What I saw with my kid (at a top D3 athletic school) was that the coaches would proactively be on the prospective student athletes to apply for all different types of aid (scholarships for leadership, urban, geographic, 1st generation college, specific academic fields, etc.). A regular student might have the same access to that aid, but might not have a college staff person proactively directing them towards it. Also, not all schools provide these different types of aid beyond just financial need and academic...UST definitely does.That’s just fine in DIII, Ivy, and Pioneer. That’s what need-based aid is. It’s aid that is available to all students.
The sticky part is the idea that being a football player bumped them up to the top of the list in the scholarship criteria for selecting who gets the awards. That “shouldn’t” happen, but guessing it does all the time.
Or in the Ivy, their endowments are so huge they just say for any student “if your family makes less than X, you’re guaranteed to have your full need met”.