Opening New Doors to College
Free events in Houston have set the stage for the inaugural NFF California Showcase, which will provide student-athletes in the region a new opportunity to connect with divisional college coaches from around the country.IRVING, Texas - Feb. 21, 2013 – Building on the success of similar events in Houston and El Paso, Texas, the inaugural National Football Foundation (NFF) California Showcase, which will take place this weekend at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., has attracted phenomenal interest with more than 600 student-athletes and 30 colleges registered to attend.
“This is going to be a huge success,” said Terry Donahue, the College Football Hall of Fame coach at UCLA who has organized the Feb. 23 event in conjunction with the NFF Newport Beach Chapter. “It is an incredible opportunity for the kids to continue their education and play the great game of college football, and it’s free. It’s free to the players, and it’s free to the colleges, and nobody is making a dime.”
Participants, who all have to meet minimum academic standards, will compete in a series of athletic drills at the event designed to let divisional college coaches assess each player’s potential, including a 40-yard dash and several agility tests. Academically, participants must meet at least one of the three following criteria: a GPA of 2.5 or higher; a rank in the top half of his graduating class; or an SAT score of 1000 (math and verbal only) or higher, or an ACT score of 18 or higher.
“We are excited about the outcomes of these events,” said NFF President & CEO Steve Hatchell. “They are providing hundreds of student-athletes the opportunity to go to college where the path previously did not exist. The local organizers have been very successful at attracting the support required to stage these events. We are really appreciative of Coach Donahue’s leadership in making the event happen in California.”
Traditional combines charge student-athletes a fee to participate and colleges a fee to attend, but the organizers at the events in California and Texas realized that the fees create a barrier for student-athletes of limited means and colleges with tight budgets.
“There are so many combines and showcases, but this one really has legs to it because it’s totally free for the players and the colleges. All they have to do is register and show up,” said Donahue. “We hope that others areas of the country will follow Houston, El Paso and now us, and say let’s do one here. This is going to be a huge success, and we’re fired up.”
Five years ago, the NFF Touchdown Club of Houston Chapter began hosting a similar event, which was quickly replicated in El Paso, Texas. The Houston organizers place the cost to run the event around $7,500 per year in their community, and they estimate that their event produces more than $8 million in annual scholarships. Donahue heard about the success of the Houston and El Paso initiatives and knew that Southern California had a similar void in providing student-athletes an opportunity to earn academic and participation scholarships at the divisional level. He set to work, leveraging his connections to make the event a reality in Southern California.
“Partnering with the National Football Foundation and having their brand on the event has been a big help,” said Donahue. “The NFF chapters, the California Interscholastic Federation and the local news outlets have all been very helpful in promoting the event. Our only concern now is the weather.”
The hopefuls at the NFF California Showcase will vie for academic and participation scholarships from NCAA division II, III and NAIA schools, including institutions from Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. The event allows the schools a unique opportunity to evaluate a large number of academically and athletic qualified student-athletes in a short period of time while minimizing their travel costs. The event is not open to student-athletes who have already signed Division I letters of intent.
“One of the things that has always bugged me about combines and camps is that they say they provide kids exposure to colleges,” said Chris Vaughan, a key organizer of the Houston event and a board member of the NFF Touchdown Club of Houston Chapter. “I always felt like people were taking advantage of parents and kids, and this was something that we felt we could do without having to charge anybody anything. We just want kids who want to go to college and play football to have a chance to be exposed. After the first year, we knew that we were onto something good.”
Click here for more details on the NFF California Showcase.
Click here for news coverage with quotes from the participants at the NFF Houston Showcase.