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.
The NCAA's first split was into two divisions, the University and College Divisions, in 1956, the College Division was formed for smaller schools that did not have the resources of the major athletic programs across the country. The College Division split again in 1973 when the NCAA went to its current naming convention: Division I, Division II, and Division III. D-III schools are not allowed to offer athletic scholarships, while D-II schools can.
D-III is the NCAA's largest division with around 450 member institutions, which are 80% private and 20% public. The median undergraduate enrollment of D-III schools is about 2,750, although the range is from 418 to over 38,000. Approximately 40% of all NCAA student-athletes compete in D-III.
D-III institutions must sponsor at least three team sports for each sex/gender, with each playing season represented by each gender. Teams in which men and women compete together are counted as men's teams for sports sponsorship purposes. In a feature unique to D-III, the total number of required sports varies with each school's full-time undergraduate enrollment. Schools with an enrollment of 1,000 or less must sponsor five men's and five women's sports; those with larger enrollments must sponsor six for each sex/gender. Institutions that sponsor athletic programs for only one sex/gender (single-sex schools, plus a few historically all-female schools that are now coeducational) need only meet the sponsorship requirements for that sex. There are minimum contest rules and participant minimums for each sport.
D-III athletic programs are non-revenue-generating, extracurricular programs that are staffed and funded like any other university department. They feature student-athletes who receive no financial aid related to their athletic ability.Student-athletes cannot redshirt as freshmen, and schools may not use endowments or funds whose primary purpose is to benefit athletic programs.
D-III schools "shall not award financial aid to any student on the basis of athletics leadership, ability, participation or performance".Financial aid given to athletes must be awarded under the same procedures as for the general student body, and the proportion of total financial aid given to athletes "shall be closely equivalent to the percentage of student-athletes within the student body". The ban on scholarships is strictly enforced. As an example of how seriously the NCAA takes this rule, in 2005 MacMurray College became only the fifth school slapped with a "death penalty" after its men's tennis program gave grants to foreign-born players. The two service academies that are D-III members, Merchant Marine and Coast Guard, do not violate the athletic scholarship ban because all students, whether or not they are varsity athletes, receive the same treatment, a full scholarship.
Another aspect that distinguishes D-III from the other NCAA divisions is that D-III institutions are specifically banned from using the National Letter of Intent, or any other pre-enrollment form that is not executed by other prospective students at the school. The NCAA provides for one exception—a standard, nonbinding celebratory signing form that may be signed by the student upon his or her acceptance of enrollment. However, this form cannot be signed at the campus of that college, and staff members of that college cannot be present at the signing.
An "all-sports conference" is defined here as one that sponsors both men's and women's basketball. While the NCAA has a much more detailed definition of the term, every NCAA conference (regardless of division) that sponsors basketball meets the organization's requirements for "all-sports" status.
Ten D-III schools currently field Division I programs in one or two sports, one maximum for each gender. These schools are allowed to offer athletic scholarships only for their D-I men's and women's sports.
Five of them are schools that traditionally competed at the highest level of a particular men's sport prior to the institution of the three division classifications in 1973, a decade before the NCAA governed women's sports.These five colleges (plus three others that later chose to return their D-I programs to D-III) were granted a waiver (a.k.a. a grandfather clause) in 1983 to continue offering scholarships, a waiver that was reaffirmed in 2004. Presumably due to Title IX considerations, grandfathered schools are also allowed to field one women's sport in D-I, and all five schools choose to do so.
Three formerly grandfathered schools moved completely to D-III. The State University of New York at Oneonta, which had been grandfathered in men's soccer, moved totally to D-II in 2006. Rutgers University–Newark, which had been grandfathered in men's volleyball, did the same in 2014.Hartwick College, which had been grandfathered in men's soccer and women's water polo, moved its men's soccer program to D-III in 2018 and dropped women's water polo entirely.
The other five schools chose to field D-I programs in one sport for men and/or one sport for women after the original grandfather clause went into effect, so they were not grandfathered and thus were not allowed to offer athletic scholarships. Academic-based and need-based financial aid was still available, as is the case for all of D-III.
In addition, Lawrence University was formerly a non-grandfathered program in fencing, but the NCAA no longer conducts a separate D-I fencing championship. Lawrence continues to field a fencing team, but that team is now considered D-III (see below).
In August 2011, the NCAA decided to no longer allow individual programs to move to another division as a general policy. One exception was made in 2012, when RIT successfully argued for a one-time opportunity for colleges with a D-I men's team to add a women's team.
Since no more colleges would be allowed to move individual sports to D-I, the five non-scholarship programs (led by RIT and Union) petitioned to be allowed to offer scholarships in the interests of competitive equity.D-III membership voted in January 2022 to extend the grandfather clause to allow all ten colleges to offer athletic scholarships, effective immediately.
Football and basketball may not be D-I programs at D-III institutions, because their revenue-enhancing potential would give them an unfair advantage over other D-III schools. In 1992, several D-I schools playing D-III football were forced to bring their football programs into D-I, following the passage of the "Dayton Rule" (named after the University of Dayton, whose success in D-III football was seen as threatening the "ethos" of Division III sports). This led directly to the creation of the Pioneer Football League, a non-scholarship football-only Division I FCS conference.
In addition to the D-III schools with teams that play as D-I members, many other D-III schools have teams that compete alongside D-I and D-II members in sports that the NCAA does not split into divisions. Teams in these sports are not counted as playing in a different division from the rest of the athletic program. D-III members cannot award scholarships in these sports.
In 2003, concerned about the disparity of some D-III athletic programs and the focus on national championships, the D-III Presidents' Council, led by Middlebury College President John McCardell, proposed ending the athletic scholarship exemptions for D-I programs, eliminating redshirting, and limiting the length of the traditional and non-traditional seasons.At the January 2004 NCAA convention, an amendment allowed the exemption for grandfathered D-I athletic scholarships to remain in place, but the rest of the reforms passed.
D-III announced the creation of a LGBTQ inclusion program in 2019. Named as their LGBTQ OneTeam Program, it is designed to create more LGBTQ inclusion in D-III athletics within the NCAA.The program has facilitators from more than 40 colleges across the country, including Smith College, Agnes Scott College, and more. The group publicly condemned laws trying to limit transgender people in sports in 2021. A member of the program – Dorian Rhea Debussy who is a transgender rights activist – publicly left the program after changes to the NCAA transgender policy in 2022.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a nonprofit organization that regulates student athletics among about 1,100 schools in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and United States Virgin Islands. It also organizes the athletic programs of colleges and helps over 500,000 college student athletes who compete annually in college sports. The organization is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Patriot League is a collegiate athletic conference comprising private institutions of higher education and two United States service academies based in the Northeastern United States. Except for the Ivy League, it is the most selective group of higher education institutions in the NCAA, and has a very high student-athlete graduation rate for both the NCAA graduation success rate and the federal graduation rate.
The Northeast Conference (NEC) is a collegiate athletic conference whose schools are members of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Teams in the NEC compete in Division I for all sports; football competes in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Participating schools are located principally in the Northeastern United States, from which the conference derives its name.
The South Atlantic Conference (SAC) is a college athletic conference affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at the Division II level, which operates in the southeastern United States. The SAC was founded in 1975 as a football-only conference and became an all-sports conference beginning with the 1989–90 season.
The Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) is a competitive college athletic conference affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) at the Division II level.
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.
The North Atlantic Conference (NAC) is an athletic conference, affiliated with the NCAA ’s Division III, consisting primarily of small liberal arts colleges in the Northern New England states of Maine and Vermont, as well as New York.
NCAA Division II (D-II) is an intermediate-level division of competition in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). It offers an alternative to both the larger and better-funded Division I and to the scholarship-free environment offered in Division III.
The 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.
College lacrosse is played by student-athletes at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. In both countries, men's field lacrosse and women's lacrosse are played at both the varsity and club levels. College lacrosse in Canada is sponsored by the Canadian University Field Lacrosse Association (CUFLA) and Maritime University Field Lacrosse League (MUFLL), while in the United States, varsity men's and women's lacrosse is governed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). There are also university lacrosse programs in the United Kingdom sponsored by British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) and programs in Japan.
Conference Carolinas, formerly known as the Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference (CVAC) or the Carolinas Conference, is a college athletic conference affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) primarily at the Division II level. It is also considered as one of the seven Division I conferences for men's volleyball. Originally formed in 1930, the league reached its modern incarnation in 1994. Member institutions are located in the southeastern United States in the states of Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The Conference Carolinas membership currently consists of 14 small colleges or universities, 12 private and two public.
The American International Yellow Jackets is composed of 22 teams representing American International College in intercollegiate athletics, including men’s and women's basketball, cross country, golf, lacrosse, soccer, track and field, and volleyball. Men's sports include baseball, football, ice hockey, and wrestling. Women's sports include field hockey, rugby, softball, and tennis. The Yellow Jackets compete in NCAA Division II and are members of the Northeast-10 Conference for all sports except ice hockey, which competes in NCAA Division I; men's volleyball, which competes as a de facto Division I member in the East Coast Conference; men's wrestling, which is a NCAA Division II Independent; and women's triathlon, which competes as a de facto Division I independent. The men's ice hockey team is a member of Atlantic Hockey Division I.
The TCNJ Lions are the athletic teams representing The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). They are a member of the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) and compete within Division III of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Massachusetts Institute of Technology's intercollegiate sports teams, called the MIT Engineers, compete mostly in NCAA Division III. It has won 22 Team National Championships, 42 Individual National Championships. MIT is the all-time Division III leader in producing Academic All-Americas (302) and rank second across all NCAA Divisions. MIT Athletes won 13 Elite 90 awards and ranks first among NCAA Division III programs, and third among all divisions. Most of the school's sports compete in the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC), with sports not sponsored by the NEWMAC housed in several other conferences. Men's volleyball competes in the single-sport United Volleyball Conference. One MIT sport, women's rowing, competes in Division I in the Eastern Association of Women's Rowing Colleges (EAWRC). Men's water polo, a sport in which the NCAA holds a single national championship for all three of its divisions, competes in the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) alongside Division I and Division II members. Three sports compete outside NCAA governance: men's rowing competes in the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges (EARC), sailing in the New England Intercollegiate Sailing Association of ICSA and squash in the College Squash Association. In April 2009, budget cuts led to MIT's eliminating eight of its 41 sports, including the mixed men's and women's teams in alpine skiing and pistol; separate teams for men and women in ice hockey and gymnastics; and men's programs in golf and wrestling.
The LIU Post Pioneers were the athletic teams that represented the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University, located in Brookville, New York, in NCAA Division II intercollegiate sports through the 2018–19 school year. The Pioneers most recently competed as members of the East Coast Conference for most sports; the football team was an affiliate of the Northeast-10 Conference. LIU Post has been a member of the ECC since 1989, when the league was established as the New York Collegiate Athletic Conference.
NCAA Emerging Sports for Women are intercollegiate women's sports that are recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States, but do not have sanctioned NCAA Championships.