National signing day is for more than just football at big schools

Ten days ago high school football players made their intentions known as far as choosing where to attend college while furthering their athletic and academic careers. We found out which of the Division I schools had the best recruiting seasons. Alabama, Ohio State, LSU and USC all have banner freshman classes coming in. A couple of local football players signed on with colleges and that always is cool. However, football is not the only sport signing up high school athletes and Division I schools are not the only ones reaching out for talented people.

We heard little about the smaller schools and even less about other sports. I would think that you are aware of the fact that colleges and universities give bowling scholarships. A couple of area keglers have received tuition benefits to throw the rock for a collegiate bowling team. It rarely makes sports headlines, but it’s a pretty good deal to get a scholarship for playing a game, no matter what the sport.

One of the more interesting aspects of bowling on the collegiate level is that there are no divisions. All schools, regardless of size, are lumped together for tournament purposes. You might be surprised as to what universities have the highest ranked bowling squads. I did a little research on the subject and will share the results with you. Let me suggest that if you have not heard of all these schools, you are no different than me. In fact, I’m willing to bet you will not know the nicknames or locations of some of these “bowling” factories. Before I’m finished I will give you a chance to test that knowledge.

I found power rankings for men and women’s teams and most “big” schools were nowhere to be found. All right, Notre Dame is ranked fourth in men’s bowling, but it is not the Fighting Irish we are talking about. Notre Dame College right here in Ohio is the school with the talented bowlers.

One of the things I discovered was the fact that if a school had a good men’s team, it likely had a similarly successful women’s team. In fact, the top two teams in both rankings were from the same schools. We’ll see if you are familiar with Robert Morris University and Webber International University. RMU was ranked first in men’s bowling and second in women’s. It was just the reverse for WIU. If you think you have heard of Robert Morris, I can tell you it is not the one in Pittsburgh.

Here are the rest of the top eight schools in the men’s rankings following RMI and WIU: Midland University, Notre Dame College, Lindenwood University, McKendree University, Urbana University and Wichita State University. It took eight schools before we heard of a school that also has big time athletic programs in other sports. The Shockers are doing very well in men’s basketball this year.

Ohio State has a men’s bowling team that is ranked 48th in the country. It is right behind Campbellsville and right ahead of Viterbo. Good luck locating those two schools.

The NCAA has held a women’s national championship in bowling since 2004. The University of Nebraska has won four titles including last year where they defeated Vanderbilt in the finals. Both of these universities are Division I schools. In addition to Nebraska, two other schools have been to all ten championships, and that would be Maryland-Eastern Shore (3 titles) and Central Missouri. They are not necessarily big-time sports machines. Looking for other good women’s teams? Try Fairleigh Dickinson, Kutztown and Bellarmine.

If you are interested in attending the women’s 2014 NCAA bowling championships it is nearby. Freeway Lanes in Wickliffe, OH will be hosting the event from April 10-12. The men’s championship will be contested a couple of weeks later, but that one is in Reno. Perhaps you have some vacation time coming.

With the cost of college tuition these days, getting scholarship help is almost a necessity. Scholarships are given for any number of sports including I understand, bass fishing. Seriously! Maybe the next time your youngster asks to go bowling, you might want to jump on the opportunity. Trust me, if one of these not-so-well-known schools offers a scholarship, you will eventually be able to locate the campus.

Here’s a list of the nicknames and locations for a half dozen of the aforementioned colleges.

The V-Hawks: LaCrosse, Wisconsin.

The Lions: Saint Charles, Missouri.

The Warriors: Fremont, Nebraska.

The Eagles: Arlington Heights, Illinois.

The Bearcats: Lebanon, Illinois.

The Warriors: Babson Park, Florida.

Now if you want to test your sports knowledge, align the names and sites with the appropriate university from the story. Then you can go to the Internet to see how well you did.

I do my best to invigorate the minds of my readers

Al Stephenson is The A-T’s bowling columnist.

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