College Athletics Organizations

You may have heard or are familiar with the NCAA, but do you know what it stands for and what they are all about? Did you know that there are other college athletic organizations out there as well? Let’s take a closer look at these organizations to better understand what they have to offer.


National Collegiate Athletic Association
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the largest and most known college athletic association. It was established in 1906 and serves as the athletics governing body for more than 1,280 colleges, universities, conferences and organizations. The Association develops and enforces the rules and guidelines for athletics eligibility and athletics competition for the three NCAA divisions.

Division I schools are typically the nation’s biggest and best colleges. The schools must have at least seven sports for men and seven for women (or six for men and eight for women) with two team sports for each gender. There must be teams for both men and women during each playing season. Men’s and Women’s Soccer Teams must play the minimum number of games against another Division 1 team. Anything over the minimum number of games has to be 50 percent Division I. Division I schools must meet minimum financial aid awards for their athletics program, and there are maximum financial aid awards for each sport that a Division I school cannot exceed.

Division II includes many smaller colleges and universities. The schools need to have at least five sports for men and five for women, (or four for men and six for women), with two team sports for each gender, and each playing season represented by each gender. There are game and roster minimums for each sport, as well as scheduling criteria. There are maximum financial aid awards for each sport that a school cannot exceed. Division II teams usually feature a number of local or in-state student-athletes. Many Division II student-athletes pay for school through a combination of scholarship money, grants, student loans and employment earnings. Division II athletics programs are financed in the institution’s budget like other academic departments on campus. Traditional rivalries with regional institutions dominate schedules of many Division II athletics programs.

Division III schools must have at least five sports for men and five for women, with two team sports for each gender, and each season needs to have teams for both men and women. There are game and roster minimums for each sport. Division III athletics receive no financial aid related to their athletic ability and athletics departments are staffed and funded like any other department in the university. Instead, many schools take a different approach to recruiting students, and being an athlete at Division III might increase your chances of receiving other forms of financial aid. Division III athletics departments place special importance on the impact of athletics on the participants rather than on the spectators. Division III athletics encourages participation by maximizing the number and variety of athletics opportunities available to students, placing primary emphasis on regional in-season and conference competition.

For more information on NCAA visit their website at www.ncaa.org.

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), while smaller than the NCAA, has 25 conferences in 14 regions across the U.S. and Canada, which includes 300 colleges and universities. NAIA schools offer four-year colleges and universities with small class sizes and smaller campus communities, the flexibility to transfer without missing a season of eligibility, fewer recruiting restrictions than the NCAA, and 90% of schools offer scholarships. The level of play is similar to the NCAA’s Division II. For more information on NAIA visit their website at www.naia.org.

National Junior College Athletic Association
Junior colleges within the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) are a great way to get started with your college experience. You have the opportunity to transfer to a four-year college or university without missing a season of eligibility. Many college coaches look for players in junior colleges to complete their teams. For more information on NJCAA visit their website at www.njcaa.org.

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