Playing Opportunities for NCAA football players in the United Kingdom.
For many NCAA football players, they have spent the vast majority of their life working hard to earn a football scholarship and spend 5 great years at their chosen university playing football. It is said that 97% of graduating (senior) football players do not progress any further to the National Football League (NFL). Whilst some may play in Canada and other in semi-pro football, the majority do not play any further football once they leave their college or university.
In the United Kingdom, universities and colleges compete in a similar set-up to the NCAA under the name of BUCS. Their website can be located here: http://www.bucs.org.uk
You can compete in BUCS for your university under a variety of sports including (American) Football. There are currently 80 universities competing in the league with another 5 universities pencilled in to join the league in September 2016.
The biggest attraction for competing in BUCS for a football program is that the NCAA eligibility requirements do not affect your eligibility in BUCS. So, if you are a player who has been on a US college football program for 5 years, with a redshirt year, you can still compete for a UK college football program for as long as you want (providing you are enrolled on a course/degree at that university).
Therefore, NCAA student who can no longer compete for their US football program anymore, can enroll at a UK university and continue to compete in organised contact football.
If you are interested in continuing your college career in the UK, there are several considerations you MUST take into account.
First and foremost, BUCS is not at the same level as the NCAA, especially when it comes to contact football. The American school structure lives and breathes athletics and a huge sum of money is involved whereas the British school structure promotes athletics as a volunteer program and participants are usually involved for fun. Any ‘serious’ athletes are usually training in academies and through private trainers rather than a high-powered university system that is prevalent in the NCAA. That said, some universities (Loughborough and Durham for example) have strong sporting facilities and development.
Also, ‘full-ride’ scholarships are not provided by UK universities in the sport of American Football. The top schools do provide scholarships that cover a percentage of your student fees but the athlete is expected to cover the remaining fee plus arrange their travel, housing and food fees themselves. This is because the focus is on education. To study in the UK, you must ensure that your first priority is to earn an Undergraduate Degree or Postgraduate Degree. Any sporting participation is an added benefit and are not prioritised over studying as you may find at the top levels in the NCAA.
A University ‘year’ usually lasts from September to June and Undergraduate degrees usually last 3 to 4 years. Postgraduate Degrees are usually 1 or 2 year degrees. Costs vary from university to university but a good estimation would be between £8,000-£10,000 per university year ($12,500 - $16,000) but do vary depending on the university and course. Some universities may charge more for non-EU students.
Therefore, you should be able to see the financial commitment that is involved therefore individuals must ensure that furthering their education must be the primary reason for studying in the UK, not participating in American Football (or any other sport).
It is worth noting that once you know the course you are interested in, you will be applying directly for that course and the focus will only be on your subject of interest. Courses do not provide much flexibility within the course to study a range of subjects and is much more regimented. You can view the details on each course from each university’s website.
There is various aid available for north American students wishing to study in the UK.
Academic Scholarships – Many universities offer scholarships on an academic basis. These would be based on various academic criteria and qualifications. You should consult with the university on whether these are available and whether you are eligible to receive these scholarships.
Student Loans – Many universities participate in a student loan program which assists students with finances. You will need to check your options with the university themselves but below is a website which provides further information on this: http://www.direct.ed.gov/student.html
University Partnerships – Many universities in the UK are partnered with one or more US colleges and vice-versa. You may wish to contact your previous college to find out whether there is streamlined access to a UK university. Occasionally, staff from UK universities attend exhibitions in the US to provide further advice on their universities.
University Websites – Every university has a website which holds a huge supply of information on their campus and administration. If you are seriously considering studying in the UK you should contact the universities of your choice through their website and gain as much advice and information before committing to a decision.
Football Head Coaches – The Head Coach of the football programs are usually unpaid volunteers with separate full-time jobs. However, many of them have knowledge of how BUCS operates and can advise on the team and facilities. They will unlikely be able to assist with finances however unless it is one of the few universities who provide scholarships.
BUCS website – I listed the BUCS website earlier in this post and you can locate all 80 universities that have football programs there. I can also advise where necessary so feel free to contact me via LinkedIn, Facebook or email and I will do my best to help.
There are various opportunities available to NCAA players once their leave their football programs. This includes semi-pro opportunities in many European countries such as Germany, Austria, Serbia and more. But if you are looking to continue or further your education then studying in the UK may be a great opportunity for you to continue playing college football.