NCAA Division I

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NCAA Division I logo NCAA DI logo c.svg
NCAA Division I logo

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 large 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.

Contents

This level was previously called the University Division of the NCAA, in contrast to the lower-level College Division; these terms were replaced with numeric divisions in 1973. The University Division was renamed Division I, while the College Division was split in two; the College Division members that offered scholarships or wanted to compete against those who did became Division II, while those who did not want to offer scholarships became Division III. [1]

For college football only, D-I schools are further divided into the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), and those institutions that do not have any football program. FBS teams have higher game attendance requirements and more players receiving athletic scholarships than FCS teams. The FBS is named for its series of postseason bowl games, with various polls ranking teams after the conclusion of these games, while the FCS national champion is determined by a multi-team bracket tournament.

For the 2020–21 school year, Division I contained 357 of the NCAA's 1,066 member institutions, with 130 in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), 127 in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), and 100 non-football schools, with six additional schools in the transition from Division II to Division I. [2] [3] There was a moratorium on any additional movement up to D-I until 2012, after which any school that wants to move to D-I must be accepted for membership by a conference and show the NCAA it has the financial ability to support a D-I program.

D-I schools

Schools must field teams in at least seven sports for men and seven for women or six for men and eight for women, with at least two team sports for each gender. [4] [5] Teams that include both men and women are counted as men's sports for the purposes of sponsorship counting. [4] 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. [6] Several other NCAA sanctioned minimums and differences distinguish Division I from Divisions II and III. [5] Members must sponsor at least one sport (not necessarily a team sport) for each sex in each playing season (fall, winter, spring), again with coeducational teams counted as men's teams for this purpose. [7] There are contest and participant minimums for each sport, as well as scheduling criteria. For sports other than football and basketball, Division I schools must play all the minimum number of contests against Division I opponents—anything over the minimum number of games has to be 50 percent Division I. Men's and women's basketball teams have to play all but two games against Division I teams; for men, they must play one-third of all their contests in the home arena. [8]

In addition to the schools that compete fully as D-I institutions, the NCAA allows D-II and D-III schools to classify one men's and one women's sport (other than football or basketball) as a D-I sport, as long as they sponsored those sports before the latest rules change in 2011. [9] Also, Division II schools are eligible to compete for Division I national championships in sports that do not have a Division II national championship, and in those sports may also operate under D-I rules and scholarship limits. [10]

FBS and FCS

For football only, Division I was further subdivided in 1978 into Division I-A (the principal football schools), Division I-AA (the other schools with football teams), and Division I (those schools not sponsoring football). [11] [12] In 2006, Division I-A and I-AA were renamed " Football Bowl Subdivision " (FBS) and " Football Championship Subdivision " (FCS), respectively.

FBS teams are allowed a maximum of 85 players receiving athletically based aid per year, with each player on scholarship receiving a full scholarship. FCS teams have the same 85-player limit as FBS teams, but are allowed to give aid equivalent to only 63 full scholarships. FCS teams are allowed to award partial scholarships, a practice technically allowed but essentially never used at the FBS level. FBS teams also have to meet minimum game attendance requirements (average 15,000 people in actual or paid attendance per home game), while FCS teams do not need to meet minimum attendance requirements.

Another difference is postseason play. Since 1978, FCS teams have played in an NCAA-sanctioned bracket tournament culminating in a title game, the NCAA Division I Football Championship, to determine a national champion. Meanwhile, FBS teams play in bowl games, with various polls ranking teams after the conclusion of these games, yielding a Consensus National Champion annually since 1950. Starting with the 2014 postseason, a four-team College Football Playoff has been contested, replacing a one-game championship format that had started during the 1992 postseason with the Bowl Coalition. Even so, Division I FBS football remains the only NCAA sport in which a yearly champion is not determined by an NCAA-sanctioned championship event.

Finances

Division I athletic programs generated $8.7 billion in revenue in the 2009–2010 academic year. Men's teams provided 55%, women's teams 15%, and 30% was not categorized by sex or sport. Football and men's basketball are usually a university's only profitable sports, [13] and are called "revenue sports". [14] From 2008 to 2012, 205 varsity teams were dropped in NCAA Division I 72 for women and 133 for men, with men's tennis, gymnastics and wrestling hit particularly hard. [15]

In the Football Bowl Subdivision (130 schools in 2017), between 50 and 60 percent of football and men's basketball programs generated positive revenues (above program expenses). [16] However, in the Football Championship Subdivision (124 schools in 2017), only four percent of football and five percent of men's basketball programs generated positive revenues. [17]

In 2012, 2% of athletic budgets were spent on equipment, uniforms and supplies for male athletes at NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision school, with the median spending per-school at $742,000. [18]

In 2014, the NCAA and the student athletes debated whether student athletes should be paid. In April, the NCAA approved students-athletes getting free unlimited meals and snacks. The NCAA stated "The adoption of the meals legislation finished a conversation that began in the Awards, Benefits, Expenses and Financial Aid Cabinet. Members have worked to find appropriate ways to ensure student-athletes get the nutrition they need without jeopardizing Pell Grants or other federal aid received by the neediest student-athletes. With their vote, members of the council said they believe loosening NCAA rules on what and when food can be provided from athletics departments is the best way to address the issue." [19]

According to the finance section of the NCAA page, "The NCAA receives most of its annual revenue from two sources: television and marketing rights for the Division I Men’s Basketball Championship and ticket sales for all championships. That money is distributed in more than a dozen ways — almost all of which directly support NCAA schools, conferences and nearly half a million student-athletes. About 60% of the NCAA’s annual revenue — around $600 million — is annually distributed directly to Division I member schools and conferences, while more than $150 million funds Division I championships" (NCAA 2021).

https://www.ncaa.org/finances

Football conferences

Under NCAA regulations, all Division I conferences defined as "multisport conferences" must meet the following criteria: [20]

FBS conferences

FBS conferences must meet a more stringent set of requirements for NCAA recognition than other conferences: [21]

ConferenceNicknameFoundedMembersSportsHeadquartersTotal
NCAA
Titles
Men's
NCAA
Titles
Women's
NCAA
Titles
Co-ed
NCAA
Titles
American Athletic ConferenceThe American1979 [lower-alpha 1] 11 [lower-alpha 2] [lower-alpha 3] [lower-alpha 4] 22 Irving, Texas 55 37180
Atlantic Coast ConferenceACC195315 [lower-alpha 5] 27 [lower-alpha 6] Greensboro, North Carolina 150 87585
Big Ten ConferenceBig Ten189614 [lower-alpha 7] [lower-alpha 8] 28 Rosemont, Illinois 317 2297216
Big 12 ConferenceBig 12199610 [lower-alpha 9] [lower-alpha 10] 21 Irving, Texas 166 16330
Conference USAC-USA1995 [lower-alpha 11] 11 [lower-alpha 12] [lower-alpha 13] 18 Dallas, Texas 1 100
Division I FBS Independents [lower-alpha 14] --7 [lower-alpha 15] 1-
Mid-American ConferenceMAC194612 [lower-alpha 16] 24 [lower-alpha 17] Cleveland, Ohio 4400
Mountain West ConferenceMW199911 [lower-alpha 18] [lower-alpha 19] 19 Colorado Springs, Colorado 21 1353
Pac-12 ConferencePac-121915 [lower-alpha 20] 12 [lower-alpha 21] [lower-alpha 22] 24 San Francisco, California 501 30917418
Southeastern ConferenceSEC193214 [lower-alpha 23] 20 Birmingham, Alabama 223 1181041
Sun Belt ConferenceSBC197614 [lower-alpha 24] 18 [lower-alpha 25] New Orleans, Louisiana 12 1200

"Power Five" conferences with guaranteed berths in the New Year's Six, the bowl games associated with the College Football Playoff
"Group of Five" conferences

Notes
  1. The conference was founded in 1979 as the original Big East Conference. It renamed itself the American Athletic Conference following a 2013 split along football lines. The non-FBS schools of the original conference left to form a new conference that purchased the Big East name, while the FBS schools continued to operate under the old Big East's charter and structure. The American also inherited the old Big East's Bowl Championship Series berth for the 2013 season, the last for the BCS.
  2. 14 members in 2023 with the following changes:
  3. 10 of the 11 full members sponsor football, with Wichita State as the only non-football member. Wichita State will remain the only non-football member after the 2023 membership changes.
  4. In addition to the full members, nine schools have single-sport associate membership, and three are members in two sports. Five of the current associates (three single-sport, two multi-sport) will become full members in 2023.
    • Navy is a football-only member.
    • Future full members Charlotte and UAB are men's soccer members in 2022–23.
    • Florida, James Madison, and Vanderbilt are members in women's lacrosse.
    • Future full member Florida Atlantic, plus FIU, are members in men's soccer and women's swimming & diving. FIU will remain an associate after FAU joins The American full-time.
    • Sacramento State is a member in women's rowing.
    • Future full members North Texas and Rice are members in women's swimming & diving in 2022–23, though Rice fields only swimmers and no divers.
    • Old Dominion is a member in both women's lacrosse and women's rowing.
  5. Notre Dame is a full member except in football, in which it remains independent. It has committed to play five games each season against ACC opponents, and to play each other ACC member at least once every three years.
  6. 28 sports in 2023 with addition of women's gymnastics.
  7. 16 members in 2024 with addition of UCLA and USC.
  8. In addition to the full members, two schools have affiliate membership:
    • Johns Hopkins, otherwise a Division III member, is an affiliate in both men's and women's lacrosse, sports in which the school fields Division I teams.
    • Notre Dame is a men's hockey affiliate.
  9. As many as 14 members in 2023 with addition of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF.
  10. In addition to the full members, the Big 12 has 13 members that participate in only one sport.
  11. The conference was founded in 1995, with football competition starting in 1996.
  12. 9 members in 2023 with the following changes:
    • Loss of Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, North Texas, Rice, UAB, and UTSA.
    • Addition of Jacksonville State, Liberty, New Mexico State, and Sam Houston.
    • 10 members in 2024 with addition of Kennesaw State.
  13. In addition to the full members, Conference USA features six schools that play a single sport in the conference.
  14. Note that "Independents" is not a conference; it is simply a designation used for schools whose football programs do not play in any conference. All of these schools have conference memberships for other sports.
  15. 4 independents in 2023 with BYU joining the Big 12 Conference, and Liberty and New Mexico State joining Conference USA.
  16. In addition to the 12 full members, the Mid-American Conference features 21 single-sport members.
  17. 23 sports in 2023 with dropping of men's soccer.
  18. Since 2012, Hawaiʻi has been a football-only associate member, with most of its remaining teams in the non-football Big West Conference.
  19. In addition to the 11 full members and football affiliate Hawaiʻi, Colorado College, a Division III school with a Division I men's ice hockey team, plays Division I women's soccer in the MW.
  20. The charter of the Pac-12 dates only to the formation of the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU) in 1959. However, the Pac-12 claims the history of the Pacific Coast Conference, which was founded in 1915 and began competition in 1916, as its own. Of the nine members of the PCC at the time of its demise in June 1959, only Idaho never joined the Pac-12. The PCC's berth in the Rose Bowl passed to the AAWU.
  21. 10 members in 2024 with loss of UCLA and USC.
  22. The Pac-12 also includes four associate members, each of which competes in a single sport. San Diego State plays men's soccer, and Cal State Bakersfield, Cal Poly, and Little Rock compete in men's wrestling.
    • San Diego State will add women's lacrosse to its Pac-12 membership in 2023, and UC Davis will also join in that sport in 2023.
  23. 16 members no later than 2025 with addition of Oklahoma and Texas.
  24. In addition to the full members, the SBC has three associate members, all in men's soccer—Kentucky, South Carolina, and West Virginia. UCF will join this group in July 2023.
  25. 20 sports no later than 2023 with addition of beach volleyball and women's swimming & diving.

FCS conferences

ConferenceNicknameFoundedFootball
members
SportsHeadquarters
ASUN Conference ASUN19786 [lower-alpha 1] 21 Atlanta, Georgia
Big Sky Conference Big Sky196312 [lower-alpha 2] 16 Ogden, Utah
Big South Conference Big South19836 [lower-alpha 3] 19 [lower-alpha 4] Charlotte, North Carolina
Colonial Athletic Association CAA197913 [lower-alpha 5] [lower-alpha 6] 21 Richmond, Virginia
Ivy League [lower-alpha 7] 1954833 Princeton, New Jersey
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference [lower-alpha 8] MEAC19706 [lower-alpha 9] 14 Norfolk, Virginia
Missouri Valley Football Conference MVFC198211 [lower-alpha 10] 1 St. Louis, Missouri
Northeast Conference NEC19818 [lower-alpha 11] 24 Somerset, New Jersey
Ohio Valley Conference OVC19487 [lower-alpha 12] [lower-alpha 13] 18 [lower-alpha 14] Brentwood, Tennessee
Patriot League 19867 [lower-alpha 15] 24 Center Valley, Pennsylvania
Pioneer Football League PFL1991111St. Louis, Missouri
Southern Conference SoCon19219 [lower-alpha 16] 20 Spartanburg, South Carolina
Southland Conference [lower-alpha 17] Southland
SLC
19638 [lower-alpha 18] 17 Frisco, Texas
Southwestern Athletic Conference [lower-alpha 19] SWAC19201218 Birmingham, Alabama
Western Athletic Conference WAC19626 [lower-alpha 20] 20 Englewood, Colorado
Notes
  1. Of the 14 full members, five do not sponsor football at all. Liberty plays as an FBS independent before moving to Conference USA in 2023, Stetson plays in the Pioneer Football League, and Bellarmine plays the non-NCAA and weight-restricted variant of sprint football in the Midwest Sprint Football League.
    • 12 full members and 5 football members in 2023 with loss of Jacksonville State and Liberty.
    • 11 full members and 4 football members in 2024 with loss of Kennesaw State.
  2. The football membership consists of all 10 full members plus football-only affiliates Cal Poly and UC Davis.
  3. Of the 10 full Big South members, six do not sponsor football at all, while a seventh (Presbyterian) is a member of the Pioneer Football League. The Big South football league includes three associate members: Bryant, North Carolina A&T, and Robert Morris.
    • The Big South will merge its football league with that of the Ohio Valley Conference in 2023, when Campbell and North Carolina A&T leave for CAA Football (with Campbell also entirely leaving the Big South).
  4. Possibility of 18 sports in 2023, depending on organizational details of the impending Big South–OVC football merger.
  5. Of the 13 full CAA members, five do not sponsor football at all, and North Carolina A&T will not play CAA football until 2023. The CAA football league, officially known as CAA Football and legally a separate entity from the all-sports CAA, includes six schools outside of the all-sports CAA: Albany, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Richmond, and Villanova.
  6. 14 full members and 15 football members in 2023 with Campbell joining both sides of the league and North Carolina A&T joining CAA Football.
  7. The Ivy League abstains from the championship tournament and all postseason play.
  8. The MEAC champion, since 2015, forgoes its automatic bid to allow its champion to participate in the Celebration Bowl. Non-champions are eligible for at-large bids (an example being North Carolina A&T in 2016).
  9. Of the 8 full MEAC members, two do not sponsor football: Coppin State and Maryland Eastern Shore.
  10. 12 members in 2023 with addition of Murray State.
  11. Of the 9 full NEC members, two do not sponsor football. The seven football-sponsoring schools are joined by associate member Duquesne.
  12. Of the 10 full OVC members, Little Rock, SIU Edwardsville, and Southern Indiana do not sponsor football, while Morehead State competes in the Pioneer Football League. Murray State, which left the OVC in 2022, is a football associate in the 2022 season before joining the MVFC in 2023.
  13. The OVC will merge its football league with that of the Big South Conference in 2023.
  14. Possibility of 17 sports in 2023, depending on organizational details of the impending Big South–OVC football merger.
  15. Of the 10 full Patriot members, American, Boston University, and Loyola (MD) do not sponsor football, while Army and Navy play FBS football. The five full members that play Patriot League football are joined by associates Fordham and Georgetown.
  16. Of the 10 full SoCon members, only UNC Greensboro does not sponsor football.
  17. The Southland Conference has announced its plan to adopt a new name in the near future, most likely after the 2022–23 school year.
  18. Of the 10 full Southland members, two do not sponsor football: New Orleans and Texas A&M–Corpus Christi.
  19. The SWAC abstains from the championship tournament to allow for a longer regular season, an in-conference championship game and the winner participating in the Celebration Bowl. If a team is not in the championship game and not playing a regular season game on the 1st weekend of the FCS Playoffs. They could qualify for a At-Large bid to play if selected.
  20. Of the 13 full WAC members, California Baptist, Grand Canyon, Seattle, UT Arlington, Utah Valley, and UTRGV do not sponsor football at all, while New Mexico State plays as an FBS independent.
    • 11 full members and 4 football members in 2023 with loss of New Mexico State and Sam Houston.
    • 5 football members no later than 2025 with UTRGV adding football.

Sports

Men's team sports

No.SportFoundedTeams [22] Conf.Scholarships
per team
SeasonMost
Championships
1 Football 1869 (FBS) [23]
1978 (FCS) [24]
257
(130 FBS,
127 FCS)
24
(10 FBS,
14 FCS)
85 (FBS)
63.0 (FCS)
Fall Princeton (28)
2 Basketball 1939 [25] 3513213Winter UCLA (11)
3 Baseball 1947 [26] 2993011.7Spring USC (12)
4 Soccer 1959 [27] 20423{9.9Fall Saint Louis (10)
5 Ice hockey 1948 [28] 61618.0Winter Michigan (9)
6 Lacrosse 1971 [29] 741012.6Spring Syracuse (10)
7 Volleyball 1970 [30] 2954.5Spring UCLA (19)
8 Water polo 1969 [31] 2544.5Fall California (14)

Sports are ranked according to total possible scholarships (number of teams x number of scholarships per team). Scholarship numbers for head-count sports are indicated without a decimal point. Numbers for equivalency sports are indicated with a decimal point, with a trailing zero if needed.

Notes:

The NCAA officially classifies the men's championships in volleyball and water polo as "National Collegiate" championships, that being the designation for championships that are open to members of more than one NCAA division. The ice hockey championship, however, is styled as a "Division I" championship because of the previous existence of a separate Division II championship in that sport.

Men's individual sports

The following table lists the men's individual D-I sports with at least 1,000 participating athletes. Sports are ranked by number of athletes.

No.SportFoundedTeams (2022) [33] Teams (1982) [33] ChangeAthletes [33] Season
1Track (outdoor)1921 [34] 287230+5711,387Spring
2Track (indoor)1965 [35] 264209+5510,369Winter
3Cross country1938 [36] 315256+595,032Fall
4Swimming & diving1937 [37] 130181–513,826Winter
5Golf1939 [38] 292263+292,958Spring
6Wrestling1928 [39] 76146–702,665Winter
7Tennis1946 [40] 233267–342,293Spring

D-I college wrestling has lost almost half of its programs since 1982. [41]

Women's team sports

No.SportFoundedTeams [33] Conf.Scholarships
per team
SeasonMost Championships
1 Basketball 1982 3483215Winter UConn (11)
2 Soccer 1982 3353114.0Fall North Carolina (21)
3 Volleyball 1981 3323212*Fall Stanford (9)
4 Softball 1982 2933212.0Spring UCLA (12)
5 Rowing 1997 871220.0Spring Brown (7)
6 Lacrosse 1982 1191312.0Spring Maryland (14)
7 Field hockey 1981 771012.0Fall Old Dominion (9)
8 Ice hockey 2001 34518.0Winter Minnesota, Wisconsin (6)
9 Beach volleyball 2016 6256.0*Spring USC (4)
10 Water polo 2001 3468.0Spring Stanford (8)
Notes

Women's individual sports

The following table lists the women's individual D-I sports with at least 1,000 participating athletes. Sports are ranked by number of athletes.

No.SportTeams (2022) [33] Teams (1982) [33] ChangeAthletes [33] Season
1Track (outdoor)339180+15913,672Spring
2Track (indoor)331127+20413,404Winter
3Cross country347183+1645,896Fall
4Swimming & diving190161+295,886Winter
5Tennis300246+542,817Spring
6Golf26283+1792,229Spring
7Gymnastics6199–381,258Winter

Broadcasting and revenue

NCAA Division I schools have broadcasting contracts that showcase their more popular sports — typically football and men's basketball — on network television and in basic cable channels. These contracts can be quite lucrative, particularly for D-I schools from the biggest conferences. For example, the Big Ten conference in 2016 entered into contracts with Fox and ESPN that pay the conference $2.64 billion over six years.

The NCAA also holds certain TV contracts. For example, the NCAA's contract to show the men's basketball championship tournament (widely known as March Madness) is currently under a 14-year deal with CBS and Turner that runs from 2010 to 2024 and pays $11 billion.

For the 2014–15 fiscal year, the conferences that earned the most revenues (and that distributed the most revenues to each of their member schools) were:

  1. SEC — $527 million (dispersed $33 million to each of its member schools)
  2. Big 10 — $449 million (dispersed $32 million each)
  3. Pac-12 — $439 million (dispersed $25 million each)
  4. ACC — $403 million (dispersed $26 million each)
  5. Big 12 — $268 million (dispersed $23 million each)
U.S. college sports TV rights
Sports rightsSportNational TV contractTotal Revenues
(Per Year)
Ref
NCAA March Madness Basketball CBS, Turner $8.8B ($1.1B)
College Football Playoff FootballESPN$5.6B ($470m)
Pac-12 Conference AllFox, ESPN$3.0B ($250m)
Big Ten Conference (Big Ten/B1G)AllFox, ESPN, CBS$2.6B ($440m) [44]
Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)AllESPN$3.6B ($240m)
Big 12 Conference AllFox, ESPN$2.6B ($200m)
Southeastern Conference (SEC)AllCBS, ESPN$2.6B ($205m)
American Athletic Conference AllESPN$910m ($130m)
Mountain West Conference (MW)AllCBS, ESPN$116m ($18m) [45]
Mid-American Conference (MAC)AllESPN$100m ($8m) [46]

Scholarship limits by sport

The NCAA has limits on the total financial aid each Division I member may award in each sport that the school sponsors. It divides sports that are sponsored into two types for purposes of scholarship limitations:

The term "counter" is also key to this concept. The NCAA defines a "counter" as "an individual who is receiving institutional financial aid that is countable against the aid limitations in a sport." [47]

The number of scholarships that Division I members may award in each sport is listed below. In this table, scholarship numbers for head-count sports are indicated without a decimal point; for equivalency sports, they are listed with a decimal point, with a trailing zero if required.

SportMen'sWomen's
Acrobatics & tumbling 14.0 [48]
Baseball 11.7 [49] [nb 1]
Basketball 13 [55] 15 [56]
Beach volleyball 6.0 [nb 2]
Bowling 5.0 [48]
Cross country/Track and field 12.6 [59] [nb 3] 18.0 [48] [nb 4]
Equestrian 15.0 [48]
Fencing 4.5 [59] 5.0 [48]
Field hockey 12.0 [48]
Football 85 (FBS) [61] [nb 5]
63.0 (FCS) [62] [nb 6]
Golf 4.5 [59] 6.0 [48]
Gymnastics 6.3 [59] 12 [64]
Ice hockey 18.0 [65] [nb 7] 18.0 [nb 8]
Lacrosse 12.6 [59] 12.0 [48]
Rifle 3.6 [59] [nb 9]
Rowing 20.0 [48]
Rugby 12.0 [48]
Skiing 6.3 [59] 7.0 [48]
Soccer 9.9 [59] 14.0 [48]
Softball 12.0 [48]
Swimming and diving 9.9 [59] 14.0 [48]
Tennis 4.5 [59] 8 [64]
Triathlon 6.5 [48]
Volleyball 4.5 [59] 12 [64]
Water polo 4.5 [59] 8.0 [48]
Wrestling 9.9 [59] 10.0 [48]
  1. This total is also subject to the following restrictions:
    • The number of total counters is limited to 27. [49]
    • Each counter must receive "athletically related and other countable financial aid" equal to at least 25% of a full scholarship. [50] Most institutional and governmental non-athletic aid falls in the "countable" category; [51] an official NCAA rules interpretation also allows schools to count aid that would otherwise be exempt by NCAA rule (such as purely academic awards) toward the 25% limit, as long as it also is included in the calculations for the team equivalency limit. [52] The 25% rule does not apply to baseball schools that offer only need-based aid (such as Ivy League members). [53] A second exception to the 25% rule, added in 2012, is for players in their final year of athletic eligibility who have not previously received athletically related aid in baseball at any college. [54]
  2. This total is for schools that also sponsor women's indoor volleyball. [57] If a school does not sponsor women's indoor volleyball, it is allowed 8.0 equivalents for beach volleyball. [58] For all schools, the maximum number of counters in beach volleyball is 14. [57] [58]
  3. If a school sponsors men's cross-country but does not sponsor either indoor or outdoor track and field for men, it is allowed 5.0 scholarship equivalents for that sport. [60]
  4. If a school sponsors women's cross-country but does not sponsor either indoor or outdoor track and field for women, it is allowed 6.0 scholarship equivalents for that sport. [60]
  5. FBS programs are also limited to 25 new counters per school year. [61]
  6. FCS programs are also limited to 85 total counters per school year. [62] Effective with the recruiting cycle for the 2018–19 school year, the previous limit of 30 new counters per year for FCS programs has been removed. [63]
  7. The number of total counters is limited to 30. [65]
  8. The NCAA Division I Manual does not include any scholarship limitations for women's ice hockey. These limitations are instead found in the Division II Manual. [66] The Division II Manual does not include any limit on total counters for any sport, including women's ice hockey.
  9. NCAA rifle competition is fully coeducational. For purposes of sports sponsorship, the NCAA classifies teams that include both men and women as men's teams. [67] Of the 33 NCAA rifle schools (23 in Division I, 4 in Division II, and 6 in Division III), 22 field a single coed/mixed team. Six schools (five in Division I and one in Division III) field women-only teams. Schools are also allowed to field any combination of men's, women's, and mixed teams; several NCAA rifle schools field two types of teams, but none currently fields all three types. The scholarship limits are per school, not per team.

Rules for multi-sport athletes

The NCAA also has rules specifying the sport in which multi-sport athletes are to be counted, with the basic rules being: [68]

Football subdivisions

Subdivisions in Division I exist only in football. [70] [71] In all other sports, all Division I conferences are equivalent. The subdivisions were recently given names to reflect the differing levels of football play in them.

The method by which the NCAA determines whether a school is Bowl or Championship subdivision is first by attendance numbers and then by scholarships. [72] For attendance reporting methods, the NCAA allows schools to report either total tickets sold or the number of persons in attendance at the games. They require a minimum average of 15,000 people in attendance every other year. [72] These numbers get posted to the NCAA statistics website for football each year. With the new rules starting in the 2006 season, the number of Bowl Subdivision schools could drop in the future if those schools are not able to pull in enough fans into the games. Additionally, 14 FCS schools had enough attendance to be moved up in 2012. [73] Under current NCAA rules, these schools must have an invitation from an FBS conference in order to move to FBS. Three of them—Appalachian State, Georgia Southern, and Old Dominion—began FBS transitions in 2013. All had the required FBS conference invitations, with Old Dominion joining Conference USA in 2013, and Appalachian State and Georgia Southern joining the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. The difference in the postseasons in each of the subdivisions grant the FCS an advantage to have the best record in college football history, 17–0, while the FBS only allows a 15–0 record.

Football Bowl Subdivision

Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), formerly known as Division I-A, is the top level of college football. Schools in Division I FBS compete in post-season bowl games, with the champions of five conferences, along with the highest-ranked champion of the other five conferences, receiving automatic bids to the access bowls.

FBS schools are limited to a total of 85 football players receiving financial assistance. [74] For competitive reasons, a student receiving partial scholarship counts fully against the total of 85. Nearly all FBS schools that are not on NCAA probation give 85 full scholarships.

As of the 2022 college football season, there are 130 full members of Division I FBS, plus one transitional school that is considered an FBS member for scheduling purposes. The most recent school to become a full FBS member is Liberty University, which made the transition from FCS in 2017 and 2018. The next school to become a full FBS member is James Madison University, which joined the Sun Belt Conference in 2022. Because JMU met FBS scheduling requirements (specifically five home games against FBS opposition) in 2022, it was allowed to skip the first year of the normal two-year transitional process, making it eligible for bowl games in 2023.

Since the 2016 season, all FBS conferences have been allowed to conduct a championship game that does not count against the limit of 12 regular-season contests. Under the current rules, most recently changed in advance of the 2022 season, conferences have complete freedom to determine the participants in their championship games. [75] From 2016 to 2021, FBS rules allowed such a game to be held either (1) between the winners of each of two divisions, with each team having played a full round-robin schedule within its division, or (2) between the conference's top two teams after a full round-robin conference schedule. [76] Before 2016, "exempt" championship games could only be held between the divisional winners of conferences that had at least 12 football teams and split into divisions. [77] [78] The prize is normally a specific bowl game bid for which the conference has a tie-in.

Some conferences have numbers in their names but this often has no relation to the number of member institutions in the conference. The Big Ten Conference did not formally adopt the "Big Ten" name until 1987, but unofficially used that name when it had 10 members from 1917 to 1946, and again from 1949 forward. However, it has continued to use the name even after it expanded to 11 members with the addition of Penn State in 1990, 12 with the addition of Nebraska in 2011, and 14 with the arrival of Maryland and Rutgers in 2014. The Big 12 Conference was established in 1996 with 12 members, but continues to use that name even after a number of departures and a few replacements left the conference with 10 members. On the other hand, the Pac-12 Conference has used names (official or unofficial) that have reflected the number of members since its current charter was established in 1959. The conference unofficially used "Big Five" (1959–62), "Big Six" (1962–64), and "Pacific-8" (1964–68) before officially adopting the "Pacific-8" name. The name duly changed to "Pacific-10" in 1978 with the addition of Arizona and Arizona State, and "Pac-12" (instead of "Pacific-12") in 2011 when Colorado and Utah joined. Conferences also tend to ignore their regional names when adding new schools. For example, the Pac-8/10/12 retained its "Pacific" moniker even though its four newest members (Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah) are located in the inland West, and the original Big East kept its name even after adding schools (either in all sports or for football only) located in areas traditionally considered to be in the Midwest (Cincinnati, DePaul, Marquette, Notre Dame), Upper South (Louisville, Memphis) and Southwest (Houston, SMU). The non-football conference that assumed the Big East name when the original Big East split in 2013 is another example of this phenomenon, as half of its 10 inaugural schools (Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Marquette, Xavier) are traditionally regarded as being Midwestern.

Conferences

ConferenceNicknameFoundedMembersSportsHeadquarters
American Athletic Conference ***The American1979 [lower-alpha 1] 11 [lower-alpha 2] [lower-alpha 3] [lower-alpha 4] 22 Providence, Rhode Island
Atlantic Coast Conference **ACC195315 [lower-alpha 5] 27 [lower-alpha 6] Greensboro, North Carolina
Big Ten Conference **Big Ten, B1G189614 [lower-alpha 7] [lower-alpha 8] 28 Rosemont, Illinois
Big 12 Conference **Big 12199610 [lower-alpha 9] [lower-alpha 10] 21 Irving, Texas
Conference USA ***C-USA1995 [lower-alpha 11] 11 [lower-alpha 12] [lower-alpha 13] [lower-alpha 14] 18 Dallas, Texas
Division I FBS Independents [lower-alpha 15] 7 [lower-alpha 16]
Mid-American Conference ***MAC194612 [lower-alpha 17] 24 [lower-alpha 18] Cleveland, Ohio
Mountain West Conference ***MW199911 [lower-alpha 19] [lower-alpha 20] 19 Colorado Springs, Colorado
Pac-12 Conference **Pac-121915 [lower-alpha 21] 12 [lower-alpha 22] [lower-alpha 23] 24 Walnut Creek, California
Southeastern Conference **SEC193214 [lower-alpha 24] 20 Birmingham, Alabama
Sun Belt Conference ***Sun Belt, SBC197614 [lower-alpha 25] 18 [lower-alpha 26] New Orleans, Louisiana

**"Big Five" or "Power Five" conferences with guaranteed berths in the "access bowls" associated with the College Football Playoff
***"Group of Five" conferences

Notes
  1. The conference was founded in 1979 as the original Big East Conference. It renamed itself the American Athletic Conference following a 2013 split along football lines. The non-FBS schools of the original conference left to form a new conference that purchased the Big East name, while the FBS schools continued to operate under the old Big East's charter and structure. The American also inherited the old Big East's Bowl Championship Series berth for the 2013 season, the last for the BCS.
  2. 10 of the 11 full members sponsor football, with Wichita State as the only non-football member.
  3. In addition to the full members, nine schools have single-sport associate membership, and three others are members in two sports. Five of these schools will fully join The American in 2023.
    • Navy is a football-only member.
    • Future full members Charlotte and UAB are men's soccer members in 2022–23.
    • Florida, James Madison, Old Dominion, and Vanderbilt are members in women's lacrosse.
    • Future full member Florida Atlantic, plus FIU, are members in both men's soccer and women's swimming & diving. FIU will continue as an associate after FAU fully joins The American.
    • Future full members North Texas and Rice are women's swimming & diving members in 2022–23 (though Rice fields only swimmers and no divers).
    • Old Dominion and Sacramento State are members in women's rowing.
  4. 14 members (both full and football) in 2023 with the following changes:
  5. Notre Dame is a full member except in football, in which it remains independent. It has committed to play at least five games each season against ACC opponents, and to play each other ACC member at least once every three years.
  6. 26 sports by NCAA count; the ACC sponsors separate championships in men's and women's fencing, a sport in which the NCAA organizes a single coeducational championship event.
    • 28 sports (27 by NCAA count) in 2023 with addition of women's gymnastics.
  7. In addition to the full members, two schools have affiliate membership:
    • Johns Hopkins, otherwise a Division III member, is an affiliate in both men's and women's lacrosse, sports in which the school fields Division I teams.
    • Notre Dame is a men's hockey affiliate.
  8. 16 members in 2024 with addition of UCLA and USC.
  9. As many as 14 members in 2023 with addition of BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF.
  10. In addition to the full members, the Big 12 has 13 members that participate in only one sport.
  11. The conference was founded in 1995, with football competition starting in 1996.
  12. 9 members in 2023 with the following changes:
  13. 10 members in 2024 with addition of Kennesaw State.
  14. In addition to the full members, Conference USA features six schools that play one sport in the conference.
  15. Note that "Independents" is not a conference; it is simply a designation used for schools whose football programs do not play in any conference. All of these schools have conference memberships for other sports.
  16. 4 independents in 2023 with BYU joining the Big 12 Conference, and Liberty and New Mexico State joining Conference USA.
  17. In addition to the 12 full members, the Mid-American Conference features 21 members that participate in a single sport.
  18. Possibility of 23 sports in 2023 with potential dropping of men's soccer.
  19. Since 2012, Hawaiʻi has been a football-only associate member, with most of its remaining teams in the non-football Big West Conference.
  20. In addition to the 11 full members and football affiliate Hawaiʻi, Colorado College, a Division III school with a Division I men's ice hockey team, plays Division I women's soccer in the MW.
  21. The charter of the Pac-12 dates only to the formation of the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU) in 1959. However, the Pac-12 claims the history of the Pacific Coast Conference, which was founded in 1915 and began competition in 1916, as its own. Of the nine members of the PCC at the time of its demise in June 1959, only Idaho never joined the Pac-12. The PCC's berth in the Rose Bowl passed to the AAWU.
  22. The Pac-12 also includes four associate members, each of which competes in a single sport. San Diego State plays men's soccer. Cal State Bakersfield, Cal Poly, and Little Rock compete in wrestling.
    • UC Davis will become a women's lacrosse member in 2023, with San Diego State adding women's lacrosse to its Pac-12 membership at that time.
  23. 10 members in 2024 with loss of UCLA and USC.
  24. 16 members no later than 2025 with addition of Oklahoma and Texas.
  25. In addition to the 14 full members, three schools are men's soccer affiliates—Kentucky, South Carolina, and West Virginia. UCF will join this group in 2023.
  26. At least 20 sports in 2023 with planned addition of beach volleyball and women's swimming & diving.

Football Championship Subdivision

The Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), formerly known as Division I-AA, consists of 130 teams as of the 2022 season, with all participating in one of 14 conferences. [79] The "I-AA" designation was dropped by the NCAA in 2006, although it is still informally and commonly used. FCS teams are limited to 63 players on scholarship (compared to 85 for FBS teams) and usually play an 11-game schedule (compared to 12 games for FBS teams). [80] The FCS determines its national champion through an NCAA-sanctioned single-elimination bracket tournament, culminating in a title game, the NCAA Division I Football Championship. [81] As of the 2018 season, the tournament begins with 24 teams; 10 conference champions that received automatic bids, and 14 teams selected at-large by a selection committee. [82]

The postseason tournament traditionally begins on Thanksgiving weekend in late November. When I-AA was formed 45 years ago in 1978, [11] the playoffs included just four teams for its first three seasons, doubling to eight teams for one season in 1981. [83] From 1982 to 1985, there was a 12-team tournament; this expanded to 16 teams in 1986. The playoffs expanded to 20 teams starting in 2010, then grew to 24 teams in 2013. Since the 2010 season, the title game is held in early January at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. From 1997 through 2009, the title game was played in December in Chattanooga, Tennessee, preceded by five seasons in Huntington, West Virginia. [84]

Abstainers

The Football Championship Subdivision includes several conferences which do not participate in the eponymous post-season championship tournament.

The Ivy League was reclassified to I-AA (FCS) following the 1981 season, [85] and plays a strict ten-game schedule. Although it qualifies for an automatic bid, the Ivy League has not played any postseason games at all since becoming a conference for the 1956 NCAA University Division football season, citing academic concerns. (The last college which is now an Ivy League member to play in a bowl game was Columbia in the 1934 Rose Bowl.)

The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) has its own championship game in mid-December between the champions of its East and West divisions. Also, three of its member schools traditionally do not finish their regular seasons until Thanksgiving weekend. Grambling State and Southern play each other in the Bayou Classic, and Alabama State plays Tuskegee (of Division II) in the Turkey Day Classic. SWAC teams are eligible to accept at-large bids if their schedule is not in conflict. The last SWAC team to participate in the I-AA playoffs was Jackson State in 1997; the SWAC never achieved success in the tournament, going winless in 19 games in twenty years (1978–97). It had greater success outside the conference while in Division II and the preceding College Division.

From 2006 through 2009, the Pioneer Football League and Northeast Conference champions played in the Gridiron Classic. If a league champion was invited to the national championship playoff as an at-large bid (something the Pioneer league, at least, never received), the second-place team would play in the Gridiron Classic. That game was scrapped after the 2009 season when its four-year contract ran out; this coincided with the NCAA's announcement that the Northeast Conference would get an automatic bid to the tournament starting in 2010. The Big South Conference also received an automatic bid in the same season. The Pioneer Football League earned an automatic bid beginning in 2013.

The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) began abstaining from the playoffs with the 2015 season. Like the SWAC, its members are eligible for at-large bids, and the two conferences have faced off in the Celebration Bowl as an alternative postseason game since the 2015 season.

Schools in a transition period after joining the FCS from a lower division (or from the NAIA) are also ineligible for the playoffs.

Scholarships

Division I FCS schools are currently restricted to giving financial assistance amounting to 63 full scholarships. As FCS football is an "equivalency" sport (as opposed to the "head-count" status of FBS football), Championship Subdivision schools may divide their allotment into partial scholarships. However, FCS schools may only have 85 players receiving any sort of athletic financial aid for football—the same numeric limit as FBS schools. Because of competitive forces, however, a substantial number of players in Championship Subdivision programs are on full scholarships. Another difference is that FCS schools no longer have a limit on the number of new players that can be provided with financial aid in a given season, while FBS schools are limited to 25 such additions per season. Finally, FCS schools are limited to 95 individuals participating in preseason practices, as opposed to 105 at FBS schools (the three service academies that play FBS football are exempt from preseason practice player limits by NCAA rule).

A few Championship Subdivision conferences are composed of schools that offer no athletic scholarships at all, most notably the Ivy League and the Pioneer Football League (PFL), a football-only conference. The Ivy League allows no athletic scholarships at all, while the PFL consists of schools that offer scholarships in other sports but choose not to take on the expense of a scholarship football program. The Northeast Conference also sponsored non-scholarship football, but began offering a maximum of 30 full scholarship equivalents in 2006, which grew to 40 in 2011 after a later vote of the league's school presidents and athletic directors and has since increased to 45. [86] The Patriot League only began awarding football scholarships in the 2013 season, with the first scholarships awarded only to incoming freshmen. Before the conference began its transition to scholarship football, athletes receiving scholarships in other sports were ineligible to play football for member schools. Since the completion of the transition with the 2016 season, member schools have been allowed up to 60 full scholarship equivalents. [87]

Conferences

ConferenceNicknameFoundedMembersSportsHeadquarters FCS Tournament Bid
ASUN Conference ASUN197814 [lower-alpha 1] [lower-alpha 2] [lower-alpha 3] 21 Atlanta, Georgia Automatic (shared) [lower-alpha 4]
Big Sky Conference Big Sky196310 [lower-alpha 5] [lower-alpha 6] 16 Ogden, Utah Automatic
Big South Conference Big South198310 [lower-alpha 7] [lower-alpha 8] [lower-alpha 9] 19 [lower-alpha 10] Charlotte, North Carolina Automatic
Colonial Athletic Association CAA1983 [lower-alpha 11] 13 [lower-alpha 12] [lower-alpha 13] [lower-alpha 14] 21 [lower-alpha 15] Richmond, Virginia Automatic
Division I FCS Independents [lower-alpha 16] 0
Ivy League Ivy League1954 [lower-alpha 17] 833 Princeton, New Jersey Automatic – (Abstains)
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference MEAC19708 [lower-alpha 18] [lower-alpha 19] 14 Norfolk, Virginia Abstains
Missouri Valley Football Conference MVFC1985 [lower-alpha 20] 11 [lower-alpha 21] 1 St. Louis, Missouri Automatic
Northeast Conference NEC19819 [lower-alpha 22] [lower-alpha 23] 24 Somerset, New Jersey Automatic
Ohio Valley Conference OVC194810 [lower-alpha 24] [lower-alpha 25] [lower-alpha 26] 18 [lower-alpha 27] Brentwood, Tennessee Automatic
Patriot League Patriot1986 [lower-alpha 28] 10 [lower-alpha 29] [lower-alpha 30] 23 Center Valley, Pennsylvania Automatic
Pioneer Football League PFL1991111 St. Louis, Missouri Automatic
Southern Conference SoCon192110 [lower-alpha 31] 20 Spartanburg, South Carolina Automatic
Southland Conference [lower-alpha 32] SLC196310 [lower-alpha 33] [lower-alpha 34] 18 Frisco, Texas Automatic
Southwestern Athletic Conference SWAC19201218 Birmingham, Alabama Abstains
Western Athletic Conference WAC196213 [lower-alpha 35] [lower-alpha 36] 20 Englewood, Colorado Automatic (shared) [lower-alpha 4]
Notes
  1. Of the 14 full members, five do not sponsor football at all. Three play football outside of the ASUN—Liberty as an FBS independent, Stetson in the Pioneer Football League, and Bellarmine outside of NCAA control in the weight-restricted variant of sprint football.
  2. In addition to the full members, the ASUN has 12 associate members that participate in at least one sport.
  3. 12 full members and 5 football members in 2023 with loss of Jacksonville State and Liberty.
    • 11 full members and 4 football members in 2024 with loss of Kennesaw State.
  4. 1 2 The ASUN and WAC are partners in a football alliance that has one automatic bid to the FCS playoffs.
  5. 12 football members with Cal Poly and UC Davis, both full members of the non-football Big West Conference, as football-only affiliates.
  6. In addition to the full members and football affiliates, Binghamton and Hartford are associate members in men's golf. Hartford will leave in 2023 as part of its planned transition to NCAA Division III.
  7. The Big South has three full members that compete for its football championship, plus three football-only associates in Bryant, North Carolina A&T, and Robert Morris.
    • The Big South will merge its football league with that of the Ohio Valley Conference in 2023, when Campbell leaves for both sides of the CAA and North Carolina A&T joins CAA Football.
  8. 9 members in 2023 with loss of Campbell.
  9. In addition to the full members and football affiliates, Furman, Mercer, and Wofford are associate members in women's lacrosse.
  10. Potentially 18 sports in 2023, depending on organizational details of the Big South–OVC football merger.
  11. The CAA football conference, officially known as CAA Football and legally a separate entity from the all-sports CAA, was only founded in 2007, but has a continuous history dating to the late 1930s (although not under the same charter):
    • The New England Conference was formed by five New England state universities, plus one private university in that region (Northeastern), in 1938. Four of the public schools—Maine, UMass, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island—were in the CAA football conference through the 2011 season. However, UMass football left for the MAC in 2012. URI football initially planned to leave for the Northeast Conference in 2013, but decided to remain in the CAA.
    • In 1946, the four then-remaining members of the New England Conference affiliated with two other schools to form the Yankee Conference under a separate charter, with athletic competition starting in 1947.
    • In 1997, the Yankee Conference was absorbed by the Atlantic 10 Conference. The A-10 inherited the Yankee Conference's automatic berth in the Division I-AA (now FCS) playoffs. In addition to the four charter New England Conference members mentioned above, five other members of the Yankee Conference at the time of the A10 merger are still in the CAA football conference.
    • After the 2006 season, all of the A-10 football teams left for the new CAA football conference. CAA Football inherited the A10's automatic berth in the FCS playoffs.
  12. The CAA has 13 full members, but only seven of them are part of CAA Football. Currently, six associate members fill out the ranks of CAA Football: Albany, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Richmond, and Villanova. Villanova is also a CAA associate in women's rowing.
  13. 14 full members and 15 football members in 2023 with the following changes:
    • Addition of Campbell to both sides of the league.
    • Addition of all-sports member North Carolina A&T to CAA Football.
  14. In addition to the CAA Football associates, the CAA has four associate members that each participate in one sport:
  15. 21 sports under CAA administration, with the all-sports CAA also governing CAA Football.
  16. Note that "Independents" is not a conference; it is simply a designation used for schools whose football programs do not play in any conference. All of these schools have conference memberships for other sports.
  17. Although the conference considers 1954 to be its founding date, the athletic league's origins go back to the turn of the 20th century.
    • The Ivy League considers the Eastern Intercollegiate Basketball League (EIBL), a men's basketball-only conference founded in 1901, as part of its history. Every school that had been an EIBL member would become part of the Ivy League.
    • In 1945, the eight schools that would eventually form the athletic Ivy League entered into the Ivy Group Agreement, which governed football competition between the schools. The original agreement was renewed in 1952.
    • The official founding date of 1954 reflects the extension of the Ivy Group Agreement to all sports. As part of the agreement, Brown, the only one of the original Ivy Group that had not joined the EIBL, did so. All-sports competition began in 1955, with the EIBL directly absorbed into the new league.
  18. The football conference currently consists of 6 of the 8 member schools.
  19. In addition to the full members, Monmouth, North Carolina A&T, and UAB participate in women's bowling.
  20. The football conference dates to 1985, but the conference charter was established in 1982. See History of the Missouri Valley Football Conference for more details.
  21. 12 members in 2023 with addition of Murray State.
  22. The conference has 7 full members that sponsor football. Duquesne of the non-football Atlantic 10 is a football associate.
  23. In addition to Duquesne, which is also an NEC associate in bowling, the NEC has 10 other associate members that participate in one or more sports.
    • Coppin State and Norfolk State are associates only in baseball.
    • Daemen and D'Youville, both Division II members, are associates in men's volleyball, a sport with a combined D-I and D-II championship.
    • Delaware State competes in baseball and women's golf. It will add women's lacrosse and women's soccer to its NEC membership in 2023.
    • Fairfield and Rider are field hockey associates.
    • Howard competes in men's and women's golf, women's lacrosse, men's and women's soccer, and men's and women's swimming & diving.
    • Maryland Eastern Shore competes in baseball and men's and women's golf.
    • North Carolina Central is an associate in men's and women's golf.
  24. The football conference consists of 6 of the 10 member schools, plus Murray State, a former full member that is playing OVC football in the 2022 season before joining the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2023. Morehead State plays non-scholarship football in the Pioneer Football League, while Little Rock, SIU Edwardsville, and Southern Indiana do not sponsor football.
  25. In addition to the full members, Chattanooga is an associate in beach volleyball. Murray State is also a rifle associate, and will remain so after the football team departs in 2023.
  26. The OVC will merge its football league with that of the Big South Conference in 2023.
  27. Possibility of 17 sports in 2023, depending on organizational details of the impending Big South–OVC football merger.
  28. The Patriot League was founded as the football-only Colonial League in 1986. In 1990, it became an all-sports conference and adopted its current name.
  29. Five of the full members do not sponsor FCS football. American, Boston University and Loyola (Maryland) do not sponsor football at all; Army is an FBS independent; and Navy plays in the American Athletic Conference. Fordham and Georgetown are associate members in football.
  30. In addition to the football associates, two other schools have single-sport membership:
    • MIT, otherwise a Division III institution, is an associate in women's rowing.
    • Richmond is a women's golf associate.
  31. In addition to the full members, the SoCon currently has 9 associate members, each of which plays one sport in the conference.
  32. The Southland Conference has announced that it will adopt a new name in the near future, most likely after the 2022–23 school year.
  33. The football conference currently consists of 8 of the 10 member schools.
  34. In addition to the full members, six schools are associate members in one or more sports.
    • Augusta, otherwise a Division II member, competes in both men's and women's golf.
    • Boise State and San Jose State compete in beach volleyball.
    • Bryant competes in men's & women's golf and tennis.
    • Francis Marion, otherwise Division II, competes in men's golf.
    • NJIT competes in men's and women's tennis.
  35. 13 full members and 6 football members. Of the full members, six do not sponsor football at all, while New Mexico State plays as an FBS independent.
    • 10 full members and 4 football members in 2023 with loss of New Mexico State and Sam Houston.
    • 10 full members and 5 football members no later than 2025 with addition of football by full member UTRGV.
  36. In addition to the full members and football associates, the WAC currently has 8 associate members that house one or two sports in the conference:

Division I non-football schools

Several Bowl Subdivision and Championship Subdivision conferences have member institutions that do not compete in football. Such schools are sometimes unofficially referred to as I-AAA. [88]

The following non-football conferences have full members that sponsor football:

The following Division I conferences do not sponsor football. These conferences still compete in Division I for all sports that they sponsor.

Conferences

ConferenceNicknameFoundedMembersSportsHeadquarters
America East Conference America East19799 [lower-alpha 1] 18 Boston, Massachusetts
Atlantic 10 Conference A-10197515 [lower-alpha 2] 22 Newport News, Virginia
Big East Conference Big East2013 [lower-alpha 3] 11 [lower-alpha 4] 23 [lower-alpha 5] New York City, New York
Big West Conference Big West196911 [lower-alpha 6] 18 Irvine, California
Horizon League Horizon197911 [lower-alpha 7] 19 Indianapolis, Indiana
Independents [lower-alpha 8] Independents2 [lower-alpha 9]
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference MAAC198011 [lower-alpha 10] 25 [lower-alpha 11] Edison, New Jersey
Missouri Valley Conference MVC / Valley190712 [lower-alpha 12] 17 St. Louis, Missouri
The Summit League The Summit198210 [lower-alpha 13] 19 Sioux Falls, South Dakota
West Coast Conference WCC195210 [lower-alpha 14] [lower-alpha 15] 15 San Bruno, California
Notes
  1. In addition to the full members, there are five associate members:
  2. In addition to the full members, four schools are single-sport associates:
  3. The current Big East was formed in 2013 as a result of the split of the original Big East Conference. The original conference charter was retained by the football-sponsoring schools now known as the American Athletic Conference. While both leagues claim 1979 as their founding date, the current Big East maintains the history of the original conference in all sports that it sponsors. The pre-split histories of Big East football and rowing—the two sports that are sponsored by The American but not the current Big East—are not recognized by either offshoot conference.
  4. In addition to the full members, the following schools are Big East affiliates in one or more sports:
  5. 22 NCAA-sanctioned sports plus the non-NCAA and fully coeducational esports.
  6. In addition to the full members, Sacramento State is a member in beach volleyball and men's soccer.
  7. In addition to the full members, the following schools are Horizon affiliates in tennis:
  8. Note that "Independents" is not a conference, it is simply a designation used to indicate schools which are not a member of any conference.
  9. Chicago State and Hartford.
  10. In addition to the full members, 14 other schools are MAAC affiliates in at least one sport.
  11. 23 NCAA-recognized sports plus two non-NCAA sports, esports (fully coeducational) and men's rowing.
  12. In addition to the full members, three schools house one sport in the conference:
  13. In addition to the full members, three schools are single-sport associates, and three others house multiple sports in the conference.
  14. 9 members in 2023 with loss of BYU.
  15. In addition to the full members, Creighton is an associate member in women's rowing.

Of these, the two that most recently sponsored football were the Atlantic 10 and MAAC. The A-10 football league dissolved in 2006 with its members going to CAA Football, the technically separate football league operated by the all-sports Colonial Athletic Association. In addition, four A-10 schools (Dayton, Fordham, Duquesne, and Massachusetts) play football in a conference other CAA Football, which still includes two full-time A-10 members (Rhode Island and Richmond). The MAAC stopped sponsoring football in 2007, after most of its members gradually stopped fielding teams. Among current MAAC members that were in the conference before 2007, only Marist, which plays in the Pioneer Football League, still sponsors football.

From 2013 to 2021, the Western Athletic Conference was a non-football league, having dropped football after a near-complete membership turnover that saw the conference stripped of all but two of its football-sponsoring members. The two remaining football-sponsoring schools, Idaho and New Mexico State, played the 2013 season as FBS independents before becoming football-only members of the Sun Belt Conference in 2014. Both left Sun Belt football in 2018, with Idaho downgrading to FCS status and adding football to its all-sports Big Sky Conference membership and New Mexico State becoming an FBS independent. The WAC added two more football-sponsoring schools with the 2020 arrival of Tarleton and Utah Tech (then Dixie State) from Division II; both schools planned to be FCS independents for the foreseeable future. The WAC would reinstate football at the FCS level in 2021, coinciding with the arrival of four new members with FCS football; [89] [90] for its first season, it entered into a formal partnership with the ASUN Conference to give it enough playoff-eligible members to receive an automatic playoff berth. [91] This partnership was renewed for the 2022 season, with five ASUN and three WAC schools participating, though each conference will play its own schedule. [92]

Division I in ice hockey

Providence College Friars play Cornell in the NCAA Hockey East Regional at the Dunkin' Donuts Center, April 7, 2019 Cornell vs. Providence College NCAA ice hockey.jpg
Providence College Friars play Cornell in the NCAA Hockey East Regional at the Dunkin' Donuts Center, April 7, 2019

Some sports, most notably ice hockey [93] and men's volleyball, have completely different conference structures that operate outside of the normal NCAA sports conference structure.

As ice hockey is limited to a much smaller number of almost exclusively Northern schools, there is a completely different conference structure for teams. [93] These conferences feature a mix of teams that play their other sports in various Division I conferences, and even Division II and Division III schools. For most of the early 21st century, there was no correlation between a team's ice hockey affiliation and its affiliation for other sports, with the exception of the Ivy League's hockey-playing schools all being members of the ECAC. For example, before 2013, the Hockey East men's conference consisted of one ACC school, one Big East school, four schools from the America East, one from the A-10, one CAA school, and two schools from the D-II Northeast-10 Conference, while the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) and Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) both had some Big Ten representation, plus Division II and III schools. Also, the divisional structure is truncated, with the Division II championship abolished in 1999.

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference ceased its sponsorship of the sport in 2003, [94] with the remaining members forming Atlantic Hockey. For the next decade, no regular all-sport conferences sponsored ice hockey.

Starting with the 2013–14 season, Division I men's hockey experienced a major realignment. The Big Ten Conference began to sponsor ice hockey, and their institutions withdrew their membership from the WCHA and CCHA. [95] Additionally, six other schools from those conferences withdrew to form the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference at the same time. [96] [ unreliable source? ] The fallout from these moves led to the demise of the original CCHA, two more teams entering the NCHC, and further membership turnover in the men's side of the WCHA.

Women's hockey was largely unaffected by this realignment. The Big Ten still has only four members with varsity women's hockey (full members Michigan and Michigan State only ice men's teams, as does hockey-only member Notre Dame), with six teams required under conference bylaws for official sponsorship. As a result, the only changes in women's hockey affiliations in the 2010–14 period occurred in College Hockey America, which saw two schools drop the sport and three new members join.

The next significant realignment took place after the 2020–21 season, when seven of the 10 then-current men's members of the WCHA left to form a revived CCHA, [97] which in turn led to the demise of the men's side of the WCHA. [98]

Conferences

ConferenceNicknameFoundedMembersMenWomen
Atlantic Hockey AHA199710 [lower-alpha 1] 10none
Big Ten Conference Big Ten, B1G1896 [lower-alpha 2] 77none
Central Collegiate Hockey Association CCHA1971,
2020 [lower-alpha 3]
8 [lower-alpha 4] 8none
College Hockey America CHA1999 [lower-alpha 5] 5 [lower-alpha 6] none6
ECAC Hockey N/A1961 [lower-alpha 7] 121212
Hockey East HEA1984 [lower-alpha 8] 121110
Independents 6 [lower-alpha 9] 6none
National Collegiate Hockey Conference NCHC2011 [lower-alpha 10] 88none
New England Women's Hockey Alliance NEWHA2018 [lower-alpha 11] 7 [lower-alpha 12] none7
Western Collegiate Hockey Association WCHA1951 [lower-alpha 13] 8none8
Notes
  1. 11 members in 2023 with return of Robert Morris.
  2. Founded as an all-sports conference in 1896, but did not sponsor ice hockey until 2013–14.
  3. First version founded in 1971 and disbanded in 2013; reestablished in 2020, with play resuming in 2021–22. The current CCHA considers the original league to be part of its history.
  4. 9 members in 2023 with addition of Augustana (SD).
  5. Founded as a men's-only conference in 1999, with women's hockey added in 2002. Men's hockey was dropped after the 2009–10 season.
  6. 6 members in 2023 with return of Robert Morris.
  7. Founded as a men's-only conference in 1961. A women's invitational tournament was first held in 1985; regular-season play began informally in 1988 before becoming officially sponsored in 1992. Originally part of the Eastern College Athletic Conference, but independent of that body since 2004.
  8. Founded as a men's-only conference in 1984, with women's hockey added in 2002.
  9. Alaska, Alaska Anchorage, Arizona State, Lindenwood, LIU, and Stonehill.
  10. Date of founding; play began in 2013–14.
  11. Founded as a scheduling alliance in 2017; formally organized as a conference in 2018. Received official NCAA recognition in 2019.
  12. 8 members in 2023 with addition of Assumption.
  13. Founded as a men's-only conference in 1951, with women's hockey added in 1999. Men's hockey was dropped after the 2020–21 season.

Classification debate

In the early 21st century, a controversy arose in the NCAA over whether schools will continue to be allowed to have one showcased program in Division I with the remainder of the athletic program in a lower division, as is the case of, notably, Johns Hopkins University lacrosse as well as Colorado College and University of Alabama in Huntsville in ice hockey. This is an especially important issue in hockey, which has no Division II national championship and has several schools whose other athletic programs compete in Division II and Division III.

This controversy was resolved at the 2004 NCAA Convention in Nashville, Tennessee when the members supported Proposal 65–1, the amended legislation co-sponsored by Colorado College, Clarkson University, Hartwick College, the Johns Hopkins University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rutgers University–Newark, St. Lawrence University, and SUNY Oneonta. [99] [100] Each school affected by this debate is allowed to grant financial aid to student-athletes who compete in Division I programs in one men's sport and one women's sport. It is still permitted for other schools to place one men's and one women's sport in Division I going forward, but they cannot offer scholarships without bringing the whole program into compliance with Division I rules. In addition, schools in Divisions II and III are allowed to "play up" in any sport that does not have a championship for the school's own division, but only Division II programs and any Division III programs covered by the exemption can offer scholarships in those sports.

Five Division I programs at "waiver schools" were grandfathered with the passing of Proposal 65-1:

An additional three programs were grandfathered in Proposal 65-1 but no longer are sponsored in Division I:

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sun Belt Conference</span> U.S. college sports conference

The Sun Belt Conference (SBC) is a collegiate athletic conference that has been affiliated with the NCAA's Division I since 1976. Originally a non-football conference, the Sun Belt began sponsoring football in 2001. Its football teams participate in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). The 14 member institutions of the Sun Belt are distributed across the Southern United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Atlantic 10 Conference</span> Collegiate athletic conference

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, Illinois, 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 15 full-time members, and four affiliate members that participate in women's field hockey and men's lacrosse. The current commissioner is Bernadette McGlade, who began her tenure in 2008.

NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision independent schools are four-year institutions in the United States whose football programs are not part of a football conference. This means that FCS independents are not required to schedule each other for competition as conference schools do.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Big South Conference</span> College athletic conference in the southeastern USA

The Big South Conference is a collegiate athletic conference affiliated with the NCAA's Division I. Originally a non-football conference, the Big South began sponsoring football in 2002 as part of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). The Big South, founded in 1983, is firmly rooted in the South Atlantic region of the United States, with full member institutions located in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia. Associate members are located in Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Colonial Athletic Association</span> US collegiate athletic conference

The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) is a collegiate athletic conference affiliated with the NCAA's Division I whose full members are located in East Coast states from Massachusetts to South Carolina. Most of its members are public universities, and the conference is headquartered in Richmond. The CAA was historically a Southern conference until the addition of four schools in the Northeast after the turn of the 21st century, which added geographic balance to the conference.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">ASUN Conference</span> American college sports league

The ASUN Conference, formerly the Atlantic Sun Conference, is a collegiate athletic conference operating mostly in the Southeastern United States. The league participates at the NCAA Division I level, and began sponsoring football at the Division I FCS level in 2022. Originally established as the Trans America Athletic Conference (TAAC) in 1978, it was renamed as the Atlantic Sun Conference in 2001, and then rebranded as the ASUN Conference in 2016. The conference headquarters are located in Atlanta.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">NCAA Division III</span> Division of the National Collegiate Athletic Association

NCAA Division III (D-III) is a division of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States. D-III consists of athletic programs at colleges and universities that choose not to offer athletic scholarships to their student-athletes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">NCAA Division II</span> Intermediate-level division of competition in college basketball

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Power Five conferences</span> Group of top-level American college football conferences

The Power Five conferences are the five most prominent and highest-earning athletic conferences in college football in the United States. They are part of the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of NCAA Division I, the highest level of collegiate football in the nation, and are considered the most "elite" conferences within that tier. The Power Five conferences have provided nearly all of the participants in the College Football Playoff since its inception, are guaranteed at least one bid to a New Year's Six bowl game, and have been granted autonomy from certain NCAA rules. The Power Five conferences are the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, and Southeastern Conference (SEC).

NCAA Division I independent schools are four-year institutions that compete in college athletics at the NCAA Division I level, but do not belong to an established athletic conference for a particular sport. These schools may however still compete as members of an athletic conference in other sports. A school may also be fully independent, and not belong to any athletic conference for any sport at all. The reason for independent status varies among institutions, but it is frequently because the school's primary athletic conference does not sponsor a particular sport.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Old Dominion Monarchs</span> Intercollegiate sports teams of Old Dominion University

The Old Dominion Monarchs are composed of 18 intercollegiate athletic teams representing Old Dominion University, located in Norfolk, Virginia. Men's sports include baseball, basketball, football, golf, sailing, soccer, swimming, and tennis. Women's sports include basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, golf, sailing, soccer, swimming, tennis, rowing, and volleyball. The Monarchs compete in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and are members of the Sun Belt Conference (SBC); the university joined the conference on July 1, 2022.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James Madison Dukes</span> Intercollegiate sports teams of James Madison University

The James Madison Dukes are the intercollegiate athletics teams that represent James Madison University (JMU), in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The name "Dukes" is derived from Samuel Page Duke, the university's second president. The Dukes play as members of the Sun Belt Conference. JMU was a charter member of the Colonial Athletic Association, which sponsors sports at the NCAA Division I level. In football, JMU participates in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of Division I, formerly known as Division I-A. The Dukes officially left the CAA and joined the Sun Belt Conference in 2022, participating in Division I FBS football and other sports sponsored by the conference.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision</span> Top level of college football in the US

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 2022, there are 10 conferences and 131 schools in FBS.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2010–2014 NCAA conference realignment</span>

The 2010–2014 NCAA conference realignment refers to extensive changes in conference membership at all three levels of NCAA competition—Division I, Division II, and Division III— beginning in the 2010–11 academic year.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2010–2013 Colonial Athletic Association realignment</span>

The 2010–13 Colonial Athletic Association realignment refers to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) dealing with several proposed and actual conference expansion and reduction plans among various NCAA conferences and institutions from 2010 to 2013. Some moves affected only the all-sports CAA; others affected only CAA Football, the technically separate football league administered by the all-sports CAA; and still others affected both sides of the CAA. Moves that involved the overall CAA were part of a much larger NCAA conference realignment.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">2021–22 NCAA conference realignment</span>

The 2021–2022 NCAA conference realignment refers to extensive changes in NCAA conference membership, primarily at the Division I level, beginning in the 2021–22 academic year.

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