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NCAA student-athlete participation hits 450,000

The number of NCAA student-athletes participating in intercollegiate athletics surpassed 450,000 in 2011-12, an all-time high.

Participation levels for both male and female student-athletes were the highest in NCAA history, with total at 453,347 student-athletes participating in sports for which the NCAA conducts championships, according to the NCAA’s Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates report.

The 2011-12 report, the 30th since the NCAA began compiling these data annually, also includes sport-sponsorship data showing that the number of NCAA championship sport teams last academic year – 18,561 – exceeded the previous all-time high of 18,314 in 2010-11. The increase came from both genders, with 154 more women’s teams and 93 more men’s.

As for the participation numbers, male student-athletes make up 56.8 percent of the total, but the gap between the percentage of males and females has decreased over time. In 1981-82, when the NCAA began tracking participation rates annually, males composed 72.2 percent of the student-athlete population. Ten years later, the percentages were 66 male and 34 female. The current 57-43 gap has held steadily for the past decade.

Sport sponsorship data show increases in both genders

 

The proportion of male to female student-athletes is highest in Division II with 59.1 percent of participants being male. In Division I, the proportion has been slightly decreasing for men with 54.5 percent being male in 2008-09 and 53.7 percent being male in 2011-12.

Football is the primary reason for the male majority. More than 69,600 football players participated last year, while the highest number of participants in a female sport was outdoor track with just slightly more than 26,200. Soccer, the second-place sport in terms of female participation, featured more than 25,000 players in 2011-12.

Sport sponsorship increases

In 2011-12, just as in 2009-10 and 2010-11, 53.0 percent of the championship sport teams were women’s teams. More women’s teams than men’s have been sponsored every year since the 1996-97. The number of women’s teams has increased each year for the past 30 years.

The number of men’s teams has decreased two of the last 10 years but has been steadily increasing since 2003-04 and is at a record high in 2011-12.

Among other highlights in the 2011-12 report:

  • In 2011-12, just as in the past three years, the average NCAA member institution sponsored approximately 17 teams, eight for men and nine for women. The trend of sponsoring more teams for women than for men began in the 1997-98 academic year. Compared to the 1981-82 academic year, the average NCAA school now sponsors approximately two more women’s teams and one less men’s team.
  • Since the 1981-82 academic year, there have been more women’s basketball teams sponsored than any other women’s team. Volleyball, cross country, soccer, softball, tennis, and track and field are the next most highly sponsored sports for women, in that order. A look at each division separately reveals the same general trend in sponsorship of specific women’s sports, with basketball being the most common, although cross country is nearly as common as basketball in Division I.
  • As is the case with women’s sports, there have been more men’s basketball teams sponsored than any other men’s sport. The next most highly sponsored sports for men are, in order, cross country, baseball, golf, soccer, tennis, outdoor track and field, football and indoor track and field. A look at each division separately reveals the same top eight sports, but with some variation in the order. For example, men’s soccer is sponsored nearly as often as basketball in Division III, but in Division II, men’s soccer is the fifth most sponsored team.
  • Traditionally, women’s track and field had more female student-athletes than any other women’s sport. But since the 1999-00 academic year, women’s soccer now has replaced indoor track and field, but not outdoor track and field, as the sport with the most female student-athletes. Softball, basketball, volleyball, cross country, swimming and diving, and tennis follow in that order.
  • Since 1981-82, football has had the most participants of any men’s sport, and in 2011-12 that trend continues with football having more than twice as many participants as baseball. The next highest participation levels for men are in indoor and outdoor track and field, soccer, basketball and cross country.
  • Last year, 187 men’s teams and 231 women’s teams were added at NCAA member institutions. Since 1988-89, there have been 3,450 men’s teams added and 4,872 women’s teams added with each specific academic year having more women’s teams added than men’s. In 2011-12, golf and outdoor track and field were the most-added women’s sports (24 each), followed by lacrosse, cross country, soccer, indoor track and field, and tennis. The women’s sport that has been added the most since 1988-89 is soccer (655 new programs).
  • The sports with the highest numbers of men’s teams added in 2011-12 were outdoor track and field and cross country with 19 new programs each, followed by indoor track and field, soccer and lacrosse. The men’s sport that has been added the most since 1988-89 is indoor track and field with 442 new teams. Some of the other sports with large numbers of men’s teams added since 1988-89 are cross country, golf, outdoor track and field, tennis, swimming and diving, and lacrosse.
  • In 2011-12, there were 68 men’s teams and 46 women’s teams dropped at NCAA schools. Since 1988-89, there have been 2,816 men’s teams dropped and 1,989 women’s teams dropped with each specific academic year having more men’s teams dropped than women’s teams, except the 2010-11 year when 10 more women’s teams than men’s teams were dropped.
  • In 2011-12, the sport with the highest number of women’s teams dropped was golf with eight, followed by swimming and diving, cross country and bowling. The women’s sport that has been dropped the most since 1988-89 is indoor track and field with 230 programs eliminated. Some other women’s sports with large numbers of teams dropped since 1988-89 are, in order, cross country, golf, tennis, and outdoor track and field.
  • The sport with the highest number of men’s teams dropped in 2011-12 was golf with 12 teams eliminated, followed by wrestling and cross country. The men’s sport that has been dropped the most since 1988-89 is indoor track and field with 299 teams discontinued. Some of the other sports with large numbers of men’s teams dropped are wrestling, tennis, golf, cross country, and outdoor track and field.

Student-athlete participation (five-year increments)

Association-wide

Year Schools Males Females Total
1981-82 752 167,055 64,390 231,445
1986-87 792 187,561 89,640 277,201
1991-92 847 183,675 94,922 278,597
1996-97* 994 199,391 129,289 328,680
2001-02* 1,036 209,890 153,601 363,491
2006-07* 1,064 230,259 172,534 402,793
2011-12* 1,096 257,690 195,657 453,347
         

Division I

Year Schools Males Females Total
1981-82 276 73,742 26,461 100,203
1986-87 291 83,124 36,602 119,726
1991-92 298 81,417 38,572 119,989
1996-97* 307 82,555 52,151 134,706
2001-02* 324 84,532 65,032 149,564
2006-07* 327 86,688 71,473 158,161
2011-12* 340 91,357 78,616 169,973
         

Division II

Year Schools Males Females Total
1981-82 192 35,548 14,158 49,706
1986-87 185 34,418 17,521 51,939
1991-92 218 36,692 18,974 55,666
1996-97* 289 44,274 26,129 70,403
2001-02* 290 45,181 30,021 75,202
2006-07* 296 52,441 36,083 88,524
2011-12* 314 63,587 44,077 107,664
         

Division III

Year Schools Males Females Total
1981-82 284 57,765 23,771 81,536
1986-87 316 70,019 35,517 105,536
1991-92 331 65,566 37,376 102,942
1996-97* 398 72,562 51,009 123,571
2001-02* 422 80,177 58,548 138,725
2006-07* 441 91,130 64,978 156,108
2011-12* 442 102,746 72,964 175,710

 

Sponsorship for selected sports (teams; all divisions; 10-year increments)

Women’s sports
Basketball
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 705 93.8 9,624 13.7
1991-92 847 810 95.6 10,879 13.4
2001-02 1,036 1,017 98.2 14,524 14.3
2011-12 1,096 1,084 98.9 16,134 14.9
           
Cross country
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 417 55.5 4,612 11.1
1991-92 847 677 79.9 7,794 11.5
2001-02 1,036 928 89.6 12,008 12.9
2011-12 1,096 1,035 94.4 15,483 15.0
           
Field hockey
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 268 35.6 5,701 21.3
1991-92 847 213 25.1 4,474 21.0
2001-02 1,036 252 24.3 5,296 21.0
2011-12 1,096 266 24.3 5,742 21.6
           
Golf
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 125 16.6 1,060 8.5
1991-92 847 162 19.1 1,687 10.4
2001-02 1,036 451 43.5 3,447 7.6
2011-12 1,096 596 54.4 4,752 8.0
           
Gymnastics
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 179 23.8 2,063 11.5
1991-92 847 96 11.3 1,268 13.2
2001-02 1,036 89 8.6 1,440 16.2
2011-12 1,096 83 7.6 1,440 17.3
           
Lacrosse
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 105 14.0 2,648 25.2
1991-92 847 122 14.4 2,858 23.4
2001-02 1,036 249 24.0 5,326 21.4
2011-12 1,096 376 34.3 8,482 22.6
           
Rowing
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 43 5.7 1,187 27.6
1991-92 847 56 6.6 1,547 27.6
2001-02 1,036 140 13.5 6,191 44.2
2011-12 1,096 145 13.2 7,282 50.2
           
Soccer
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 80 10.6 1,855 23.2
1991-92 847 350 41.3 7,459 21.3
2001-02 1,036 868 83.8 19,467 22.4
2011-12 1,096 996 90.9 25,164 25.3
           
Softball
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 416 55.3 7,465 17.9
1991-92 847 605 71.4 10,117 16.7
2001-02 1,036 895 86.4 15,514 17.3
2011-12 1,096 976 89.1 18,505 19.0
           
Swimming and diving
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 348 46.3 6,218 17.9
1991-92 847 394 46.5 7,830 19.9
2001-02 1,036 478 46.1 10,279 21.5
2011-12 1,096 527 48.1 12,206 23.2
           
Outdoor track and field
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 427 56.8 9,217 21.6
1991-92 847 561 66.2 12,246 21.8
2001-02 1,036 697 67.3 18,433 26.4
2011-12 1,096 801 73.1 26,227 32.7
           
Volleyball
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752  603 80.2 8,418 14.0
1991-92 847 762 90.0 9,934 13.0
2001-02 1,036 974 94.0 13,107 13.5
2011-12 1,096 1,047 95.5 15,890 15.2
           
Men’s sports
Baseball
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 642 85.4 17,229 26.8
1991-92 847 713 84.2 21,204 29.7
2001-02 1,036 866 83.6 26,343 30.4
2011-12 1,096 927 84.6 31,999 34.5
           
Basketball
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 741 98.5 11,578 15.6
1991-92 847 814 96.1 12,855 15.8
2001-02 1,036 990 95.6 15,883 16.0
2011-12 1,096 1,060 96.7 17,890 16.9
           
Cross country
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 650 86.4 8,966 13.8
1991-92 847 706 83.4 9,478 13.4
2001-02 1,036 858 82.8 10,840 12.6
2011-12 1,096 960 87.6 13,991 14.6
           
Football
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 497 66.1 40,733 82.0
1991-92 847 546 64.5 49,793 91.2
2001-02 1,036 617 59.6 58,090 94.1
2011-12 1,096 651 59.4 69,643 107.0
           
Golf
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 590 78.5 6,355 10.8
1991-92 847 610 72.0 6,837 11.2
2001-02 1,036 754 72.8 7,631 10.1
2011-12 1,096 812 74.1 8,533 10.5
           
Gymnastics
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 79 10.5 1,367 17.3
1991-92 847 40 4.7 604 15.1
2001-02 1,036 23 2.2 371 16.1
2011-12 1,096 17 1.6 341 20.1
           
Lacrosse
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 138 18.4 4,193 30.4
1991-92 847 160 18.9 5,087 31.8
2001-02 1,036 211 20.4 6,551 31.0
2011-12 1,096 295 26.9 10,903 37.0
           
Soccer
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 521 69.3 12,957 24.9
1991-92 847 581 68.6 14,580 25.1
2001-02 1,036 734 70.8 18,559 25.3
2011-12 1,096 803 73.3 22,987 28.6
           
Swimming and diving
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 377 50.1 7,746 20.5
1991-92 847 367 43.3 7,684 20.9
2001-02 1,036 388 37.5 7,307 18.8
2011-12 1,096 413 37.7 9,229 22.3
           
Outdoor track and field
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 577 76.7 18,806 32.6
1991-92 847 580 68.5 18,214 31.4
2001-02 1,036 657 63.4 20,382 31.0
2011-12 1,096 735 67.1 26,416 35.9
           
Volleyball
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 63 8.4 878 13.9
1991-92 847 58 6.8 925 15.9
2001-02 1,036 81 7.8 1,115 13.8
2011-12 1,096 98 8.9 1,529 15.6
           
Wrestling
Year Schools Teams % total members Athletes Squad size
1981-82 752 363 48.3 7,914 21.8
1991-92 847 275 32.5 6,819 24.8
2001-02 1,036 231 22.3 5,943 25.7
2011-12 1,096 219 20.0 6,622 30.2