Division II was officially christened in 1973 when NCAA members at a Special Convention that summer voted to establish three divisions for athletics competition. Before then, NCAA schools were classified as either “university” or “college” to distinguish between the larger and smaller athletics programs, but the three-division structure adopted in 1973 gave NCAA members a more varied menu for which to classify their programs.
The creation of Division II gave those programs that wanted to keep their athletics budgets in good proportion to the total institutional budget a place to compete. A key distinction for Division II schools is the “partial-scholarship” model for athletics-based financial aid in which schools recognize a student’s athletics skills through scholarship dollars without covering all of a student’s college expense through the athletics grant. Division I programs offer fully funded athletics scholarships for most student-athletes, while Division III programs do not award athletics-based financial aid at all.
A significant change came in 1997 when the NCAA voted to keep its divisional structure but give each division more autonomy to govern itself. Before then, NCAA bylaws and policies were determined through an annual legislative process in which each member school – regardless of division – cast a single vote on a proposal. Starting in 1997, though, each division was granted the authority to decide its own policy. Divisions II and III retained the one-school/one-vote approach, while Division I adopted a representative system based on conferences that grants some programs more voting authority than others.
In 2005, Division II launched an ambitious and unique identity campaign to more clearly define what the division represented for its members. At the time, Division II was starting to be defined as the “middle division” or a classification that was “neither Division I nor Division III.” Not satisfied with that distinction, Division II members assembled a promotional campaign that emphasized Division II as a chosen destination for student-athletes who experience a “Life in the Balance” in which they excel athletically, academically, and as citizens in their communities.
Today, the Division II experience continues to emphasize the attributes of learning, balance, passion, sportsmanship, service and resourcefulness. Member schools provide the “Life in the Balance” experience for more than 90,000 student-athletes who achieve on the fields and courts, in the classrooms and in the community.