Who and What is the NCAA?

Who and What is the NCAA?
Thinking of playing college sports? It will help to know exactly who you are dealing with. Your greatest interest is with your specific school, then your conference affiliation (Big 10 for example), and then the actual association you play under. The most common and powerful association is the NCAA.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a voluntary association of about 1,200 colleges and universities, athletic conferences and sports organizations devoted to the sound administration of intercollegiate athletics.

Division I
Division I member institutions have to sponsor at least eight sports for men and eight for women (or seven for men and nine for women) with two team sports for each gender. Each playing season has to be represented by each gender as well. There are contest and participant minimums for each sport, as well as scheduling criteria.

For sports other than football and basketball, Div. I schools must play 100 percent of the minimum number of contests against Div. I opponents. Anything over the minimum number of games has to be 50 percent Div. I.

Men’s and women’s basketball teams have to play all but two games against Div. I teams. Men must play one-third of all their contests in the home arena. Schools that have football are classified as Div. I-A or I-AA. I-A football schools are usually fairly elaborate programs. Div. I-A teams have to meet minimum attendance requirements (for example, 17,000 people in attendance per home game or 20,000 average of all football games in the last four years).

Div. I-AA teams do not need to meet minimum attendance requirements. Div. I schools must offer minimum financial aid awards for their athletic program, and there are maximum financial aid awards for each sport that a Div. I school cannot exceed.

Division II
Div. II institutions have to sponsor at least four sports for men and four for women, with two team sports for each gender, and each playing season must be represented by each gender.

There are contest and participant minimums for each sport, as well as scheduling criteria. Football and men’s and women’s basketball teams must play at least 50 percent of their games against Div. II or I-A or I-AA opponents. For sports other than football and basketball, there are no scheduling requirements.

There are not attendance requirements for football or arena game requirements for basketball. There are maximum financial aid awards for each sport that a Div. II school must not exceed.

Div. II teams usually feature a number of local or in-state student-athletes. Many Div. II student-athletes pay for school through a combination of scholarship money, grants, student loans and employment earnings. Div. II athletics programs are financed in the institution’s budget like other academic departments on campus. Traditional rivalries with regional institutions dominate schedules of many Div. II athletics programs.

Division III
Div. III institutions have to sponsor at least five sports for men and five for women, with two team sports for each gender and each playing season represented by each gender.

There are minimum contest and participant minimums for each sport. Div. III athletics feature student-athletes who receive no financial aid related to their athletic ability, and athletic departments are staffed and funded like any other department in the university.

Div. III athletic departments place special importance on the impact of athletics on the participants rather than on the spectators. The student-athlete’s experience is of paramount concern. Div. III departments encourage participation by maximizing the number and variety of athletic opportunities available to students, placing primary emphasis on regional in-season and conference competition.

Dave Galehouse (varsityedge.com) and Ray Lauenstein (athletesadvisor.com) are authors of "The Making of a Student Athlete: Succeeding in the College Selection and Recruiting Process."
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