The NCAA Division III membership process is an interactive multi-year progression that prepares candidate institutions for membership as successful Division III athletics programs. The five-year process is comprised of one exploratory year of membership and four years of provisional/reclassifying membership, and includes educational and operational benchmarks that introduce institutions to the Division III philosophy and the best practices of model Division III institutions.
Within the membership process, the institutional class size is limited to an average of four institutions per class year. Institutions that wish to become members of Division III as new members of the NCAA or as members who are reclassifying their existing NCAA membership from a different division begin by applying to the exploratory phase of the process.; Those institutions that are accepted to the exploratory class participate in an orientation program that familiarizes them with the structure of the NCAA and Division III, the Division III philosophy and Division III rules and regulations. Exploratory institutions are also assigned a mentor to answer questions and provide feedback. Those exploratory members who apply and are accepted to provisional/reclassifying membership commence with the four-year transitional process the following academic year.
Institutions that enter into provisional/reclassifying membership in Division III are assessed annual Division III membership dues, a program fee and are expected to comply with Division III legislation from the very start of the process, and also have several requirements that must be met on an annual basis, including, but not limited to:
- Attendance at special provisional/reclassifying member programming at the NCAA Convention;
- Attendance at the NCAA Regional Rules Seminars; and
- Submission of an Annual Report of the institution's progress, triumphs and challenges as they go through the membership process.
In addition, on one occasion during the provisional/reclassifying membership process, the provisional /reclassifying institution's faculty athletics representative, senior woman administrator and the individual to whom the athletics department directly reports are each required to complete professional development requirements. Provisional/reclassifying member institutions are reviewed annually by the Membership Committee and are either recommended to the Division III Management and Presidents Councils for promotion to the next year of the membership process or asked to repeat the current year of the membership process. An institution is permitted to repeat a membership year only once within the membership process.
During the first year of provisional/reclassifying membership, a delegation from the Division III Membership Committee conducts a fall visit on the candidate institution's campus to review the institution's facilities and organizational structure and provide feedback and suggestions to the institution. During this year the institution also completes and submits the Institutional Self-Study Guide (ISSG), a comprehensive self-analysis of how the institution conducts its athletics program.
The second and third years of the provisional/reclassifying membership process involve interactive video conferences where the provisional/reclassifying institution's athletics and administrative staff and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee representatives discuss their progress and any questions with NCAA membership liaisons, as well as receive continuing rules education and updates on issues that are of priority to Division III.
At the conclusion of the final year of the provisional/reclassifying membership process, the Membership Committee evaluates candidate institutions for recommendation to the Division III Management and Presidents Councils for full membership in Division III.