Bowling, that time-honored bad-weather and/or birthday party activity for kids, might also be an outstanding way to put yourself through college. That is, if you are a female.
Collegiate bowling is currently in the midst of its tenth season as an NCAA-sanctioned sport for women only, and what a lengthy season it is. “It’s the longest season in NCAA sports,” says Stan Bradley, the sports information director at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, the two-time defending national champions. “It begins in October and extends all the way to the national championships in mid-April.”
If you are keeping score, then, college football’s bowl season lasts about three weeks. Bowling season extends over literally three seasons: autumn, winter and spring.
Like the sport of rifle, this is one sport in which one’s sex should have little bearing on one’s success. However, unlike rifle, in which men and women compete together and against one another, bowling exists as an NCAA-sanctioned sport for women only. The legal parameters of Title IX, which guarantees against sexual discrimination in terms of athletic opportunities at the collegiate level, were the greatest impetus for the inception of bowling as a women’s-only collegiate sport.
That’s terrific news for any teenage girl who is able to roll a seven-ten split with any frequency. The NCAA allows up to five scholarships per school in bowling. In 2012, a total of 113 schools, approximately one-third of which (36) are Division I institutions, offered varsity collegiate bowling for women. That’s a total of 565 bowling full scholarships out there waiting to be claimed by female high school students.
“The NCAA has no mandate on whether you split up the scholarships (e.g., two bowlers splitting a full scholarship comprised of two half-scholarships),” says Bradley, “but here we award them as five individual full scholarships.”
Maryland-Eastern Shore can afford to be selective and to request that its lesser contributors compete as walk-ons. Last April it became the first institution to win both the NCAA Bowling Championship and the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Intercollegiate Team Championships in the same season. The Lady Hawks are currently ranked second in the nation behind Central Missouri and last weekend bowled a perfect 300 game in Baker play (in which five teammates each bowl two frames in compiling a score) for only the second time in school history.
There are approximately 50,000 competitive high school female bowlers in the United States. Do the math and you will discern that that should translate to about 1% of them earning bowling scholarships at U.S. colleges. The number is actually less due to an influx of keggling talent from abroad.
At Maryland-Eastern Shore (UMES), for example, four of the five scholarship bowlers are international students (two hail from Colombia, one is from Mexico and a fourth is from Puerto Rico). In fact, UMES is what is known as an HBC (Historically Black College) and yet none of the bowlers is African-American. Neither is head coach Kristina Frahm. Only four of the nine bowlers on the roster are American.
One reason for that: bowling is an easily quantifiable sport, one in which conditions and competition are minor if non-existent factors. Lanes, pins and balls are pretty much uniform no matter what continent one hails from, while a bowler’s main competition is herself. A high school senior who regularly bowls a 170 in Bogota, Colombia, is going to have that same average stateside.
Speaking of which – and, remember UMES is the apex of collegiate bowling – the individuals at Maryland-Eastern Shore average between 180 and 200 per game, while one has rolled as high as a 265 game. The standards at other schools are not that high.
Do your homework. Find out if any of the schools you are interested in offer bowling as a collegiate sport. Then, just as you might see how your SAT or ACT scores measure up to their standards, compare your bowling average to their bowlers’ averages. You’ll probably need somewhere in the vicinity of a 170 average to be considered for a scholarship.
Chances are that currently you fall south of that 170 standard. With practice and dedication, though, there may be time to improve your score. And, let’s face it: it’s a lot more fun to work on your bowling than it is to work on calculus.