cats were 4-0 and ranked 16th in the nation in October and led #4 Ohio State by ten in the second half, but gave up 20 fourth-quarter points and lost 40-30. Northwestern proceeded to lose their next six games (two in overtime) and finished the campaign bowl-ineligible. Even so, Northwestern managed to secure a 2014 class that was heavy on quality if not quantity. Only 15 recruits signed letters of intent, but the list included three from the ESPN 300.
2. Fordham University – $57,188
If you’re into FCS football, you know that the Rams took the football world by storm in 2013, rising to as high as #6 in the polls and ending the year with a 12-2 record, tying the school record for most wins in a season in the modern era. Fordham made the FCS playoffs for only the third time in school history, advancing to the second round before falling to Towson. In 2014, Fordham inked 10 recruits from eight different states to come matriculate at the Bronx, New York school and play football.
1. University of Chicago – $57,711
This school is one of the ten most expensive colleges in the nation – period. The Maroons, whose mascot is the mythical Phoenix, play in NCAA Division III’s University Athletic Association. Before you start to snicker, you should know that Chicago has a long and storied football history. It is 4-0 all-time against Notre Dame. It was the home of coaching legend Amos Alonzo Stagg. And it’s the team which delivered America’s first Heisman Trophy winner ever, running back Jay Berwanger, who won the award in 1935 but passed on an NFL contract because he could make more money in business. The 2013 Maroon squad was a perfect 4-0 in September, but then went 2-4 the rest of the way. As for the school itself, the campus is located in the Hyde Park neighborhood of the Windy City.