#086 Advice for High School Athletes About Playing in College with Dave Morris Transcript


Lisa Marker Robbins  00:10

If your teen as a student athlete considering playing in college, it’s not as simple as yes or no, there’s navigating connections with college coaches developing application materials, including essays, negotiating athletic scholarships, or financial aid officers, and, most importantly, making informed decisions on committing to a college where the student can truly excel. Dave Morris is college athletic advisors founder and CEO and has spent more than two decades helping prospective student athletes find their 360 degree fit in college. He’s also been a coach and a college administrator with experience at every level of the NCAA. So here’s a perfect guest to help you navigate finding your students that including whether your students should pursue Division One, two, or three, or one of the 800 schools that don’t even fit into one of those categories. I’m Lisa Mark Robbins, and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to a great conversation. Dave, welcome to the show.


Dave Morris  01:23

Thanks. Thanks for having me. I’m excited.


Lisa Marker Robbins  01:26

Lily. I am too. I mean, the number you probably know the answer to this. I mean, the number of high school athletes are what percentage of high school athletes even go on to play and college?


Dave Morris  01:39

Well, it’s interest about 5%. Okay, and that’s where a little lower Yeah, but it’s right about 5%. But that’s a deceptive number. Because for a lot of high school student athletes, when they finish high school, they are ready to retire. They’ve done their they’ve done their time. I think one of the interesting things about college sports is there’s kind of a there’s a buck for every seat. But there’s also kind of a seat for every but if you want to play in college, colleges, most colleges have athletic programs, because it is the most economically efficient Student Success and Support Program they’ve ever invented.


Lisa Marker Robbins  02:20

Okay, say a little bit more about that. So I know I think we all know, college athletics is super lucrative at most, or many colleges. So they’re bringing in some money. And so it’s important and kids love kids and adults. We’re season tickets holders for my husband’s university that he attended. And we’ve gone on the road to follow our team. So you know, we all most people, there’s some piece of college athletics that they like. But go back to that statement that you just said,


Dave Morris  02:55

Well, for most schools, the reality is college, college athletic programs generate a lot of revenue. They don’t generate profits, mostly there’s about 10 or 15 colleges that actually make money in athletics. That’s going to go up slightly, the new big 10 TV deal is going to help like rector’s will get out of the hole. But the reality is they have athletic programs, because that’s your best students and most colleges, that’s your recruiting of some of the best students you’re going to bring to campus or a disproportionate percentage of our students. Also, it’s the best support what’s the biggest predictor of student success is that they have an adult who cares about them. If you’re a kid on a team, you’ve got a coach who’s interested in your success in division one or two. If you don’t succeed, they can become ineligible for postseason. Because


Lisa Marker Robbins  03:45

you probably am i right? Like you probably have more than one adult that is invested in your success because they have tutors. They’ve got people planning out their food they’ve got


Dave Morris  03:57

well, there’s all kinds of you know, college athletics goes from, you know, University of Michigan football where they have dieticians, and strength conditioning coaches and a staff of 1000s to you know, just staying in football, like there’s, you know, Rose Hulman, where they have four or five coaches, and they’re nice guys, and they make sure kids are successful, you know, or they have a soccer team where they got a coach and maybe a part time assistant or something, but they still got academic support people, you still got an adult, they don’t even need a lot of schools don’t have athletic specific if there’s smaller schools athletic specific support, but the coaches know who the right person is to support a student who’s struggling. I mean, I can’t tell you as a coach, how many times kids came in my office like hey, we’re struggling in this class, fester? Just call me. How can I help you and students? And then you know what, let’s walk over and talk to the right person because I’m not gonna tutor you in multivariable math, right? I’m a soccer coach like 123 and then I’m lost, right? So and I was an Asian Studies major in college. So there’s


Lisa Marker Robbins  05:00

Definitely, you’re not the math guy. No, not the math guy. So, you know, here,


Dave Morris  05:04

let’s let’s walk over. And, and of course, what that makes them highly likely to actually follow through as opposed to any other student who would have to like find that office column. We know how that goes. But then also because you’ve got this and you have a ready made set of peers, right. And they’re not just freshmen, you know, when you when you come to college, and you go through kind of freshman orientation, all your friends are kind of the same year you are. The thing about athletic teams is that it’s a multi year set of relationships. So you immediately have friends who are seniors and juniors, upperclassmen, you know, the campus, it’s a totally different experience. When I was at Emory University. One of the things that sort of accidentally got said in a meeting was they were working to try to kids were studying with their friends, right? So if you’re a bio major and your friends in econ major, you sit together, but you can’t help each other. And sort of offhand, the woman who was leading the session said, you know, the one group of people who doesn’t do that are athletes, because they’ll sort themselves by the classes they’re taking. So it was really meaningful. And then those students go on because of those relationships to become more involved alums. They’re better donors. They’re better advocates for the college. They’re connected to the college.


Lisa Marker Robbins  06:22

Yeah, that so that is fascinating. Now, I want to go back to something you said, you know, you use a very practical example, from my area of the contrary, I’m in Cincinnati, Ohio, you’re out in Washington State. So you said you know, you’ve got University of Michigan who is well, staff like well beyond a single vested. And you’ve got rose Holman, which also is not very far from here, but a little over an hour, very small engineering. And you’re like, you’re going to have a staff of four coaches who’s going to be interested. So that brings me to like, I want to talk about division 123, you had told me there’s about 800 schools that don’t even belong to one of those categories. So how does a student figure out if they’re best suited to division one, two, or three or one of the other schools that you know, maybe an NAIA school, I went to undergrad and an Nai, a in a IA school?


Dave Morris  07:21

Love the answer? I have to say I have a soft spot for the MA I love the NCAA team. But


Lisa Marker Robbins  07:26

let’s talk about let’s just first of all, tell people what is the N Ay ay ay it, you’re better to answer it than I am. Because a lot of people haven’t even heard of it. And then so tell us what an AI is. And then let’s talk about like, how do you figure out what division you belong in?


Dave Morris  07:42

Awesome. Well, then AI is just it originally was the bigger of the two groups, the NCAA was sort of the elite Northeastern schools and the really big land grant colleges all over the country. And the NAI was everybody else, because it’s like 25 bucks to join the NAI it’s not expensive, or it wasn’t that and they ran the first championships, like the the first basketball championships and the NAI basketball championship up until the 60s was bigger, bigger than the NCAA championship, then the NCAA discovered a TV deal. And you know, and UCLA then turned into a giant thing. And the other thing the NCAA did is federate, they develop different divisions. And so it became sensible for some schools to for a lot of schools appeal out of the NAI so in the 60s 50s. Right up till now, I mean, schools leave the NAI and go to different NCAA divisions, because there’s


Lisa Marker Robbins  08:39

a there’s a place for them, where previously there really had not been a place for some of the smaller schools.


Dave Morris  08:46

Right. And I think also, you know, you go where you’re you, I have a sort of steady state theory for colleges, like, there used to be the Ohio Athletic Conference, like Walsh Malone, one of those little private colleges. And they used to all in Lake Erie wasn’t that they were all nai and then they started going to Division two. So now they’re all Division Two, at the end of the day, they’re all playing, you got to play the guys who were local, like you got to play the schools that are like you so you can’t kind of there’s no escaping that. So they all eventually go D two, or they do this or that California is doing the same thing that a bunch of schools went to Division Two, but the reality is school sign up, you just sign up like the NAI is a organization that basically the college presidents get together and set rules for championships and how they’re going to compete together. And they have you know, slightly different rules it’s a little bit light it’s a lighter weight organization, compared to the NCAA were yesterday last a monitor Alabama, and Auburn and make sure that they don’t because like or Ohio State Michigan, right if no if there was no cop on the beat, like what’s the limit that they would go to to win?


Lisa Marker Robbins  09:58

Right so How does this How does a student then a high school student who’s really interested in you know, and I know you work really hard about a holistic fit for your student athletes that you’re working with in your organization? How do they find their place? And know if it’s D one or Division two? Yeah.


Dave Morris  10:21

I think those labels I mean, I keep saying, you know, it’s not a wedding cake. It’s a steal, right? There’s people think


Lisa Marker Robbins  10:27

more about that. Yeah. What, okay, a wedding cake. What do you mean by it’s not


Dave Morris  10:31

suitable, like the agsp WatchESPN, you’re gonna think that like, there’s a wedding cake division one at the top division two in the middle of division three at the bottom, the NAI, like, Where the heck is that we’ve never heard of it. It’s not on ESPN. The reality is, there are elite programs and every division, right, there’s elite Division One programs, there are also non elite Division One programs, I don’t want to call out a specific school on a podcast or anything. But like, if you want to be a volleyball Division One volleyball student athlete, this fall, I got a couple programs that would sign you. And the main qualification was your female. Like, if you’re if you qualify, they would like to give you a full ride. So volleyball is a headcount sport, you get a full ride. If one of the 350 D one coaches says I want you, you’re a D, one athlete. But the reality is that college sports, most college athletic programs are in a band of like, these are college programs. And it doesn’t matter whether they’re division 123, Nai, whatever they are, there, some are really elite. And they’re at the elite edge of that band. And then there’s some that are not elite. And then there’s some that are, you know, struggling for a variety of reasons that are sort of below the standard of some of most college programs, but and those exists in all divisions, right, whether they’re nai Division One, Division One skews more competitive division, two, and three, there’s a ton of overlap. But certainly, as you get down into division two and three, and the NAI you’re gonna have some programs that are funded less and, and are at the lower end of the curve. But the reality is, I don’t think high school kids and their parents are particularly well equipped to, to figure that out. I’m a big fan of Ask the coach not, don’t ask your high school coach, ask the college coach, hey, do you think I could play in Ohio State? There’s one guy whose job is 100%. To determine whether you can play Ohio State, you should email him. If he ignores you. That’s your answer. Right? You’re not playing there. They can only recruit so many guys, or girls or whatever it is, like, if they don’t, that’s it, like ask them I always get confused. When people like, want to what my maybe my club coach will know, maybe I’m like, if you want to know, like, how to do something, ask the person who’s the extra, you know, you want to know how to fly plane, ask the pilot. Amen. Well,


Lisa Marker Robbins  12:57

so it sounds like a lot of the student athletes that I’ve because I don’t get into the weeds of student athletics. I’m a college major and career coach. So, but when I’m talking to the students that I’m working with, to try to figure out the major in the career in their student athlete, a lot of them are focused on that, oh, I’m looking for a D two school or a D one. And it it really now you’ve convinced me like, that is not the right way to look at it. And I’m even guessing that if you’re, you know, an elite athlete, so of that 5% of high school students, and my daughter, by the way, was one of that she did gymnastics for 14 years. And by the time she got to the end of high school, she was like, I’m ready to I would try to encourage you to look at even club gymnastics. She’s like, I don’t want to and my body says I don’t want to because now six is a little hard on your body. Or a lot hard on your body. But there could be a if there’s a lead. So if you’re really you’re maybe the top half percent or the top 1%. You actually conceivably and correct me if I’m wrong from what you just said. Could be on a better or more elite team. That’s division two, then possibly even a less competitive D one.


Dave Morris  14:15

Well, I think I would look at it realistically, like I’ll name to school. I like Murray State. It’s a really nice school.


Lisa Marker Robbins  14:22

Right talking my part. Yeah, country again.


Dave Morris  14:25

But you know, if you have a choice between, like, Washington University, St. Louis, and Murray State, how many kids choose Murray State? I mean, I would think not many, for very good reasons. Right. Not any criticism of murray state, which is rare, but 31 and Washington University St. Louis is d3. So I always tell clients, I say, Well, how do you think the colleges are divided? They go well, sometimes I’ll say sighs and I laugh like what’s the biggest college United States New York University right NYU, over 100,000 students there d3. starts at Mount St. Mary’s 1000 students in Maryland, their D one, the way it works is a college signs up. If the President signs up and they meet, there are some minimums they have to meet. But the colleges choose division 123 nai us CA, then there’s all the junior college circuits. It it’s really, for your fit. It’s about making a list, I think the first thing is, you know, even if you’re a foreign student, you don’t apply to Harvard, Yale, Princeton and stop there, right? You start with a little bit of a balance list. And then you see where there’s mutual interest. And then you’ve got to start to think about so you know, then you can collapse your list towards where there’s mutual interest wherever that is. And then you build it back out. Because you know, what, if you’re going to a school, there’s one division three, Coach, I know. And we have very different philosophies of life of she’s a very nice person, by the way. But you know, if you’re a bio major, and your lab conflicts with practice, she’s like, well, you can’t do it.


Lisa Marker Robbins  16:03

That’s what I want to talk about that because I mean, I know, you know, and by now, or if this is not somebody’s first episode, they know that, you know, my passion is equipping students to know themselves deeply enough, have great self awareness, so that they’re making really informed decisions on the major the academic side, right, the major the colleges that are best for that major, where that’s gonna set them up, not for the four years or in college, but the 40 plus years that they’re going to work, right? I always say, let’s begin with the end in mind which college, we want you to have


Dave Morris  16:41

a great, how do you? How do you find that great fit, it’s got to fit academically, athletically. I mean, that’s where, for me, I’m in my fifth year as college athletic advisor. And sooner or later, someone’s gonna transfer me and I, I promise, but right now, of all the hundreds of kids we work with, we have zero, who have transferred, except for coming off transfer clients. But none of none of the kids have poopit. Because nobody, and I always tell you want to pick the right school, the first time you’re taking a year, maybe two or three. And you want to make your best choice, because no matter how much you love working with me, and we have a great time, nobody calls me up and says, Listen, man, that was fun. Let’s do it again next year.


Lisa Marker Robbins  17:22

For students who are some majors, for instance, one time I was working with a student who at the University of Cincinnati, and I’m going to pick on him on this one, my daughter goes, there is a great school, but he was pre med, he was also a baseball player. And he got down there and realize that labs would always that he had to have would always conflict with practice, and the coach wouldn’t match. And he actually ended up transferring to Bowling Green State University to do pre med because he was able to so are you. What I hear you saying is that’s really about the coach.


Dave Morris  17:59

Well, yeah, it’s people, right? You’ve got Nursing majors are famous for this, right? It’s really tough to be a nursing major and a college athlete. And that’s a truism. People say it all the time. It’s not not true. But it’s very school specific. If you have a coach and a nursing advisor, who are willing to work together and focus on you being successful as a student, and a student athlete is 100%. Possible. Like there’s every school can accommodate. But if you have, it only takes one of those people to be not very broad vision, I guess would be the way to say it. I don’t want say jerk, but someone who’s not really thinking globally, and they’re worried about then there’s nursing advisors are like, Dude, you’re gonna do nursing, when I say there’s no flexibility, and then the coach has to decide how they’re going to handle that. And there’s coaches who say, there’s coaches like at Emory, who will tell you no, you can’t do that lab seat and we’re in season and what you care about.


Lisa Marker Robbins  18:56

So what on the front side of this? Because we’re giving advice to people that are in in the throes of the college bound journey, right? You already great gave great advice about okay, ask the coach, if and if they don’t respond, then they don’t think that you’re worthy of playing at the college level. So what questions and of whom should you ask if the major you’re considering if that’s going to be doable as a student athlete at a particular university? Who do you ask them? What do you ask?


Dave Morris  19:28

I think you need to ask the coach, like one of the things is Do you have anybody who’s majoring in acts on the team that I can talk to and see how that, you know, because if they have somebody you have somebody who’s blazed that path that’s a lot easier, right? Then you know, the coach says, Well, we did this, you know, and I think you want to get a feel how does the coach address time conflicts with classes? Does the coach tell you to turn switch classes, some schools and some schools have options like University of Michigan, you cannot offer a class without an alternative? doesn’t fit in the athletic window. You just can’t do it. If you want to offer a lab in that afternoon athletic window, you got to offer an option in the morning to.


Lisa Marker Robbins  20:09

That’s a great policy. So that’s a question. Right? So that’s you could ask, like, how do you require labs to be available outside of the athletic practice window?


Dave Morris  20:21

Right? And or I guess you got to ask the coach, because I had a student who I’ll call out University of Wisconsin Madison. This was a long time ago, this coach was fired. Not not. They’re not there. But don’t hold it against the Badgers as a whole. But you recruited this very good runner. And the runner went to Wisconsin because their philosophy program is really strong. And he wanted to be a philosophy major at University Wisconsin. And he got up there and the coach said, Yeah, I know, we talked about that, but you’re gonna be a recreation major, because otherwise interferes. And what I mean philosophy major interferes with running like, come on. Anyway. So Pascal, still bitter about it all these years later that he was a wreck major, because he went along with the coach. He was a three time NCAA champion. All right, like in cross country, like they all run around. And he finished first, not the team him. Like he could have majored in philosophy like that was so yeah. But he didn’t ask, I guess to me, like, he didn’t drill down enough with that coach about the coach’s philosophy, talk running talk, you’ve got to stop and say, I’m gonna go to school here. Because if the coach tells you in the recruiting process that you can do it, they’re kind of on the hook, right? You can call it you can make it hard, they’ll go along with it, if you don’t kind of nail that down. And it’s also if you’re going to talk about something and people know, the ones that have labs that are more conflict ridden engineering, nursing, you know, lab science majors. You know,


Lisa Marker Robbins  21:54

what about edge? What about education, because you have to do student teaching, you’ve got to do you’ve got to do field experiences, anything with a field experience, or now now what comes into my mind also is like, fine arts, you have to have a lot of time in the studio.


Dave Morris  22:11

Yeah, I think for art Well, regardless of program, while you’re there, you got to talk to the advisor that you’re going to in those programs or professors in those programs and get a feel like, because the other thing is forget about whether there’s going to be conflicts about time, do you want to be you want to be in a program where they’re not going to be supportive of student athletes, or they’re going to say, hey, I don’t like you, because you’re an athlete. Like to me, you want to make sure you sort that out ahead of time, like how do you feel about athletes, there are programs and it doesn’t matter what it is art, theater, whatever, where you you know, Paul Robeson robes and Paul Robson was a brilliant actor at rector’s, he was also brilliant football player and a top student in the school. And there was evidently no conflict with as far as doing those things. He did all of them. You know, those guys worked it out. And so there’s places where they’re gonna love you, because they understand you’re contributing to the college. And you know, there’s also professors who at some point was locked in a locker or something by a football player and resented it. And, you know, want to take it out on a gymnast. And I don’t understand that. But I think, you know, that’s a big world out there. Ask them ahead of time. That’s that’s part of your due diligence.


Lisa Marker Robbins  23:25

That’s really the takeaway here from this point. I mean, it’s asked the questions of the college level in advance, because, boy, it is way too much work to go through. It’s it’s huge work for a non student athlete to go through the college selection application navigation process. But it is that exponentially for student athletes, you don’t want to have to do it again.


Dave Morris  23:53

Well, the other part is you have access to better information. You’re not going on the call, you don’t sign up for a college tour through the website, right? You talking to the coach, they’re taking you around, or you’re meeting faculty, you have access, right, you have a platform, the college search, I always tell kids, if you’re not sure about whether you want to play in college, be a recruited athlete, you’ll have a better college choice than you would otherwise. And you can always not play. But go through the process, learn about the schools, also, you know, applying and turning all your stuff in and then going like this for like three months worth of college does work. Exactly. You know, I remember one year where we were understaffed and there was tables of applications like stacked to the ceiling and they would come in and work on the left side and push them all. You know, that’s sucks. If you’re an athlete, you know, they go up to admissions the coach says, Hey, man can take a look at this. They look at it. They’re like, yeah,


Lisa Marker Robbins  24:49

you’re in your earlier answer.


Dave Morris  24:53

You just have an answer. Right away. Yeah,


Lisa Marker Robbins  24:57

well, this is this is absolutely fantastic. Think so I stand corrected. It is not about division 123 or other. It is about are you an elite athlete, you can be an elite athlete at any of those. But you better be asking the right questions of the coaches. So you don’t have to do a do over. Dave, thank you so much for making time.


Dave Morris  25:21

Well, thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure. Well, we’re


Lisa Marker Robbins  25:24

gonna go ahead and the show notes. We’re gonna list how people can find you if they want your expertise at college athletic advisors. If they want to be supported through that you guys look work with athletes, all types of athletes. So we’ll get that in the show notes so they can stay in touch.


Dave Morris  25:42

All right, thank you very much. Thanks day Oh,