Recruiting athletes without providing scholarships

By Chris Schaller
November 28, 2021

NCAA D-3 logo
photo: Chris Schaller
NCAA D-3 logo photo: Chris Schaller


Cabrini’s lacrosse and basketball trophy case at the Dixon Center.
Photo: Chris Schaller
Cabrini’s swimming and golf trophy case at the Dixon Center.
Photo: Chris Schaller

The liberal arts college, competing in the AEC, a D-III conference, has a different approach when it comes to recruiting.

Cabrini University, a D-III school, cannot use scholarships when recruiting athletes.

“Once players come onto our campus after scouting them during high school and fits their size criteria, I believe this schools athletic reputation is the main deciding factor,” Rob Dallas, men’s soccer coach, said.

Cabrini University’s reputation of having a strong and well-ran sports program, draw in recruits in a more grassroots way. All of Cabrini’s scholarships are based on academic merit, however a considerable amount of financial aid is offered to athletic recruits.  In addition, 34 percent of D-I and D-II NCAA athletes receive scholarships through an academic institution, while D-III schools by rules cannot offer scholarships to recruits.

While being ineligible to provide a grant scholarship, Cabrini can sway recruits with FAFSA along with the athletic department’s resumé. The current scholarships offered by the university are: Community Super Hero Scholarship, Alice Lawson Scholarship, AAUW scholarship and a STEM scholarship. None of them fall under -the category of athletics, so the athletic department and the Financial Aid department, located in Grace Hall work hand-in-hand to encourage as many athletes as possible to attend Cabrini University

Cabrini’s financial aid office located in Grace Hall.
Photo: Chris Schaller

There is also the transfer portal where students from other collegiate athletes can leave their school and play at another school, in this case Cabrini.

“I was playing club lacrosse at Miami University, Ohio, so I did not have to enter the portal,” Daniel Thames, midfield redshirt sophomore, said. “I just walked onto the lacrosse team at Cabrini which overall, was a smooth process.”

Regardless if a player played for another schools’ or is coming from another school to walk-on, they are still transferring to play a sport.  Similar to larger D-1 and D-2 schools, Cabrini’s transfer portal grants an extra year of eligibility to an incoming athlete.

The 2020-2021 collegiate sports seasons altered the University’s recruiting process. Cabrini was not able to send out scouts to high schools and were not able to have in-person college visits. That has returned during the 2021-2022 collegiate sports seasons.

“Coach Kate was the main thing that got me to come play  college hoops for Cabrini, we kept in contact over phone, cause things were restricted due to COVID,” Courtney Paulson, forward freshman basketball player, said.

Cabrini can now host in-person college visits and campus tours whereas last year, visits were restricted to a virtual experience.

All of Cabrini’s scholarships are based on academic merit, however a considerable amount of financial aid is offered to athletic recruits. Smaller universities must remove the word “scholarship” from any recruitment strategies. There is no legal framework put in place by the NCAA that states that D-III schools cannot offer FAFSA to certain players to persuade them to play for their university.  

For a university with around 1,500 students that does not have the luxury of providing athletic scholarships, they still have brought in well regarded recruits to compete under their name. Cabrini has proven to have a successful and winning sports program with what they are currently given.

Chris Schaller

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