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 Committee on Women’s Athletics (CWA) is charged with identifying and managing progress of emerging sports for women.
Financial aid legislation and minimum contests and participants required for sports sponsorships applicable to emerging sports programs become effective.
Coaching limits and playing and practice legislation for emerging sports become effective. Institutions that sponsor an emerging sport must be in full compliance with all remaining NCAA legislation. [NOTE Per NCAA Bylaw 14.01.6.2, the initial-, continuing- and general-eligibility legislation is only effective for student-athletes first entering the collegiate institution on or after August 1, 1996.]
Women’s water polo was removed from the list of emerging sports and the Association sponsored a national collegiate championship in that sport.
Division III established women’s ice hockey as a divisional championship. Division I and II still participate in a national collegiate championship.
The women’s rowing national collegiate championship was reclassified and divisional championships were established for Divisions I, II and III.
When the NCAA adopted the recommendations of the Gender-Equity Task Force in 1994, one of the recommendations was the creation of the list of emerging sports for women. Nine sports were on that first list. In the past 17 years, some have become championship sports (rowing, ice hockey, water polo and bowling), while others have been added to or removed from the list. Bylaws require that emerging sports must gain championship status (minimum 40 varsity NCAA programs or 28 division III varsity programs for a division III only championship) within 10 years or show steady progress toward that goal to remain on the list.
Institutions are allowed to use emerging sports to help meet the membership minimum sports sponsorship requirements and, in Divisions I and II, minimum financial aid requirements. Sports do not have to be NCAA championship or emerging sports to be varsity, nor does such status mean the institution's conduct of the sport meets Office for Civil Rights or Title IX standards for varsity sports.
In the years since the emerging-sports list was created, four have earned full-fledged championship status. Women’s rowing, which became a National Collegiate championship in 1997 and split into championships for each division in 2002, has seen the most growth — and had the longest time to see the impact of NCAA recognition. Women’s ice hockey and women’s water polo, which both earned NCAA championship status in the 2000-01 season, have experienced growth, too. Women’s bowling, a championship sport since 2003-04, is expected to see sponsorship numbers rise even higher in the upcoming season. Each of those sports has grown and succeeded uniquely.