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Top Colleges for Men’s Bowling: The Ultimate 2024 Guide

  • Reading time:10 mins read

If you’re a talented high school bowler looking to take your skills to the next level, competing on a college men’s bowling team could be the perfect opportunity.

While often overshadowed by mainstream sports like football and basketball, collegiate bowling is a rapidly growing athletic pursuit. More and more colleges and universities are adding men’s bowling as an official varsity sport each year.

As a varsity sport, college bowling offers a unique blend of athletic competition, academic excellence, and community. Student-athletes get to experience the thrill of high-level tournaments while also enjoying the traditional college experience. With the right program, you can pursue your passion for bowling while earning a quality education and developing lifelong bonds with teammates.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore some of the top colleges that field men’s bowling teams. We’ll dive deep into what makes each program stand out, from prestigious coaching staffs to state-of-the-art facilities. We’ll also cover essential factors to consider during the recruiting process and highlight the many benefits of joining a college bowling squad.

What is a Varsity Bowling Program?

Before we get into the top colleges, it’s important to understand what exactly constitutes a varsity bowling program. Unlike recreational club teams, varsity programs are official NCAA or NAIA sports teams sponsored and funded by the college or university itself.

The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) governs most varsity bowling programs for larger universities. Bowling falls under the association’s Emerging Sports for Women category, with championships for both men’s and women’s teams.

The NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) oversees bowling programs at smaller colleges and universities. They provide season-long competition, championships, and recognition for elite student-athlete bowlers.

One of the biggest advantages of varsity status is the availability of athletic scholarships. Unlike club teams, varsity bowling programs can offer partial or full scholarships to top-tier recruits based on skill and academic performance.

Top Colleges With Men’s Bowling Teams

Wichita State University (Wichita, KS)

Boasting one of the most prolific and well-respected programs in the nation, Wichita State’s men’s bowling team has become a powerhouse in recent years. The Shockers won the NCAA national championship in both 2019 and 2021 under the leadership of head coach Gordon Vadakin, a USBC Hall of Famer.

Wichita State’s state-of-the-art facilities include the Thunderbowl Lanes practice center and the Wichita State Bowling Center competition venue, which hosts elite tournaments and exhibitions.

The program’s alumni have achieved great success, with former Shocker Brandon Rogers winning the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) U.S. Open in 2022.

With an average incoming GPA of 3.5, Wichita State expects academic excellence from its student-athletes. Popular majors among the men’s bowling team include business, education, and sports management. The estimated annual cost of attendance is $25,500, and full scholarships may be available to top recruits.

McKendree University (Lebanon, IL)

McKendree may be a smaller school, but their NAIA bowling program packs a big punch. The Bearcats have won an incredible 11 men’s national championships since the program’s founding in 2003, establishing McKendree as an elite bowling college.

Head coach Matthew Nantkes has propelled the team to greatness and takes pride in developing well-rounded student-athletes. Bowlers train at the 32-lane St. Clair Bowl facility in nearby Fairview Heights which hosts the program’s annual Green & Gold Classic tournament.

McKendree provides both academic and athletic scholarships, with over 98% of students receiving aid. Popular majors among bowlers include business administration, sports management, and nursing. The average annual cost of attendance is around $32,000.

Robert Morris University (Chicago, IL)

Fielding separate varsity programs for its Illinois and Pennsylvania campuses, Robert Morris has developed an esteemed reputation on the NCAA collegiate bowling circuit. Both the Illinois and Pennsylvania teams have won multiple national titles dating back to 2005.

The Illinois program captured the NCAA title in 2022 under head coach KyleGuffey, a former RMU bowler himself. The program practices at the impressive 38-lane Stafford Lanes facility in nearby Lisle.

Bowling is one of RMU’s premier sports, so bowlers receive top-level coaching, strength training, and academic support. Popular majors among bowlers include business, engineering, and computer science. Out-of-state tuition is around $29,000 per year.

Webber International University (Babson Park, FL)

This small private university houses a flourishing men’s bowling program located in sunny central Florida. Webber made history in 2019 by becoming the first institution in the sport’s history to win both the men’s and women’s NCAA championships in the same year.

The Warriors train at the AMF Leaning West Bowling Center in Winter Haven under legendary head coach Randy Stoughton. The program attracts top recruits from across the country and around the world, drawn by its winning culture and warm weather.

Webber International has an average student-faculty ratio of 11:1 and offers a personalized liberal arts education. Popular majors include sports business management, accounting, and marketing. Full bowling scholarships may be available, with total annual costs around $31,500.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Bowling Program

With so many elite colleges fielding men’s bowling teams these days, how do you determine which program is the right fit? Here are some key factors prospective student-athletes should consider:

  1. Academics and Majors Offered – While athletics are certainly a priority, you’ll also want to ensure the college offers degrees and academic programs that align with your long-term career goals. Look at graduation rates, student-faculty ratios, accreditation, and academic resources.
  2. Location and Campus Life – The location and overall college environment can significantly impact your experience. Some may prefer a close-knit, private campus while others thrive in a larger, vibrant city setting. Explore housing, dining, campus organizations, and recreational activities.
  3. Coaching Staff and Team Culture – The coaching staff plays an integral role in determining a program’s culture and tradition of success. Research each coach’s background, accolades, and coaching philosophies. Additionally, gauge the overall team dynamics and commitment to excellence.
  4. Practice Facilities and Resources – Does the program have a dedicated bowling center for training, or will you need to practice off-campus? Inquire about lane accessibility, ball drilling resources, video analysis tools, strength and conditioning programs, and other key resources.
  5. Competition Schedule and Level – The frequency and level of competition varies greatly between programs. Understand the team’s conference and postseason tournament schedules. For some, competing against elite programs every week may be ideal, while others prefer a slightly lighter travel schedule.
  6. Scholarship Opportunities – The cost of tuition often plays a huge factor in a recruit’s college decision. Determine scholarship and financial aid availability for both athletic and academic performance. Many programs award partial or full bowling scholarships to their top committed student-athletes.

The College Bowling Recruiting Process

Unlike mainstream sports, the college bowling recruiting process operates a bit differently. With fewer high-profile prospects, coaches tend to be more proactive in scouting and evaluating potential talent in their local and regional areas.

If you have aspirations of bowling at the collegiate level, it’s never too early to start building your online profile and contacting coaches at colleges matching your target academic and athletic criteria. Here are some tips for navigating the recruiting process as a high school bowler:

  • Create a Skills Video and Online Profile – Produce a short video highlighting your bowling abilities, achievements, tournament performances, and skills metrics like Rev Rate and Ball Speed. Upload it to a platform like YouTube or Google Drive, and include the link when communicating with coaches.
  • Develop an online recruiting profile on a site like NextCollegeStu or BeRecruited. Fill out NCSA-certified bowling questionnaires to get matched with programs based on your abilities and preferences.
  • Attend Exposure Camps and Tournaments – Participate in major youth tournaments and camps where college coaches are scouting new talent. Events like the Annual Junior Gold Championships, Intercollegiate Youth Championships, and the NCAA Bowling Camp are prime showcases for recruits.
  • Open Lines of Communication – Reach out to coaches at colleges matching your criteria to express interest, share your skills videos and transcripts, and ask insightful questions about their programs. Be proactive but also respectful of coaches’ time. Maintain regular follow-ups.
  • Pursue Both Official and Unofficial Visits – Official visits involve a campus tour, meetings with academic advisors, bowling facilities tours, and homestays with current players; all recruiting expenses paid by the college. Unofficial visits are self-guided and self-funded.
  • Sign NLI and Accept Admission Offers – Once you’ve received competing offers, the NCAA has an annual National Letter of Intent signing period where you can officially commit to a program and accept any athletics-based financial aid offers.


Pursuing your passion for bowling at the collegiate level can open up a world of opportunities, both on the lanes and in the classroom. The colleges profiled in this guide represent some of the premier destinations for elite student-athlete bowlers looking to compete at the highest levels.

From the historic success of Wichita State and Robert Morris to the ascendant programs at McKendree and Webber International, each school offers its own unique championship pedigree, first-class facilities, and pathways to success.

However, finding the right collegiate bowling fit involves much more than just athletic prowess. Carefully considering factors like academic offerings, coaching philosophies, team culture, scholarship opportunities, and overall program resources is crucial.

By diligently researching your options, developing relationships with coaches, and showcasing your skills through the recruiting process, you’ll put yourself in the best position to land a coveted roster spot at your dream school.

The experiences and lifelong bonds formed as part of a college bowling team can be invaluable. Hopefully, the insights provided in this guide will help set you on the path toward achieving your goals, both personally and competitively, as a student-athlete bowler.