Continuing their sport in college is a dream for many athletes, but there are various levels at which these athletes can perform that some might not be aware of. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) separates colleges by their level and resources to create a system where competitors are given equal opportunity by competing against those with similar resources. There are three divisions:
NCAA Division I
Division I includes the largest universities and colleges (358), and, on average, is the strongest athletically. Due to their size, these colleges are able to offer the best packages, allowing for the most scholarship money with the exception of the Ivy League schools. The majority of professional athletes participate in this division, which contains all of the major sports conferences including the SEC, Big 10, Pac 12 and ACC. These organizations within Division I are so lucrative it is possible for a team, such as the Texas A&M football team, to be valued at $147 million.
NCAA Division II
Smaller universities are in this program, with this division having the least number of member schools in total with 306. While they still offer scholarships, there are fewer available and partial are more common than full, emphasized by a lower budget and the regional competitions compared to Division I’s national competitions.
NCAA Division III
As the largest of all NCAA divisions, these schools (438) are, on average, the smallest in student enrollment, private, and have the least commitment for their athletes, with few competitions, less travel and shorter practice hours. Unlike Division I, Division III cannot award athletic scholarships to its athletes, forcing them to use other methods like financial aid to substantiate the cost. Colleges within this division focus less on profit and spectators, and more on the individual athletes.