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Top Colleges with Bowling Teams for Student Athletes

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Bowling has transitioned from just a recreational activity to a highly competitive collegiate sport. Over 200 colleges and universities across the United States now offer bowling programs and teams for students to showcase their skills on the lanes.

Joining a college bowling team provides an opportunity for student-athletes to receive bowling scholarships, be part of a team, travel for competitions, and potentially set themselves up for a professional bowling career after graduation.

If you are a talented high school bowler looking to take your game to the next level, this guide will highlight some of the top colleges with bowling teams that should be on your radar.

We’ll cover program highlights, facilities, coaching staff, recruiting processes, scholarship opportunities, and what the overall student-athlete experience is like.

So lace up those bowling shoes and get ready to learn about the leading college bowling programs to help jumpstart your journey as a collegiate bowler.

Identifying Top College Bowling Programs

When evaluating the top college bowling teams, there are several criteria that come into play beyond just wins and losses. National rankings, historical tournament performance, quality of facilities and coaching staff are all important factors to consider.

Additionally, the overall strength of a program isn’t just dependent on the varsity roster. Having a well-developed pipeline from the junior bowling ranks and club-level teams can help sustain long-term success for collegiate programs.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the consistently top-ranked and dominant bowling programs at the NCAA and club levels across key regions:

Northeast Wichita State University (Kansas)

  • One of the premier college bowling programs in the nation
  • Men’s team has won 13 national titles, women’s team has won 4
  • State-of-the-art facilities at Wichita State Bowling Center
  • Renowned coaches Gordie Howe (men’s) and Samantha Kelly-Boxberger (women’s)

Webber International University (Florida)

  • 20 varsity bowling lanes on campus
  • Women’s team has won 2 national championships
  • Coaching staff led by Randy Stoughton, member of the NCAA D1 Bowling Committee

Southeast Vanderbilt University (Tennessee)

  • Club bowling program consistently ranked in top 25 nationally
  • Home to Vanderbilt Bowling Center with 32 lanes
  • Competes in prestigious tournaments like the USBC Collegiate Championships

McKendree University (Illinois)

  • Varsity bowling program established in 2003
  • Women’s team won 2017 NCAA Championship
  • Team practices at Bel-Air Bowl in Belleville, Illinois

Midwest Wichita State University (Kansas)

  • See “Northeast” region

McKendree University (Illinois)

  • See “Southeast” region

Robert Morris University (Illinois)

  • Home to the only Division 1 varsity bowling program in Illinois
  • Won 1983 national championship
  • Recent facility renovations including new lanes and scoring systems

Southwest Sam Houston State University (Texas)

  • Nationally-ranked program for men’s and women’s bowling
  • Teams led by coaches Ric Rae (men’s) and Ben Canefield (women’s)
  • Utilize excellent facilities at Huntsman Hills Player Lanes on campus

West Coast Arizona State University (Arizona)

  • Club bowling program for men and women
  • Practice at revered Brunswick Cypress Lanes in Phoenix area
  • Teams participate in annual Western Regional and national competitions

These are just a few of the many colleges that have made a commitment to building impressive bowling programs over the years. The level of competition is extremely high, with new powerhouse schools emerging each season.

Recruiting Process for Bowling

Unlike some other college sports, the recruiting process for bowling tends to be a bit more unique and decentralized. Programs are not as dependent on high school prospects alone and will recruit bowlers from various junior tournaments, associations, and events around the country.

Having extensive experience through youth bowling associations and participating in prestigious junior competitions like the U.S. High School Bowling National Championship or Junior Gold Championships can give prospective student-athletes an important edge when being evaluated by college coaches.

Academics are still of critical importance as well, as bowling programs must ensure recruits will meet NCAA eligibility requirements. Coaches will carefully review academic transcripts, test scores, and gauge a prospect’s capability to manage the demands of being a student-athlete.

The timing of recruiting can vary, but coaches will frequently identify and begin communicating with top recruits by their junior year of high school at the latest. Creating a recruiting video, updating stats and accolades on websites like, and directly reaching out to programs you are interested in are all advisable steps.

It’s also recommended to get advice from your current coaches or instructors during the process. They can provide valuable guidance on which college programs may be a good fit based on your specific abilities and goals.

Bowling Scholarships

While bowling may not receive the same scholarship funding as high-profile sports like football or basketball, substantial opportunities are available for student-athletes to earn some level of athletic scholarship money when competing on a college bowling team.

At the varsity level, colleges can allocate full scholarships that cover tuition, room & board, books, and fees. Partial scholarship amounts are more common where available funds are divided up to recruit and retain top talent.

Academic bowling scholarships may also be awarded based on factors like GPA, test scores, academic achievements, and community service. These awards are not tied to athletic participation.

Qualifying for these scholarship opportunities can involve different criteria based on the college program. Some may require submission of guidelines scores from junior tournaments, a minimum GPA, or video recordings of you bowling to evaluate mechanics and skill level.

Maintaining academic standards and consistently performing at a high level will be essential for student-athletes to have their bowling scholarships renewed each year as well.

The bottom line is there are pathways to earning money towards your education expenses by being part of a college bowling program. It just requires understanding the scholarship processes and making sure you check all the boxes that coaches and compliance staff are looking for.

Student-Athlete Experience

While the competitive bowling aspect is certainly a major focus, the overall experience of being a student-athlete on a college bowling team encompasses so much more.

Rigorous Practice Schedules

Expect to spend countless hours not just competing, but drilling specifics shots, analyzing video footage, undergoing conditioning programs, and perpetually working to elevate your skills on the lanes. Most programs will have set weekly practice and training schedules that bowlers must stick to without fail.

Balancing Bowling and Academics

Just like other college athletes, bowlers must learn how to optimally divide their time between their sport and coursework. Staying on top of assignments, efficiently managing schedules, and potentially getting academic assistance when needed are key.

Team Travel

One of the most enriching parts of being on a college bowling team is getting to travel for tournaments and competitions around the country. Not only does this present opportunities to visit new places andboa against elite-level opponents, but it facilitates team bonding as well.

Some of the major events that top programs attend include:

  • NCAA Bowling Championships
  • US Bowling Congress Intercollegiate Team Championships
  • Game Bracket Championships
  • Southwestern Collegiate Classic
  • Prairie View A&M Invitational

Beyond the Lanes

Collegiate bowling is about more than just what happens during tournament play or practices. It provides experiences, life lessons, and lasting relationships that extend far beyond the scope of the sport itself.

Being part of a team environment focused on a common goal teaches accountability, communication, time management, and other invaluable skills. The grind of making weight checks, following dietary regimens, and maintaining mental toughness can shape a player’s overall discipline and perspective.

Bowlers will also have networking opportunities to connect with accomplished program alumni who’ve transitioned into professional bowling careers on tours like the PBA (Professional Bowlers Association) upon graduating.

In the end, collegiate bowling is a holistic avenue for well-rounded personal growth academically, athletically, and socially. It’s a chance to compete at the highest level while getting an invaluable education that can lead to professional paths both in bowling and other industries.


For talented high school bowlers looking to take their skills to the next level, joining one of the nation’s top college bowling programs can open up a world of opportunities.

Whether your sights are set on becoming a professional bowler, working in the bowling industry, or just experiencing the thrill of competing at the highest collegiate ranks, having the right program can make all the difference.

Schools like Wichita State, McKendree, Robert Morris, Vanderbilt, and Sam Houston State have established themselves as bowling powerhouses year after year.

They offer elite coaching, top-notch facilities, and a track record of developing championship-caliber bowlers. However, plenty of other programs are rapidly emerging and elevating the level of competition as well.

The recruiting process requires a blend of polished skills honed through extensive junior tournament experience, strong academics to meet NCAA eligibility standards, and going through all the proper channels to get on coaches’ radars early. It’s an intricate journey, but one that can unlock pathways to coveted scholarship money.

Once you step foot on campus as a collegiate bowler, the real work is just beginning. Be prepared for a rigorous lifestyle of intense practice sessions, professionally-run team travel, managing your studies, and constantly striving to take your game to new heights through every frame. Off the lanes, you’ll forge bonds with teammates that will last a lifetime and open you up to a supportive, dedicated bowling community.

For those talented and determined enough, the dream of becoming a world-class professional bowler on the PBA or PWBA Tour is a very real possibility.

However, even if pro bowling doesn’t pan out, your background and reputation earned as a college bowler can open doors to various other career opportunities within the bowling industry itself.

No matter where your path ultimately leads, being part of a top-tier college bowling program is a transformative experience. It’s a chance to live out your passion, compete at the highest level, get a quality education, and develop invaluable life skills every step of the roll. If you have the burning desire and unrelenting drive, don’t let this opportunity pass you by.