The NCAA permits Division II schools less stringent initial academic eligibility requirements, which have been a stumbling block for many Division I aspirants from the District. And since all District residents are eligible for a $10,000 tuition benefit for state schools, Division II programs, which have limited scholarship money to disburse, see District recruits as veritable bargains.
At least 20 Division II recruits this year are coming from the District, about twice as many as those going Division I.
“What people don’t understand is we’ve got an edge on other states,” said Friendship Coach Aazaar Abdul-Rahim, who sent eight of his players from the Class of 2011 to Division II schools.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Bradley looks across the Friendship practice field at defensive tackle Eddie Goldman, one of the nation’s top recruits, and says it’s tough not to be discouraged when recruiters from all over the country bypass Bradley and his teammates to court the 6-4, 300-pound senior.
Abdul-Rahim “never told me to give up on Division I, but to keep my mind open that it may not happen,” Bradley said. “Sometimes you aren’t the greatest athlete, but there’s a place for you. You just have to look a little harder for it.”
Recruiting in Division II contradicts most preconceived notions of the business, where money rarely inhibits a Division I school’s pursuit of a sought-after player. By comparison, finances are at the heart of Division II recruiting.
For starters, Division II schools are limited by the number of scholarships they can disburse annually. Division I-A schools can grant 85 scholarships, of which each recruit gets a full grant, while those in division I-AA can spread out 63 scholarships to no more than 85 players (giving some players partial scholarships).
Division II programs are limited to just 36 football scholarships, which they split up among their roster, with a player seldom receiving a full athletic package. The NCAA said it does not track how many football programs are fully funded (i.e., give out 36 scholarships annually), but according to Brandon Misener, who founded and operates the Web site d2football.com, fewer than 25 percent of the 155 schools that play Division II football are fully funded.
This forces programs to maximize the number of players they can get with their limited finances. That’s where District’s tuition benefit, a grant toward the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition costs at state schools nationwide, is a boon to recruits. More than 62 percent (97 of 155) of Division II football programs are state schools.