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NCAA's Three Divisions

Behind the Blue Disk

 

Who is the NCAA?

Nearly 1,100 colleges and universities in NCAA Division I, Division II and Division III collectively invest in improving the experiences of student-athletes and supporting their success on the field, in the classroom and for life.

Why does the NCAA have divisions?

The NCAA’s diverse membership includes schools ranging in size from hundreds of students to tens of thousands of students. The current three-division structure was adopted by NCAA members in 1973 to create a fair playing field for teams from similar, like-minded campuses and provide student-athletes more opportunities to participate in championships.

What makes each division unique?

Division I schools generally have more students, larger athletics budgets and more athletics department support than schools in Division II or Division III. Schools in Division II emphasize a life balance in which athletically gifted students can compete at a high level, while maintaining a traditional collegiate experience. Academics are the primary focus for Division III student-athletes who experience shorter practice and playing seasons, reducing their time away from academic studies and other campus activities.

Do schools in all three divisions offer athletics scholarships?

Schools in Divisions I and II provide more than $2.7 billion in athletics scholarships annually to more than 150,000 student-athletes. Although most athletics scholarships are given for one academic year, Division I schools are allowed to provide multi-year scholarships. Division III schools do not offer athletically related financial aid, but student-athletes may receive academic-based financial aid similar to other students on their campuses.

Are eligibility requirements similar in all three divisions?

College-bound student-athletes who want to compete at a Division I or Division II school must meet academic and amateurism standards set by NCAA members. Eligibility standards are similar, but not identical, between Divisions I and II. At Division III schools, college-bound student-athletes must meet the admission standards set by the school for all new students. For more information, check www.eligibilitycenter.org.

How is each division governed?

Member schools develop and approve legislation for their own division. Groups of presidents and chancellors lead each division in the form of the Division I Board of Directors, Division II Presidents Council and Division III Presidents Council.

The Divisions At A Glance

 

Division I

Division II

Division III

Schools

346

298

439

Teams

6,477

4,656

7,702

Student-athletes

173,457

108,818

180,927

Conferences

32

24

43

Avg. undergraduate enrollment per school

11,730

4,163

2,620

Avg. teams per school

19

15

18

Avg. student-athletes per school

511

346

412

Percentage of students at each school who participate in NCAA sports

4%

9%

16%

Median athletic expense per student-athlete

FBS: $54,000

FCS: $20,000

Other schools: $24,000

$13,850

$5,550

Median athletics budget

FBS: $56.3 million

DII w/ football: $5.3 million

DIII w/ football: $3 million

FCS: $$14.1 million

DII w/out football: $4 million

DIII w/out football: $1.5 million

DI w/out football: $13 million

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