The men's water polo team has won the Ontario University Athletics championship 25 times, making it the most successful team at the provincial level. The men's wrestling team has been the most successful team at the national level, winning the Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship four times.
Soccer was the university's first major sport. In 1889, a group of alumni from the Toronto Baptist College and Woodstock College played an exhibition game against one another, sparking an early intercity rivalry (when McMaster University was based in Toronto). A full-fledged hockey club was later organized during the winter of 1896-1897. In 1897, the university had made all athletics, physical activity and sports under the jurisdiction of a central executive committee.
In 1906 McMaster University, along with the University of Ottawa, Royal Military College and University of Trinity College had joined the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union (CIAU), the first formal organization of intercollegiate athletics in Canada and the forerunner of the present day Canadian Interuniversity Sport. The varsity teams have been known as the McMaster Marauders since 1948. The name, the Marauders had been credited to Bill Cline, who in 26 November 1948, had his suggestion for the nickname of the university's men's basketball team published on the school's student newspaper, The Silhouette.
The Marauders currently use the sports facilities located in the northeast corner of the main campus of McMaster. The university has a number of sports facilities including the Ron Joyce Stadium for football, the Ivor Wynne Centre for indoor sports, and Back Tens Field for soccer and rugby. Ron Joyce Stadium fields a full sized Canadian football field and FIFA sized soccer pitch. The stadium is also equipped with permanent seating for 5,500. The David Braley Athletic Centre, another sports venue at McMaster, is also used by the Marauders.
The Marauders have won several championships since they began competitive play in their provincial conference, as well as within the national league they are in. The following is a table of the number of championships won by the Marauders men's teams and individual competitors since the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union was formed in 1961 as well as the number of championships won by Marauders women's teams and individual competitors since the Ontario Women's Interuniversity Athletic Association was formed in 1971.