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Is Bowling a Scholarship Sport? A Comprehensive Guide for 2024

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In recent years, bowling has seen a resurgence in popularity as a competitive sport. What was once primarily viewed as a leisure activity is now gaining recognition as a highly skilled and challenging athletic pursuit.

As a result, many aspiring student bowlers are wondering: “Is bowling a scholarship sport?” The answer is a resounding yes. Bowling has become an established scholarship sport, with numerous colleges and universities across the country offering athletic scholarships to talented student bowlers.

This comprehensive guide will explore the world of bowling as a scholarship sport, delving into its recognition by governing bodies, the types of scholarships available, top collegiate programs, eligibility requirements, and strategies for earning a coveted bowling scholarship.

What is a Scholarship Sport?

Before diving into the specifics of bowling as a scholarship sport, it’s essential to understand what constitutes a scholarship sport. A scholarship sport is a competitive athletic endeavor recognized by major governing bodies, such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), or the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). These organizations oversee and regulate collegiate sports, ensuring fair play, eligibility standards, and the availability of athletic scholarships.

For a sport to be considered a scholarship sport, it must meet specific criteria set by these governing bodies. This includes having a sufficient number of participating institutions, established rules and regulations, and a structured competitive framework.

Additionally, scholarship sports must have a dedicated coaching staff, appropriate facilities, and a commitment to providing student-athletes with the resources necessary for their development and success.

Bowling’s Recognition as a Scholarship Sport

Bowling’s journey to becoming a recognized scholarship sport has been a gradual but steady process. While the sport has been enjoyed recreationally for centuries, its competitive aspect gained traction in the latter half of the 20th century with the formation of organizations like the Professional Bowlers Association (PBA) and the growth of televised bowling tournaments.

In the collegiate realm, bowling initially gained recognition as a club sport on various campuses. However, it wasn’t until 1998 that the NCAA granted bowling the status of an emerging sport for women.

This paved the way for the establishment of varsity bowling programs and the allocation of athletic scholarships. In 2003, the NCAA officially recognized bowling as a championship sport for women, solidifying its place in the collegiate athletic landscape.

On the men’s side, the United States Bowling Congress (USBC) Collegiate has been the governing body for collegiate bowling since its inception in 1998. The USBC Collegiate oversees men’s bowling programs, organizes national championships, and promotes the sport at the collegiate level.

Today, both the NCAA and the USBC Collegiate serve as the primary governing bodies for collegiate bowling, ensuring fair competition, establishing eligibility rules, and regulating the awarding of bowling scholarships.

Types of Bowling Scholarships

Just like other NCAA sports, bowling scholarships come in various forms, ranging from full scholarships to partial scholarships. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of bowling scholarships available:

  1. Full Scholarships: These coveted scholarships cover the full cost of attendance, including tuition, room and board, books, and other necessary expenses. Full bowling scholarships are highly competitive and typically awarded to elite student bowlers with exceptional skills and achievements.
  2. Partial Scholarships: Partial scholarships cover a portion of the cost of attendance, such as tuition or room and board. These scholarships can vary in value and are often offered to talented student bowlers who may not quite reach the level required for a full scholarship.
  3. Academic Scholarships: In addition to athletic scholarships, many institutions offer academic scholarships to student bowlers who excel academically. These scholarships are based on factors such as grade point average (GPA), standardized test scores, and other academic accomplishments.

It’s important to note that NCAA regulations limit the total number of bowling scholarships a program can offer each year. As a result, competition for these scholarships can be fierce, and student bowlers must demonstrate exceptional skill, dedication, and academic prowess to secure them.

Top Colleges and Universities Offering Bowling Scholarships

With bowling’s recognition as a scholarship sport, numerous colleges and universities across the United States have established competitive bowling programs and offer scholarships to talented student bowlers. Here are some of the most prominent institutions with strong bowling programs:

  1. Wichita State University (Kansas): Known for its powerhouse men’s and women’s bowling teams, Wichita State has consistently produced top-tier bowlers and won multiple national championships.
  2. McKendree University (Illinois): McKendree’s bowling program has gained national recognition, with the men’s and women’s teams consistently ranking among the best in the country.
  3. Robert Morris University (Illinois): This university has a rich history in collegiate bowling, with both the men’s and women’s teams capturing multiple national titles.
  4. University of Nebraska-Lincoln: The University of Nebraska-Lincoln boasts a highly successful women’s bowling program, with numerous conference and national championship appearances.
  5. Arizona State University: ASU’s men’s bowling team has been a force to be reckoned with, consistently ranking among the top programs in the nation.

These are just a few examples of the many colleges and universities that offer bowling scholarships and foster competitive bowling programs. The availability of scholarships and the strength of these programs vary, but they all provide opportunities for student bowlers to pursue their passion at the collegiate level.

Eligibility and Requirements

To be eligible for a bowling scholarship, student bowlers must meet specific academic and athletic requirements set by the governing bodies and the individual institutions. Here are some common eligibility criteria:

Academic Requirements:

  • Minimum grade point average (GPA): Most programs require a minimum GPA, typically ranging from 2.5 to 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Standardized test scores: Some institutions may require minimum scores on tests like the SAT or ACT.
  • High school coursework: Completion of a college-preparatory curriculum is often expected.

Bowling Skills and Achievements:

  • Competitive experience: Participation in local, regional, and national bowling tournaments is highly valued.
  • Average score: Many programs look for student bowlers with a consistently high average score, often above 200 for men and 190 for women.
  • Awards and accomplishments: Winning titles, earning all-star or all-conference honors, and setting records can boost a bowler’s scholarship prospects.

Recruitment Process and Bowling Résumé:

To be considered for a bowling scholarship, student bowlers must go through a recruitment process similar to other collegiate sports. This involves creating a bowling résumé that highlights their academic achievements, bowling statistics, tournament results, and any other relevant accomplishments. Coaches and recruiters use this information to evaluate potential recruits and make scholarship offers.

It’s important for aspiring student bowlers to start preparing early, maintain a strong academic record, and actively participate in bowling tournaments and showcases to increase their chances of earning a scholarship.

Benefits of a Bowling Scholarship

Earning a bowling scholarship offers numerous benefits to student bowlers, both on and off the lanes. Here are some of the key advantages:

  1. Financial Advantages: Perhaps the most obvious benefit is the financial support provided by a bowling scholarship. Whether a full or partial scholarship, it can significantly reduce the cost of a college education, allowing student bowlers to focus more on their studies and athletic pursuits.
  2. Opportunity to Compete at a High Level: Bowling scholarships provide student bowlers with the chance to compete at the highest levels of collegiate competition. They gain access to top-notch coaching, state-of-the-art facilities, and the opportunity to represent their institution on a national stage.
  3. Access to Coaching, Facilities, and Resources: As members of a varsity bowling program, scholarship recipients receive dedicated coaching from experienced professionals who can help them refine their skills and develop their game. They also have access to high-quality bowling facilities, training equipment, and support services, such as sports medicine and academic advisors.
  4. Potential Career Paths: For those passionate about bowling, a collegiate career can open doors to various career paths within the sport. Some may pursue professional bowling opportunities, while others may explore coaching, sports management, or other related fields.
  5. Personal Growth and Development: Participating in a collegiate bowling program fosters personal growth and development beyond the lanes. Student bowlers learn valuable life skills such as time management, teamwork, discipline, and leadership, which can benefit them in their future endeavors.

Earning a bowling scholarship is not only a testament to a student bowler’s athletic abilities but also a recognition of their dedication, hard work, and commitment to academic and athletic excellence.

How to Increase Your Chances of Earning a Bowling Scholarship

While earning a bowling scholarship is highly competitive, there are several strategies and steps that aspiring student bowlers can take to improve their chances:

  1. Improve Bowling Skills and Technique: Continuous practice and refinement of bowling skills are essential. Seeking coaching from experienced professionals, participating in clinics and camps, and analyzing and correcting technical flaws can help improve overall performance.
  2. Participate in Tournaments and Showcases: Competing in local, regional, and national tournaments provides invaluable experience and exposure. These events allow student bowlers to showcase their skills in front of college coaches and recruiters, potentially leading to scholarship offers. Consistently performing well in high-level tournaments can significantly boost a bowler’s reputation and chances of earning a scholarship.
  3. Build a Strong Academic Profile: While athletic ability is crucial, college coaches and admissions committees also place a strong emphasis on academic excellence. Maintaining a high GPA, scoring well on standardized tests (e.g., SAT, ACT), and taking challenging courses can demonstrate a student bowler’s commitment to academics and increase their overall appeal as a scholarship candidate.
  4. Create a Comprehensive Bowling Résumé: Developing a detailed bowling résumé is essential for showcasing achievements, tournament results, and other relevant information to college coaches and recruiters. This résumé should include bowling averages, high game and series scores, tournament finishes, awards and accolades, as well as academic achievements and extracurricular activities.
  5. Seek Coaching and Attend Bowling Camps: Participating in bowling camps and clinics can provide valuable opportunities to receive personalized coaching and instruction from experienced professionals. These camps often feature college coaches and recruiters, allowing student bowlers to make connections and potentially get noticed for scholarship opportunities.
  6. Network and Build Relationships: Networking is crucial in the world of collegiate bowling. Student bowlers should actively engage with college coaches, attend bowling events, and connect with current or former collegiate bowlers. Building relationships and making positive impressions can open doors and increase the chances of being considered for scholarships.
  7. Stay Dedicated and Persistent: Earning a bowling scholarship is a challenging and competitive process that requires dedication, hard work, and persistence. Student bowlers should remain focused on their goals, continually strive for improvement, and be prepared to navigate setbacks or disappointments along the way. Perseverance and a positive attitude can go a long way in ultimately achieving success.


Bowling’s recognition as a scholarship sport has opened up exciting opportunities for talented student bowlers to pursue their passion while earning a college education.

With its growing popularity and the support of governing bodies like the NCAA and USBC Collegiate, bowling has solidified its place in the collegiate athletic landscape.

Whether aspiring to earn a full or partial scholarship, student bowlers must dedicate themselves to honing their skills, maintaining academic excellence, and actively participating in tournaments and showcases.

By following the strategies outlined in this guide, such as seeking coaching, building a strong résumé, and networking with coaches and recruiters, student bowlers can increase their chances of securing a coveted bowling scholarship.

Remember, earning a bowling scholarship is not just about athletic prowess; it’s also a testament to perseverance, dedication, and a commitment to personal growth and development. With the right mindset, hard work, and a passion for the sport, student bowlers can turn their dreams of a collegiate bowling career into a reality.

For those with a love for the game and a drive to succeed, the world of collegiate bowling offers a unique opportunity to combine athletic excellence with academic pursuits. So, embrace the challenge, step onto the lanes with confidence, and let your skills pave the way to a rewarding and fulfilling college experience.