Athletic scholarships at Illinois by the numbers

By Joey Figueroa

Memorial Stadium hasn’t had a capacity crowd since Nov. 12, 2011, against Michigan. But despite attendance levels at its largest facility, Illinois has consistently paid for the education of more than 100 student-athletes. The scholarships the University doles out to its football players have a ripple effect on financial aid given to its remaining student-athletes.

The average student-athlete currently enrolled at Illinois receives $30,286 per year in scholarship dollars.

As of this school year, the average full-time student’s cost of attendance — including tuition, fees, room, board, books and other estimated expenses — at Illinois is $42,783. Out of Illinois’ 332 varsity athletes, 98 are set to receive full scholarships this year. While not every student-athlete enjoys the fruits of a full scholarship, many partial scholarships cover good chunks of today’s cost of education at a high-caliber Big Ten school.

Each sport’s head coach must abide by a specific budget provided by the NCAA for how many scholarships they may award. Head count sports are restricted in the number of athletes that can be on scholarship, while equivalency sports can have any number of athletes on scholarship but only a certain amount of scholarships to provide, which can be divided amongst numerous athletes.

Division-I football is a head count sport that allows 85 scholarships for 85 roster spots, which is why every Illini football player is on full scholarship. Baseball, an equivalency sport, awards no full scholarships, but divides its budget of 11.7 scholarships among 27 players, who each receive partial scholarships. The scholarships are divided up at the head coach’s discretion — the same goes for all other equivalency sports.

Football’s 85 full scholarships account for $3,508,584 of the $5,929,745 in scholarship money given to men’s athletes. With such large athletic programs available exclusively to male athletes across the majority of D-I schools, scales needed to be tipped in the favor of women athletes. The answer was the NCAA’s implementation of Title IX in 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination in any federally funded education program or activity— including varsity sports.

To make up for the large disparity that football causes, certain men’s sports are given fewer dollars toward their equivalency budgets in comparison to their female counterparts. For example, men’s tennis is given a total of 4.5 scholarships, while women’s tennis is allotted eight.

Some men’s programs have had to be cut altogether. In 1993, the men’s swimming and diving team, along with fencing, were cut at Illinois to make room for soccer in 1996 and softball in 2000.

“We want to provide the same number of opportunities to play, not just scholarships, for women,” associate director of athletics for compliance Ryan Squire said. “When you have such a huge sport like football on the men’s side, there need to be more women’s sports in order to balance that as far as the number of individuals, not just scholarship dollars.”

Today, there are 10 varsity women’s teams and nine men’s teams. As far as scholarship dollars, the average male athlete receives $30,100 and the average female athlete receives $30,556, so gender equality isn’t a question in that regard. With football out of the equation, though, the average male athlete collects $21,618 in scholarship funds.

It just goes to show the type of impact a D-I football team can have on it’s respective school’s athletic program as a whole.

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