U.S. college sports are big business. According to The Atlantic, the highest-paid public employee in 41 states is not a professor, neurosurgeon, or politician, but a college football or basketball coach. Michigan Wolverines’ coach Jim Harbaugh was reportedly paid $9 million in 2016.
When it comes to U.S. college recruiting, not all sports are equal. The game you play and your gender will determine your odds at winning an athletic scholarship.
Sports at U.S. colleges and universities are divided into proficiency-based levels of play. The National college Athletics Association (NCAA) and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) function in this order:
NCAA Division 1: The cream of the crop. This is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics, and also has the most financial resources and best sports facilities. Across the U.S., 351 college and universities classify as Division 1. Among them are UCLA, Yale, Princeton, Northwestern, Harvard, Vanderbilt, UT Austin and Stanford. This tier generally restricts the number of foreign student-athletes a team can have on its roster and also imposes the highest academic standards of all divisions.
NCAA Division II: Division II student-athletes may be offered partial scholarships, and the restrictions on foreign players are laxer. Division II institutions don’t devote the same financial resources to their athletics programs or choose not to place such a heavy financial emphasis on them. There are 306 American and Canadian colleges and universities classified as Division II, among them Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Simon Fraser and Bentley.
NAIA: This is similar to NCAA Division II in terms of size of the school and also the level of sports, and in that a large scholarship would not usually be offered to a foreign new student-athlete outside the U.S. However, as playing time increases, scholarship money would normally increase proportionately. There are 246 member colleges, including Canada’s University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria.
Click through the slideshow for the sports with the highest chances of an athletic scholarship for men and women according to MarketWatch. Spoiler: the odds are better for women.