In the US the NFL (National Football League) is the predominant professional football association, while the National College Athletic Association is the leading amateur association.
The NFL boasts the highest attendance record of any sports league worldwide, the last figures available being for 2011 when just short of an average of 67,000 people attended every game during the season.
The Third Most Popular Sport
Collegiate football is actually the third sport from the point of view of popularity in the US. Only baseball and professional football rank higher. College football has three divisions, 1, 11, and 111. Division 1 is sub-divided into the Football Championship and the Football Bowl. The winners of the Football Championship Subdivision and Divisions 11 and 111 are decided through play-off systems. Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision used to be decided by the Bowl Championship,, but in 2014 this was changed to a four-team play-off system.
There are some major differences in the rules of NFL football and College football. For instance, under NFL rules, for a completed pass a player must have both feet in bounds, whereas in College football only one foot is necessary.
In NFL football there is a two minute warning when there are two minutes left in each half, but in College football there is no warning. Hash marks in the NFL game are the same width as the goal posts (18’ 8” apart) where in College football they are 40’ apart.
There are several other differences between the NFL rules and College rules.
850 Colleges And 80,000 Players
In College football there are some 80,000 players playing for around 850 colleges, and the game has more scholarships available than any other sport. By and large, College teams play other College teams of similar size. In Division 1 there are mostly the bigger colleges with large budgets, excellent facilities, and many scholarships. Division 11 is mainly comprise of public and private institutions which are smaller, and offers 36 scholarships. In Division 111, no scholarships are offered.
Many families believe that the process of getting a scholarship does not begin until at the earliest the junior year, or possibly senior year, but this is not the case. Coaches begin looking at players in their freshman and sophomore years in high school, and often earlier. They cannot contact players in high school, but they can look at online profiles and watch videos if they are provided. It is a good idea to create an online profile in order to stand a better chance of getting noticed.
Every college has more football players than scholarships available, and coaches will obviously award scholarships in order to attract the best players for the team. All of the other players are called walk-ons – they are a part of the team, but do not receive a scholarship.
NCAA Division 1 Football Bowl Series
The top level of college football is the NCAA Division 1 Football Bowl Series and the programs have 85 full scholarships all of which are full-rides. A coach can offer 25 new scholarships every year, and may also take a scholarship away from an existing player and offer it to a new one. While many players have a dream to get into this level, only 20% of all scholarships are offered here.
Division 11 has 36 scholarships per team, and they are not all full-rides, coaches often dividing them up into partial scholarship in order to obtain more good players.
In Division 111, there are no scholarships available, but there may be other forms of financial assistance, and these can often amount to more than a scholarship that you might have received at a higher level.
Obviously, many players will want to get into the Division 1 Football Bowl Series, but lower levels may well be a better fit for many athletes. You really need to do your homework in order to ascertain what fits in with your overall ambitions, both sporting and otherwise.