Founded more than one hundred years ago as a way to protect student-athletes, the NCAA continues to implement that principle with increased emphasis on both athletics and academic excellence.
The NCAA is made up of three membership classifications that are known as Divisions I, II and III. Each division creates its own rules governing personnel, amateurism, recruiting, eligibility, benefits, financial aid, and playing and practice seasons – consistent with the overall governing principles of the Association. Every program must affiliate its core program with one of the three divisions.
When young people join the ranks of the more than 400,000 NCAA student-athletes, they will discover the many benefits of college sports, most of which are off the field. Independent research confirms what those of us who love sports hold true; participation as a student-athlete leads to better grades and graduation rates, higher self-esteem and more fulfilling preparation for life. The power of intercollegiate athletics in preparing leaders is, without a doubt, the reason this enterprise has lasted more than 100 years.
Intercollegiate athletics provides access to education for student-athletes who may otherwise face limited opportunities to obtain a college degree. More than 13 percent of current student-athletes are in the first generation of their families to attend college. And that’s important because obtaining a bachelor’s degree can increase lifetime professional earnings by $1 million or more compared to those with only a high school diploma. Former student-athletes have told us their participation in college sports was vital in preparing them for life after graduation. Intercollegiate athletics shapes tomorrow’s lawyers, doctors, engineers and military leaders as well as the next generation of educators.
As I interact with student-athletes, they consistently tell me there is one thing driving them to succeed: their passion for the game. At the NCAA and its member institutions, it must be our passion for the enterprise of intercollegiate athletics – and the benefits it provides student-athletes– that drives us to excellence.