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.
The NCAA is a member association composed mostly of higher education institutions. Each member school is able to choose a level of competition that best fits its mission. Competition is offered in Division I (the largest programs that provide the most athletically related financial aid for student-athletes), Division II (limited financial aid) and Division III (no athletically related financial aid).
There are 1,066 active member schools in the NCAA membership – 340 in Division I, 290 in Division II and 436 in Division III. The NCAA also contains 95 member conferences in all three divisions. Overall membership – counting schools, conferences and related associations – is 1,273.
Division I is subdivided based on football affiliation. A total of 120 schools are members of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). That subdivision is characterized by postseason play outside the NCAA structure and also by higher financial aid allocations. The second Division I subdivision is the Football Championship Subdivision, which contains 122 schools that participate in the NCAA’s Division I Football Championship. The remaining 98 Division I schools do not sponsor football.
The NCAA is a presidentially led organization. The Executive Committee is responsible for hiring and evaluating the NCAA president, for budgetary oversight and for establishing Association-wide policy. Presidential groups also lead each division in the form of the Division I Board of Directors, the Division II Presidents Council and the Division III Presidents Council.
Athletics administrative professionals, faculty athletics representatives and student-athlete representatives compose an extensive committee structure that examines issues and makes legislative and policy recommendations to leadership groups.
In Division I, the Board of Directors is authorized to adopt or modify legislation (provisions exist for membership review under certain conditions). Divisions II and III consider legislation on a one-school/one-vote basis each January. All legislation is contained in the Divisions I, II and III Manuals.
The NCAA administers 89 national championships in 23 sports. In addition, the Association administers regulations that govern recruiting, eligibility, financial aid and benefits, among other things. The NCAA also establishes rules of play in most sports.
More than 430,000 student-athletes participate in NCAA sports: