NCAA Division II

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Main logo used by the NCAA in Division I, II, and III. NCAA logo.svg
Main logo used by the NCAA in Division I, II, and III.

Division 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.

National Collegiate Athletic Association Non-profit organization that regulates many American college athletes and programs

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization which regulates student athletes from 1,268 North American institutions and conferences. It also organizes the athletic programs of many colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and helps more than 480,000 college student-athletes who compete annually in college sports. The organization is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana.

NCAA Division I highest level of intercollegiate athletics sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association

NCAA Division I (D-I) is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States. 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 division of the National Collegiate Athletic Association

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.


Before 1973, the NCAA's smaller schools were grouped together in the College Division. In 1973, the College Division split in two when the NCAA began using numeric designations for its competitions. The College Division members who wanted to offer athletic scholarships or compete against those who did became Division II, while those who chose not to offer athletic scholarships became Division III.

Nationally, ESPN televises the championship game in football, CBS televises the men's basketball championship, and ESPN2 televises the women's basketball championship. CBS Sports Network broadcasts six football games on Thursdays during the regular season, and one men's basketball game per week on Saturdays during that sport's regular season.

ESPN is a U.S.-based pay television sports channel owned by ESPN Inc., a joint venture owned by The Walt Disney Company (80%) and Hearst Communications (20%). The company was founded in 1979 by Bill Rasmussen along with his son Scott Rasmussen and Ed Egan.

The NCAA Division II Football Championship is an American college football tournament played annually to determine a champion at the NCAA Division II level. It was first held in 1973, as a single-elimination tournament with eight teams. The tournament field has subsequently been expanded three times; in 1988 it became 16 teams, in 2004 it became 24 teams, and in 2016 it became 28 teams.

College football collegiate rules version of American/Canadian football, played by student-athletes of American/Canadian colleges and universities

College football is American football played by teams of student athletes fielded by American universities, colleges, and military academies, or Canadian football played by teams of student athletes fielded by Canadian universities. It was through college football play that American football rules first gained popularity in the United States.

The official slogan of NCAA Division II, implemented in 2015, is "Make It Yours." [1]


There are currently 300 full and 20 provisional members of Division II with seven institutions moving to full membership in September 2015. [2] Division II schools tend to be smaller public universities and many private institutions. A large minority of Division II institutions (133 schools / 42%) have fewer than 2,499 students. Only 12 institutions have more than 15,000 undergraduates, and only UC San Diego (which is set to move to Division I in 2020) and Simon Fraser University have more than 25,000. Division II has a diverse membership, with two active member institutions in Alaska and four in Hawaii. Additionally, it is the only division that has member institutions in Puerto Rico and the only division that has expanded its membership to include an international member institution. Simon Fraser University became the first institution outside the US to enter the NCAA membership process. This occurred after the Division II Membership Committee accepted the institution's application during a July 7–9 meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana. Simon Fraser, located in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, British Columbia, began a two-year candidacy period September 1, 2009. Prospective members also must complete at least one year of provisional status before being accepted as full-time Division II members. In the fall of 2012, the NCAA President's Council officially approved Simon Fraser University as the organization's first international member. [3] In April 2017, the NCAA made permanent the pilot program under which Simon Fraser was admitted to the NCAA, [4] allowing each division to determine whether to allow Canadian or Mexican schools to join. [5] In January 2018, Division II became the first NCAA division to officially allow Mexican schools to apply for membership, provided that they meet the same standards as US-based D-II members, including US regional accreditation. [5] The Mexican school CETYS, which is fully accredited in both countries, is seeking to join the NCAA with the backing of the California Collegiate Athletic Association. [4] At this time, CETYS had men's and women's basketball, men's and women's volleyball, baseball, softball, men's soccer, cheerleading and football. [6] Because their football team carries a larger roster than most sports, this may require the university to field six women's teams and four men's team in order to meet the equal gender balance requirement (they were also looking to add a track and field team for men). [6]

University of California, San Diego Public university in La Jolla, California, United States

The University of California, San Diego is a public research university located in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego, California, in the United States. The university occupies 2,141 acres (866 ha) near the coast of the Pacific Ocean, with the main campus resting on approximately 1,152 acres (466 ha). Established in 1960 near the pre-existing Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego is the seventh-oldest of the 10 University of California campuses and offers over 200 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, enrolling approximately 30,000 undergraduate and 8,500 graduate students.

Simon Fraser University Public research university in British Columbia, Canada

Simon Fraser University (SFU) is a public research university in British Columbia, Canada, with three campuses: Burnaby, Surrey, and Vancouver. The 170-hectare (420-acre) main Burnaby campus on Burnaby Mountain, located 20 kilometres (12 mi) from downtown Vancouver, was established in 1965 and comprises more than 30,000 students and approximately 950 faculty members. The Burnaby campus is on the territory of the Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, Musqueam (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm), and Kwikwetlem First Nations; the Vancouver campus is on Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh, and Musqueam territories; and the Surrey campus is on territories shared by the Kwiketlem, Musqueam, Katzie, Kwantlen, Qayqayt, and Stó:lō peoples.

Vancouver City in British Columbia, Canada

Vancouver is a coastal seaport city in western Canada, located in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia. As the most populous city in the province, the 2016 census recorded 631,486 people in the city, up from 603,502 in 2011. The Greater Vancouver area had a population of 2,463,431 in 2016, making it the third-largest metropolitan area in Canada. Vancouver has the highest population density in Canada with over 5,400 people per square kilometre, which makes it the fifth-most densely populated city with over 250,000 residents in North America behind New York City, Guadalajara, San Francisco, and Mexico City according to the 2011 census. Vancouver is one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse cities in Canada according to that census; 52% of its residents have a first language other than English. Roughly 30% of the city's inhabitants are of Chinese heritage. Vancouver is classed as a Beta global city.


Men's team sports

NumberSportTeams [7] ConferencesScholarships
per team
SeasonMost Championships
1 Football 173 1636.0Fall Disputed
2 Basketball 320 2410.0Winter Kentucky Wesleyan (8)
3 Baseball 270 249.0Spring Florida Southern (9)
4 Soccer 215 249.0Fall Southern Connecticut State University (6)
5 Lacrosse 65 2410.8Spring Adelphi (7)
6 Volleyball* 2444.5Spring UCLA (19)
7 Water polo* 744.5Fall California (13)

* Championships are combined with DI

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.

Men's individual sports

No.SportTeams [7] Athletes [7] Season
1Track (outdoor)2107,189Spring
2Track (indoor)1665,826Winter
3Cross country2803,679Fall
4Swimming & diving731,500Winter

Women's team sports

No.SportTeams [7] ConferencesScholarships
per team
SeasonMost Championships
1Basketball3212410.0Winter Cal Poly Pomona and North Dakota State (5)
2Soccer267249.9Fall Grand Valley State and Franklin Pierce (5)
3Volleyball308248.0Fall Concordia St. Paul (8)
4Softball299247.2Spring Cal State Northridge (4)
5Rowing162420.0Spring Western Washington (8)
6Lacrosse100249.9Spring Adelphi (8)
7Field Hockey30246.3Fall Bloomsburg (13)
8Water Polo*1068.0Spring UCLA (7)

Women's individual sports

No.SportTeams [7] Athletes [7] Season
1Track (outdoor)2367,104Spring
2Track (indoor)1895,921Winter
3Cross country3073,897Fall
4Swimming & diving941,853Winter

National Championships Festival

Another feature unique to Division II is what the NCAA calls the "National Championships Festival"—an annual event, explicitly modeled after the Olympics, in which a single city hosts national championship finals in multiple sports over a period of several days. Each festival has formal opening and closing ceremonies, and competitors are housed in a centrally located hotel, allowing a village-like experience. The first such festival was held in Orlando, Florida in 2004 for spring sports. It became an annual event in the 2006–07 school year, and has been held each school year since with the exception of 2009–10. Since the current annual cycle began in 2006–07, the event has rotated between featuring fall, spring, and winter sports, in that order (the cycling was not interrupted by the one-year hiatus). [8]

Olympic Games Major international sport event

The modern Olympic Games or Olympics are leading international sporting events featuring summer and winter sports competitions in which thousands of athletes from around the world participate in a variety of competitions. The Olympic Games are considered the world's foremost sports competition with more than 200 nations participating. The Olympic Games are held every four years, with the Summer and Winter Games alternating by occurring every four years but two years apart.

Orlando, Florida City in Central Florida

Orlando is a city in the U.S. state of Florida and the county seat of Orange County. Located in Central Florida, it is the center of the Orlando metropolitan area, which had a population of 2,509,831, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures released in July 2017. These figures make it the 23rd-largest metropolitan area in the United States, the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the Southern United States, and the third-largest metropolitan area in Florida. As of 2015, Orlando had an estimated city-proper population of 280,257, making it the 73rd-largest city in the United States, the fourth-largest city in Florida, and the state's largest inland city.


Division II institutions have to sponsor at least five sports for men and five for women (or four for men and six for women), with two team sports for each sex, and each playing season represented by each sex. Teams that consist of both men and women are counted as men's teams for sports sponsorship purposes. [9] There are contest and participant minimums for each sport, [10] as well as scheduling criteria—football and men's and women's basketball teams must play at least 50 percent of their games against Division II or Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) or Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) opponents. For sports other than football and basketball there are no scheduling requirements, as long as each contest involves full varsity teams. The only NCAA sport in which contests against club teams can count toward a team's contest minimum is women's rugby, in which two such contests per school year can be counted. [11] There are not attendance requirements for football, nor arena size requirements for basketball. There are maximum financial aid awards for each sport, as well as a separate limit on financial aid awards in men's sports, that a Division II school must not exceed. Division II teams usually feature a number of local or in-state student-athletes. Many Division II student-athletes pay for school through a combination of scholarship money, grants, student loans and employment earnings. Division II athletics programs are financed in the institution's budget like other academic departments on campus. Traditional rivalries with regional institutions dominate schedules of many Division II athletics programs. [12]

Athletic scholarships are offered in most sponsored sports at most institutions, but with more stringent limits as to the numbers offered in any one sport than at the Division I level. For example, Division II schools may give financial aid in football equivalent to 36 full scholarships (whereas each school in Division I FBS, the highest level, is allowed 85 individuals receiving financial aid for football), although some Division II conferences limit the number of scholarships to a lower level. Division II scholarship programs are frequently the recipients of student-athletes transferring from Division I schools; a transfer student does not have to sit out a year before resuming sports participation as would usually be the case in the event of transferring from one Division I institution to another. Several exceptions to this rule currently exist, of which three are the most significant. First, football players transferring from a Division I FBS school to a Division I FCS school do not have to sit out a year, provided that the player has at least two remaining seasons of athletic eligibility. The same also applies to players transferring from scholarship-granting FCS schools to non-scholarship FCS schools. [13] [lower-alpha 1] Second, in sports other than football, baseball, men's and women's basketball, and men's ice hockey, a first-time transfer does not have to sit out a year, provided that the player's former institution grants a scholarship release. [13] Additionally, student-athletes in any sport who complete a bachelor's degree and still have athletic eligibility remaining can transfer to another school and be immediately eligible, provided that they enroll in a graduate or professional degree program at the new institution. There are also some restrictions with transferring to another school for the same sport in the same conference. [14]

Conferences competing in Division II

^ Conferences that sponsor football

The newest D-II conference is the Mountain East Conference, formed in 2012 after the football-sponsoring schools in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) announced that they would leave to form a new league, [15] [16] a move that led to the demise of the WVIAC. The Mountain East was approved by the NCAA Division II Membership Committee in February 2013, and became an official conference on September 1 of that year. [17]

The Heartland Conference will disband at the end of the 2018–19 school year. In August 2017, eight of its nine members announced a mass exodus to the Lone Star Conference. [18] The remaining Heartland member, Newman University, announced in February 2018 that it would become a de facto member of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association at that time. Technically, Newman will be an associate member because it does not sponsor football, a mandatory sport for full MIAA members, but it will house all of its varsity sports in that league. [19] One of the eight schools that originally announced a move to the LSC, Rogers State University, later changed course and instead chose to follow Newman into de facto MIAA membership (like Newman, and indeed all other Heartland members, Rogers State does not sponsor football). [20]


Scholarship limits by sport

The NCAA imposes limits on the total financial aid each Division II member may award in each sport that the school sponsors. All Division II sports are classified as "equivalency" sports, meaning that the NCAA restricts the total financial aid that a school can offer in a given sport to the equivalent of a set number of full scholarships. [21] This differs from Division I, in which some sports are "head-count" sports in which the NCAA limits the total number of individuals who can receive athletic aid. In another practice that differs from Division I, Division II members are limited to a combined total of 60 scholarship equivalents for men's sports apart from football and basketball. [22]

Scholarship limits in bold are identical to those for Division I members in the same sport for the same sex. Most, but not all, of these sports have a single championship open to schools from all divisions (for example bowling and rifle), or a combined Division I/II national championship and a separate Division III championship (as in women's ice hockey and men's volleyball). Examples of sports with identical scholarship numbers in the two divisions, but separate national championships for each, include men's cross-country and women's rowing.

In sports that conduct "National Collegiate" championships open to schools from multiple divisions, Division II schools are allowed to award the same number of scholarships as Division I members. [23] If the Division I scholarship limit is higher than the Division II limit, the D-II member must annually file a declaration of intent to compete under Division I rules with the NCAA prior to June 1. [24]

Additionally, if the NCAA sponsors a Division I championship but not a Division II championship in a given sport, D-II members are allowed to compete in the D-I championship, [25] and are also allowed to operate under D-I scholarship limits. [26] An example of this situation can be seen in men's ice hockey, which has not had a Division II championship in the 21st century. Several schools in the Northeast-10 Conference, plus independent Post University (which has a scheduling agreement with that league), compete under Division II scholarship limits; other Division II schools with programs in that sport choose to play as Division I programs under the higher Division I scholarship limits.

Rifle is classified by the NCAA as a men's sport, but allows competitors of both sexes.

Beach volleyball
Cross-country/track & field
12.6 [s 1]
12.6 [s 2]
Field hockey
Ice hockey
Swimming and diving
Water polo
  1. Schools that do not sponsor men's indoor or outdoor track, but do sponsor men's cross-country, are allowed 5.0 equivalents. [27]
  2. Schools that do not sponsor women's indoor or outdoor track, but do sponsor women's cross-country, are allowed 6.0 equivalents. [27]

Interaction with other divisions

The NCAA does not strictly prevent its member institutions from playing outside of their own division, or indeed playing against schools that are not members of the NCAA, but it is discouraged in many sports.


Many Division II schools frequently schedule matches against members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), which consists of colleges and universities across the United States and Canada that promote competitive and character-based athletics that is controlled by its membership, as opposed to the NCAA that serves as a regulating body.

Division I

Division II schools also frequently schedule "money games", usually in football and men's basketball, against Division I schools.

In football, D-II teams once occasionally played games against schools that are now in Division I FBS, but this practice has ended because under current NCAA rules, FBS schools cannot use victories over schools below FCS level for establishing bowl eligibility. Today, D-II "money games" are exclusively against FCS schools, whose postseason eligibility is less seriously impacted by scheduling a D-II opponent. In basketball, where conference tournaments play a large role in determining postseason participants, D-I schools have less of a penalty for scheduling an occasional D-II opponent, resulting in more "money games".

In any event, the D-II school is almost invariably the visiting team, and is invited to play with knowledge that it will likely be defeated but will receive a substantial (at least by Division II standards) monetary reward which will help to finance much of the rest of the season and perhaps other sports as well. Such games are funded by Division I schools which can afford such games.

In recent years, "money games" in men's basketball have also included preseason exhibitions against D-I programs, typically in the same region, that do not count in official statistics for either team. Under NCAA rules, Division I teams are allowed to play two exhibition games in a season, and must host these games. [28]

The University of Kansas helps the state's four Division II members by rotating them onto the Jayhawks' exhibition schedule annually. Milwaukee, which has been a Division I member since 1990, has continued its series with their former Division II rival Wisconsin-Parkside as part of their exhibition schedule.

When these exhibition games do happen, there are times when the Division II team does win, and against a well-respected Division I program. In 2009, a Division II team beat the eventual Big East regular season champion. [29] In 2010, two other Division II teams beat teams that reached the NCAA Division I tournament. [29] In 2011, another Division II team defeated a Division I team that finished in the top half of the Pac-12 Conference. In 2012, another Division II team beat [29] eventual Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament champion Miami. [30]

Also in basketball, one of the best-known early-season tournaments for D-I men's teams, the Maui Invitational, is hosted by D-II member Chaminade. Through the 2017 edition, Chaminade competed in every tournament, but now competes only in odd-numbered years. The now-defunct Great Alaska Shootout, which had men's and women's tournaments, was also hosted by a D-II member, namely Alaska–Anchorage. Chaminade typically loses all games it plays in Maui; Alaska–Anchorage also typically lost all of its men's Shootout games, but was frequently competitive in the women's version.

Non-revenue sports competition

Matches between the different collegiate divisions in non-revenue sports are often quite competitive. Indeed, in some sports, among them ice hockey and men's volleyball, there is no Division II national championship. In hockey, many schools whose athletic programs are otherwise Division II compete in Division I, and men's volleyball has a truncated divisional structure with a Division III championship but no Division II championship (as opposed to the NAIA, which fully includes men's volleyball in its divisional structure). In any sport that does not have a Division II national championship, Division II members are allowed to award the same number of scholarships as Division I members.

See also


  1. Most FCS members award football scholarships, but the following programs do not award football scholarships:
    • Members of the Ivy League, which prohibits its members from awarding athletic scholarships in any sport.
    • Members of the Pioneer Football League, a football-only league that also bans athletic scholarships (though only in that sport).
    • Georgetown, which chose to remain a non-scholarship football program after its football home of the Patriot League began allowing football scholarships in 2013.

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Patriot League U.S. college athletic conference

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Southern Conference sports league

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Big South Conference college athletic conference in southeastern USA

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Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference

The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) is a collegiate athletic conference which operates in the western Midwestern United States. Nine of its members are in Minnesota, with three members in South Dakota, two members in North Dakota, and one member each in the states of Iowa and Nebraska. It participates in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)'s Division II level. It was founded in 1932. With the recent NSIC expansion, the original six member schools have been reunited. With the inclusion of the several new member institutions, it is one of the largest Division II conferences in the country with 16 members.

Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference

The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference (RMAC), commonly known as the Rocky Mountain Conference (RMC) from approximately 1910 through the late 1960s, is a collegiate athletic conference which operates in the western United States, mostly in Colorado with members in Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, and Utah. It participates in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)'s Division II.

South Atlantic Conference

The South Atlantic Conference (SAC) is a collegiate athletic conference which operates in the southeastern United States. It participates in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)'s Division II level. The SAC was founded in 1975 as a football-only conference and became an all-sports conference beginning with the 1989–90 season.

National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics

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  27. 1 2 "Bylaw Maximum Equivalency Limits—Institutions That Sponsor Cross Country but Do Not Sponsor Track and Field" (PDF). 2016–17 NCAA Division II Manual. NCAA. p. 166. Retrieved August 14, 2016.
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