Almost 100 percent of the girls that have some ability, some commitment and are well-coached can get some type of scholarship —Mark Graham
For high school athletes everywhere, whether they're a standout on the track, the diamond or the pitch, almost all have grand visions of what it would be like to take their talents to the next level.
For some, they dream about an NFL career similar to what former Highland High great Haloti Ngata has enjoyed with the Baltimore Ravens. For others, making a couple of Olympic volleyball teams like another former Highland great Logan Tom would be a dream come true.
And what golfer wouldn't want to follow in the footsteps of former Davis High golfer Daniel Summerhays, who's now a regular on the PGA Tour?
Before any of the three made their marks at the highest level their sport has to offer, they first took their talents to the collegiate ranks.
For about 600 recent high school graduates, their dream of moving on to compete athletically at the next level is about to become a reality.
After contacting coaches, athletic directors and principals from every high school in Utah, in addition to sports information departments at each of the in-state colleges, the Deseret News has compiled a list of the estimated 597 seniors from the 2012 graduating class who have received a scholarship to play college athletics. Of those 597, 205 signed with major universities and 237 are heading out of state.
This year's list includes students who have received both athletic and academic scholarships.
The payout isn't huge for some — books might be their only compensation. For a handful, they're getting a full ride.
Regardless of the dollar amount, with rising tuition costs and a struggling economy, 597 seniors have made their parents very happy.
Of the 597 recipients, 308 are girls while 289 are boys. This is a slight variation from last year's list, in which 307 boys received scholarships compared to 289 girls.
With participation numbers that dwarf all other sports, 118 of the boys' 289 total scholarships went to football players.
Among the football players moving on to the next level are Pleasant Grove's Brandon Fanaika, who signed with Stanford, and Highland's Sione Houma, who's heading to the Big Ten with Michigan. In all, roughly 5.3 percent of the estimated 2,217 seniors who played football last fall earned scholarships, and 24 of the 118 are heading to Division I programs.
Of the three in-state Division 1 programs, Utah led the way with eight signees, followed by Utah State with five and BYU with four.
Snow College signed the most in-state kids with 21, followed by Southern Utah and Snow College each with 20.
Overall participation numbers for the 2011-2012 school year were provided by the Utah High School Activities Association. Senior estimates were calculated at 27 percent of the overall participation numbers.
Of the 10 sanctioned UHSAA boys sports, it was baseball not football that had the highest percentage of seniors earn scholarships with 55 (6.4 percent). Soccer was third at 3.2 percent, followed by basketball (3.0 percent), track/cross country (2.3 percent) and golf (1.8 percent).
"I think baseball in Utah has really taken off in the last 10 years or so. There's a lot of programs that are behind that. A lot of good coaches who are really helping kids get to the next level," said American Fork coach Jared Ingersoll.
"Utah baseball is just getting better and better 'cause there's opportunities for them to go out against better competition to prove themselves. I think more and more colleges are looking into Utah to recruit."
Baseball would've had another signee, but Bingham High pitcher Brady Lail bypassed a scholarship offer from NCAA champion Arizona to sign a minor league contract with the New York Yankees.
While football and baseball headlined the boys scholarship recipients, it's no surprise that soccer players hauled in the biggest share on the girls side.
In the three years the Deseret News has been tracking scholarship recipients, girls soccer has had that highest percentage, and 2012 was no different. Of the estimated 835 high school seniors who played soccer last fall, 89 (10.6 percent) received scholarships.
With eight schools fielding women's soccer teams in Utah, there's always going to be plenty of opportunities for talented girls to play college soccer. Mountain View coach Mark Graham summed it up best two years ago, and the dynamics certainly haven't changed in 2012.
"Almost 100 percent of the girls that have some ability, some commitment and are well-coached can get some type of scholarship," he said.
Of the 89 scholarships, 48 are to Division I programs.
For the third straight year, softball had the second most scholarship athletes for the girls with 52 (8.5 percent). Only three of those are to Division I programs, but it's a great example of the opportunities to play at the next level if athletes are willing to pursue them.
"There are tons of opportunities for softball girls around the state of Utah and elsewhere. I'm aware of a lot of the softball girls that are going to JCs with hopes of getting recruited to D1 schools later," said Copper Hills coach Jentry Johnson, who had four players earn scholarships.
Johnson expects the talent level in Utah to continue to improve in the coming years.
"There are more and more passionate coaches that are getting involved that are portraying that softball can be one of the elite sports," said Johnson.
Plenty of other girls sports churned out scholarship athletes. Forty-five volleyball players signed to play at the next level (5.7 percent), while 44 basketball players signed (5.5 percent).6 comments on this story
An estimated 2,400 seniors participated in boys and girls track and cross country this past school year, with an estimated 79 earning scholarships. That's up significantly from the 59 last year.
"It's gotten more competitive over the past few years, especially distance running. But really, most events are strong in Utah now," said Davis track coach Corbin Talley.
While BYU is one of the marquee programs in the country, Talley said other programs like Utah Valley, Weber State and Utah State are all great options for boys and girls athletes to fulfill their collegiate dreams.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org