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More college students than ever before are student-athletes

New data show a record 499,217 men and women now compete in NCAA championship sports

More female student-athletes. More male student-athletes. More women’s teams. More men’s teams.

The annual NCAA participation rates study released today shows a record-high number of college students are taking part in NCAA sports. It also reveals colleges and universities continue to expand opportunities for their students to compete.

The number of student-athletes participating in NCAA championship sports across all three divisions climbed to 499,217 in 2018-19, the 17th consecutive year that number has grown. Meanwhile, student-athletes competed on a record-high 19,886 teams during the last school year.

“It is gratifying to see the number of students who represent their schools as college athletes continue to increase,” said Donald Remy, NCAA chief operating officer. “Our member schools strive to create these life-changing opportunities for as many students as possible.” 

More men than women compete in NCAA championship sports, though the gap did narrow marginally in 2018-19. Men continue to make up 56% of college athletes, compared with women’s 44%.

The number of student-athletes was up in each division for both men and women. Among the NCAA’s three divisions, Division I is closest to reaching gender parity, according to the new data. Among the 182,681 student-athletes competing in Division I championship sports, 47% are women and 53% are men.

Men make up 58% of the 122,722 Division II college athletes, while 42% are women. In Division III, 58% of the division’s 193,814 student-athletes are men, compared with 42% for women.

For the second consecutive year, in addition to its standard NCAA Sport Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report, NCAA research is releasing the data in an interactive dashboard that allows users to dissect data by sport, gender, year and other characteristics.

The number of men’s teams nationwide increased by 67 last year, while women’s teams increased by 74. Women’s teams have outnumbered men’s teams since 1996-97, when women inched ahead for the first time, with 7,618 teams to the men’s 7,608. Today, 10,660 women’s teams compete in NCAA championship sports, compared with 9,226 men’s teams.

The NCAA has tracked the data since the 1981-82 academic year, the first year in which the NCAA offered championships in women’s sports. The number of student-athletes competing in college sports has more than doubled since that year.