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Divisional Differences and the History of Multidivision Classification

Division I

Division I member institutions have to sponsor at least seven sports for men and seven for women (or six for men and eight 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, Division I schools must play 100 percent of the minimum number of contests against Division I opponents -- anything over the minimum number of games has to be 50 percent Division I. Men's and women's basketball teams have to play all but two games against Division I teams; for men, they must play one-third of all their contests in the home arena. Schools that have football are classified as Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) or NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA). Football Bowl Subdivision schools are usually fairly elaborate programs. Football Bowl Subdivision teams have to meet minimum attendance requirements (average 15,000 people in actual or paid attendance per home game), which must be met once in a rolling two-year period. NCAA Football Championship Subdivision teams do not need to meet minimum attendance requirements. Division I schools must meet minimum financial aid awards for their athletics program, and there are maximum financial aid awards for each sport that a Division I school cannot exceed.

Division II

Division II institutions have to sponsor at least five sports for men and five for women, (or four for men and six for women), with two team sports for each gender, and each playing season 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 Division II or Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) or Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division 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 Division II school must not exceed. Division II teams usually feature a number of local or in-state student-athletes. Many Division II student-athletes pay for school through a combination of scholarship money, grants, student loans and employment earnings. Division 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 Division II athletics programs.

Division III

Division 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. Division III athletics features 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. Division III athletics 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. Division III athletics encourages participation by maximizing the number and variety of athletics opportunities available to students, placing primary emphasis on regional in-season and conference competition.


Historical Outline of Multidivision Classification

 

1973

  • Reorganization of the NCAA was approved at the Association's first Special Convention.
  • The membership was divided into three divisions for competition and legislative purposes.
  • An institution in Division II or III may elect to participate in Division I in one sport, other than football or basketball and must abide by the Division I bylaws governing the sport, even though their membership rests in another division.
  • Institutions, which elect Division III, could award any number of grants-in-aid, but athletics ability could not be taken into consideration.

1981

  • Adopted by all divisions to permit a member of Division II or III to petition to be classified in Division I in any one men's sport, other than football or basketball, and in any one women's sport.

1983

  • Adopted by Divisions I and III to require a Division III member institution that has a sport classified in Division I to apply the rules of both divisions to the sport, or the more stringent rule if both divisions have a rule concerning the same topic. The Division III Steering Committee may approve exceptions to the application of the Division III regulations to a sport at an institution that was a member of Division III and had the sport classified in Division I during the 1982-83 academic year.

1985

  • Defeated (approved by Divisions I and II, defeated by Division III; approval by all divisions necessary) to permit a Division II member to petition to be classified in Division III in a sport if there is a Division III championship in that sport, but no Division II championship.
  • Adopted by all divisions to eliminate the opportunities for a Division I member to have a women's sport classified in Division II or III and a Division II member to have a women's sport classified in Division III. Effective September 1, 1986
  • Adopted by all divisions to provide the Division III Steering Committee with the authority to approve exceptions to the Division III financial aid regulations for a sport classified in Division I for one sex at a Division III institution that already has obtained an exception for a sport classified in Division I for the opposite sex.

1987

  • Defeated by all divisions to eliminate multidivision classification of sports for all Division III members and to prohibit Division I and Division II institutions from being classified in football or other sports in Division III.
  • Defeated (defeated by Divisions I and II; no vote declared in Division III, but approval of all divisions necessary) to prohibit Division I and Division II institutions from being classified in football and other sports in Division III.

1991

  • Adopted by all three divisions to prohibit institutions from classifying its women's athletics program in a division other than the institution's membership division and to permit institutions currently using this opportunity to continue to do so, subject to Council review every three years.
  • Adopted by all three divisions to prohibit a Division II or III member institution from classifying its women's basketball program in Division I.
  • Defeated (defeated by Division II; approved by Divisions I and III, but approval of all divisions necessary) to prohibit a Division II or III member institution from being classified in Division I in one sport for men and/or one sport for women, and to permit the Division I Steering Committee and applicable Division I member institutions to approve exceptions to this requirement.
  • Adopted by all three divisions to permit a member institution to petition to be classified in a division other than its membership division in a sport in which the only NCAA Championships opportunity is a National Collegiate Championship for which all divisions are eligible.
  • Adopted by all three divisions to prohibit a member of Division I from being classified in Division II or III in football and to prohibit a member of Division II from being classified in Division III in football. Effective September 1, 1993.

1994

  • Adopted by Divisions I and III to permit a member institution that has a sport classified in Division I to apply the rules of both divisions, or the more stringent rule if both divisions have a rule concerning the same issue except that in either instance, the institution may apply the Division I playing and practice season regulations of Bylaw 17 in the Division I.
  • Staff Interpretation. A Division III institution that conducts a sport classified in Division I and meets the criteria for a waiver per NCAA Bylaw 20.6.1.2.1 (waivers), may not provide athletically related financial aid to a student-athlete in that sport if the student-athlete participated in another sport at that institution during the same academic year.