Division II is a collection of more than 300 NCAA colleges and universities that provide thousands of student-athletes the opportunity to compete at a high level of scholarship athletics while excelling in the classroom and fully engaging in the broader campus experience. This balance, in which student-athletes are recognized for their academic success, athletics contributions and campus/community involvement, is at the heart of the Division II philosophy.
All three NCAA divisions emphasize athletics and academic excellence for their student-athletes; after all, the NCAA’s overall mission is to make athletics an integral part of the educational experience at all member schools. The differences among the divisions emerge primarily in how schools choose to fund their athletics programs and in the national attention they command.
Most Division I institutions, for example, choose to devote more financial resources to support their athletics programs, and many are able to do so because of the large media contracts Division I conferences are able to attract, mostly to showcase the publicly popular sports of football and men’s basketball.
NCAA Division III
More than 180,000 student-athletes at 450 institutions make up Division III, the largest NCAA division both in number of participants and number of schools. The Division III experience offers participation in a competitive athletic environment that pushes student-athletes to excel on the field and build upon their potential by tackling new challenges across campus.
Academics are the primary focus for Division III student-athletes. The division minimizes the conflicts between athletics and academics and helps student-athletes progress toward graduation through shorter practice and playing seasons and regional competition that reduces time away from academic studies. Participants are integrated on campus and treated like all other members of the student body, keeping them focused on being a student first.
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., is a governing body of small athletics programs that are dedicated to character-driven intercollegiate athletics. Since 1937, the NAIA has administered programs and championships in proper balance with the overall college educational experience. The student-athlete is the center of all NAIA experiences. Each year more than 60,000 student-athletes have the opportunity to play college sports at NAIA member institutions.