In sports, a division is a group of teams who compete against each other for a championship.
In sports using a league system (also known as a pyramid structure), a division consists of a group of teams who play a sport at a similar competitive level. Teams can move up to a higher division of play or drop down to a lower one via the process of promotion and relegation, based on their performance in the standings at the end of the season. The existence of divisions based on level of competition ensures that teams at one competitive level can play other teams at a similar competitive level, thus creating parity and more exciting matches.
In North America, where sports usually operate on a franchise system rather than a league system, a division is a group of teams within a league which is organized along geographical lines rather than competitive success. Teams based in cities that are in a particular region of the continent are grouped together in the same division. For instance, in Major League Baseball, both the American and National Leagues have East, Central, and West divisions; the teams in each division are mostly (but not always) located in the eastern, central, and western sections of North America respectively. In a franchise system, teams are not promoted or relegated as are teams in a league system. All teams in the league (and by extension, the divisions of the league) are at the same competitive level and remain so year after year.
North American professional sports leagues often construct their season schedules in a way such that teams in a division play matches against each other more often than other teams in the league. This not only has the effect of reducing travel costs, but also creates exciting rivalries between the teams in the division. Moreover, the top teams in a division qualify for the postseason playoff tournament that crowns the league champion, which heightens the rivalries between the teams in a division.
Geographically-based divisions can become skewed if an expansion team joins the league or if one of the franchises within a division moves to another city, necessitating a shuffling or realignment of the teams in a division. Furthermore, the results of the realignment may not always reflect geographical realities. For instance, in 1995, the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League (NFL) moved to St. Louis, Missouri and became the St. Louis Rams. The team retained its place in the NFC West division despite the fact that St. Louis is further east than Dallas, Texas, home of the Dallas Cowboys. Although Dallas is located in the south-central United States, the Cowboys are a member of the NFC East division due to their long-standing rivalries with the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and Washington Commanders, all of whom are located on the Eastern seaboard.
In U.S. college sports, a "division" has a meaning different from either sense listed above, although somewhat closer to that of the league system.
The major governing bodies for college sports, the NCAA and NAIA, divide their member schools into large competitive groups. These groups are much larger than divisions in either the league or franchise system—for example, the NCAA's highest competitive level, Division I, has more than 300 member schools. The vast majority of teams are members of conferences, smaller groupings that usually have between 6 and 14 members. Conference champions, plus selected other teams, compete in national championship tournaments (with the exception of schools in the highest level of NCAA (American) football, which have never had an NCAA-recognized national championship).
As an example, the NCAA is split into three divisions:
The term division is also used in US college sports to indicate the groupings of members of a given conference. However, this usage is more recent. The first conference to divide its teams into divisions was the Southeastern Conference which, upon expanding to 12 members in 1992, divided into Eastern and Western divisions. Other conferences have undergone similar expansion and division. The usage in the section above is still maintained. For example, the Georgia Bulldogs are in Division I, but are also in the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference.
The Big Ten Conference is the oldest Division I collegiate athletic conference in the United States. It is based in Rosemont, Illinois. For many decades this conference consisted of ten universities, and presently has 14 members and two affiliate institutions. They compete in the NCAA Division I; its football teams compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A, the highest level of NCAA competition in that sport. The conference includes the flagship public university in each of 11 states stretching from New Jersey to Nebraska, as well as two additional public land-grant schools and a private university.
The Big 12 Conference is a college athletic conference headquartered in Irving, Texas, USA. It consists of ten full-member universities. It is a member of Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for all sports. Its football teams compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision, the higher of two levels of NCAA Division I football competition. Its 10 members, in the states of Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia, include eight public and two private Christian universities. Additionally, the Big 12 has 12 affiliate members — eight for the sport of wrestling, one for women's equestrianism, one for women's gymnastics and two for women's rowing. The Big 12 Conference is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The Big 12 Conference commissioner is Bob Bowlsby.
The Atlantic 10 Conference (A-10) is a collegiate athletic conference whose schools compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) Division I. The A-10's member schools are located in states mostly on the United States Eastern Seaboard, as well as some in the Midwest: Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Ohio, and Missouri as well as in the District of Columbia. Although some of its members are state-funded, half of its membership is made up of private, Catholic institutions. Despite the name, there are 14 full-time members, and two affiliate members that participate in women's field hockey only. The current commissioner is Bernadette McGlade, who began her tenure in 2008.
The Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) is a collegiate athletic conference which operates in the Midwestern and Southeastern United States. It participates in Division I of the NCAA; the conference's football programs compete in the Football Championship Subdivision, the lower of two levels of Division I football competition. The OVC has 10 members, 7 of which compete in football in the conference.
The Patriot League is a collegiate athletic conference comprising private institutions of higher education and two United States service academies based in the Northeastern United States. Outside the Ivy League, it is among the most selective groups of higher education institutions in NCAA Division I, and has a very high student-athlete graduation rate for both the NCAA graduation success rate and the federal graduation rate.
The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) is a collegiate athletic conference that participates in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II level. The conference is currently composed of 17 full-time members within Pennsylvania and 1 in West Virginia. The conference headquarters are located in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania and staffed by a commissioner, two assistant commissioners, and a director of media relations.
In North American sports, realignment refers to a major change in the competitive structure of one or more existing leagues. The mechanics differ somewhat between amateur and professional sports.
NCAA Division I (D-I) is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States, which accepts players globally. D-I schools include the major collegiate athletic powers, with larger budgets, more elaborate facilities and more athletic scholarships than Divisions II and III as well as many smaller schools committed to the highest level of intercollegiate competition.
NCAA Division III (DIII) is a division of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States. DIII consists of athletic programs at colleges and universities that choose not to offer athletic scholarships to their student-athletes.
NCAA Division II (D-II) is an intermediate-level division of competition in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). It offers an alternative to both the larger and better-funded Division I and to the scholarship-free environment offered in Division III.
The National Football Conference – Northern Division or NFC North is one of the four divisions of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL). Nicknamed the "Black and Blue Division" for the rough and tough rivalry games between the teams, it currently has four members: the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and Minnesota Vikings. The NFC North was previously known as the NFC Central from 1970 to 2001. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were previously members, from 1977, one year after they joined the league as an expansion team, until 2002 when they moved to the NFC South.
The National Football Conference – Eastern Division or NFC East is one of the four divisions of the National Football Conference (NFC) in the National Football League (NFL). It currently has four members: the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Washington Commanders.
An athletic conference is a collection of sports teams, playing competitively against each other in a sports league. In many cases conferences are subdivided into smaller divisions, with the best teams competing at successively higher levels. Conferences often, but not always, include teams from a common geographic region.
Athletes and sports teams from North Carolina compete at every level of competition in the United States including NASCAR Cup Series races, the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), the National Hockey League (NHL), Major League Soccer (MLS), National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), leagues operated by the United Soccer League organization, and Major League Lacrosse (MLL), along with several colleges and universities in various conferences across an array of divisions. North Carolina also has many minor league baseball teams. There are also a number of indoor football, indoor soccer, minor league basketball, and minor league ice hockey teams throughout the state. For sport amateurs, the state holds the State Games of North Carolina each year.
The Lafayette Leopards represent the 23 Division I varsity athletic teams of Lafayette College and compete in the Patriot League. There are 11 men's teams, 11 women's teams, and one co-ed team. The club teams also compete as the Leopards. Though not a varsity sport, crew and ice hockey are very competitive at Lafayette and play in intercollegiate club leagues.
The NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A, is the highest level of college football in the United States. The FBS consists of the largest schools in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). As of 2020, there are 10 conferences and 130 schools in FBS.
The Southern Jaguars and Lady Jaguars represent Southern University in NCAA intercollegiate athletics. Southern University's 13 athletic teams participate in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) which is a part of the NCAA Division I. Football participates in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Texas is home of several national sports league franchises among other professional sports, being the second most populated U.S. state. Since the state is located in the South Central United States, most teams are part of the Central / South or West league divisions, with the notable exception of the NFL Dallas Cowboys, which is an NFC East franchise.
The United States ice hockey structure includes elements from traditional American scholastic high school and college athletics, affiliated and independent minor leagues, the unique "major junior" leagues, as well as other various amateur junior and youth hockey leagues. The hierarchy of the ice hockey league system forms a pyramid with many regional minor and development leagues making up the base of the pyramid and a linear progression through the professional minor leagues leading to the National Hockey League at the top of the pyramid.
The American Athletic Conference is an American collegiate athletic conference, featuring 11 member universities and five affiliate member universities that compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) Division I, with its football teams competing in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). Member universities represent a range of private and public universities of various enrollment sizes located primarily in urban metropolitan areas in the Northeastern, Midwestern, and Southern regions of the United States.