NCAA Division I

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NCAA Division I logo
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 and nicer facilities and a few more athletic scholarships than Divisions II and III as well as many smaller schools committed to the highest level of intercollegiate competition.

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 out 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.

Finances[edit]

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,[4] and are called "revenue sports".[5] 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.[6]

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).[7] 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.[8]

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.[9]

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."[10]

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).

Finances

Football conferences[edit]

Under NCAA regulations, all Division I conferences defined as "multisport conferences" must meet the following criteria:[11]

  • A total of at least seven active Division I members. However, the NCAA's Grace Period rule (Bylaw 20.02.9.2) allows conferences to operate for up to two years with less than the minimum.[12]
  • Separate from the above, at least seven active Division 1 members that sponsor both men's and women's basketball.
  • Sponsorship of at least 12 NCAA Division I sports.
  • Minimum of six men's sports, with the following additional restrictions:
    • Men's basketball is a mandatory sport, and at least seven members must sponsor that sport.
    • Non-football conferences must sponsor at least two men's team sports other than basketball.
    • At least six members must sponsor five men's sports other than basketball, including either football or two other team sports.
  • Minimum of six women's sports, with the following additional restrictions:
    • Women's basketball is a mandatory sport, with at least seven members sponsoring that sport.
    • At least two other women's team sports must be sponsored.
    • At least six members must sponsor five women's sports other than basketball, with at least two of those five being team sports. If a conference officially sponsors an NCAA "emerging sport" for women (as of 2023–24, acrobatics & tumbling, equestrianism, rugby union, stunt, triathlon, or wrestling), that sport will be counted if five members (instead of six) sponsor it.

FBS conferences[edit]

FBS conferences must meet a more stringent set of requirements for NCAA recognition than other conferences:[13]

  • A total of at least eight active FBS members.
  • To be counted toward this total, a school must participate in conference play in at least six men's and eight women's sports, including men's and women's basketball, football, and at least two other women's team sports.
    • Each school may count one men's and one women's sport not sponsored by its primary conference toward the above limits, as long as that sport competes in another Division I conference. The men's and women's sports so counted need not be the same sport.[14]
Conference Nickname Founded Members Sports Headquarters Total
NCAA
Titles
Men's
NCAA
Titles
Women's
NCAA
Titles
Co-ed
NCAA
Titles
American Athletic Conference The American 1979 [a] 14 [b][c] 22 Irving, Texas 55 37 18 0
Atlantic Coast Conference ACC 1953 15 [d][e] 28 Charlotte, North Carolina 150 87 58 5
Big Ten Conference Big Ten 1896 14 [f][g] 28 Rosemont, Illinois 317 229 72 16
Big 12 Conference Big 12 1996 14 [h][i] 21 [j] Irving, Texas 166 163 3 0
Conference USA CUSA 1995 [k] 9 [l][m] 19 Dallas, Texas 1 1 0 0
Division I FBS Independents[n] 4[o] 1
Mid-American Conference MAC 1946 12 [p] 23 Cleveland, Ohio 4 4 0 0
Mountain West Conference MW 1999 11 [q][r] 19 Colorado Springs, Colorado 21 13 5 3
Pac-12 Conference Pac-12 1915 [s] 12 [t][u] 24 San Francisco, California 501 309 174 18
Southeastern Conference SEC 1932 14 [v] 20 Birmingham, Alabama 223 118 104 1
Sun Belt Conference SBC 1976 14 [w] 20 New Orleans, Louisiana 29 16 12 1

"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. ^ 13 of the 14 full members sponsor football, with Wichita State as the only non-football member.
    • 13 full members, with 12 sponsoring football, in 2024 with loss of SMU.
  3. ^ In addition to the full members, six schools have single-sport associate membership, and two are members in two sports.
    • Navy is a football-only member. Army becomes a football-only member in 2024.
    • Cincinnati, Florida, James Madison, and Vanderbilt are members in women's lacrosse. Cincinnati will leave after the 2024 season when its primary home of the Big 12 Conference begins sponsoring the sport.
    • FIU is a member in men's soccer and women's swimming & diving.
    • Sacramento State is a member in women's rowing.
    • Old Dominion is a member in both women's lacrosse and women's rowing.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 18 full members and 17 football members in 2024 with addition of California, SMU, and Stanford.
  6. ^ 18 members in 2024 with addition of Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Washington.
  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 the following changes:
  9. ^ In addition to the full members, the Big 12 has 13 members that participate in only one sport.
  10. ^ 23 sports in 2024 with addition of beach volleyball and women's lacrosse.
  11. ^ The conference was founded in 1995, with football competition starting in 1996.
  12. ^ 10 members in 2024 with addition of Kennesaw State.
    • 11 members in 2025 with addition of Delaware.
  13. ^ In addition to the full members, Conference USA features 11 schools that play a single sport in the conference, and one that is a member in two sports.
  14. ^ "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. ^ 3 members in 2024 with Army becoming a football-only member of the American Athletic Conference.
  16. ^ In addition to the 12 full members, the Mid-American Conference features 18 single-sport members and one multi-sport associate. Another school will become a single-sport member in the near future.
  17. ^ Since 2012, Hawaiʻi has been a football-only associate member, with most of its remaining teams in the non-football Big West Conference.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ 2 members in 2024: Oregon State and Washington State.
  21. ^ The Pac-12 also includes five associate members, with four competing in a single sport and another in two sports.
  22. ^ 16 members in 2024 with addition of Oklahoma and Texas.[15]
  23. ^ In addition to the full members, the SBC has eight associate members:

FCS conferences[edit]

Conference Nickname Founded Football
members
Sports Headquarters
Atlantic Sun Conference ASUN 1978 4 [a][b][c] 21 Atlanta, Georgia
Big Sky Conference Big Sky 1963 12 [d] 16 Ogden, Utah
Big South Conference Big South 1983 4 [e][f] 19 Charlotte, North Carolina
Coastal Athletic Association Football Conference[g] CAA Football 2007[h] 15 [i][j] 1 Richmond, Virginia
Independents[k] 1 [l] 1
Ivy League[m] 1954 8 33[n] Princeton, New Jersey
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference[o] MEAC 1970 6 [p] 14 Norfolk, Virginia
Missouri Valley Football Conference MVFC 1982 12 [q] 1 St. Louis, Missouri
Northeast Conference NEC 1981 8 [r][s] 24 Somerset, New Jersey
Ohio Valley Conference OVC 1948 6 [e][t] 19 Brentwood, Tennessee
Patriot League 1986 7 [u] 24 Center Valley, Pennsylvania
Pioneer Football League PFL 1991 11 1 St. Louis, Missouri
Southern Conference SoCon 1921 9 [v] 20 Spartanburg, South Carolina
Southland Conference SLC 1963 8 [w] 17 Frisco, Texas
Southwestern Athletic Conference[x] SWAC 1920 12 18 Birmingham, Alabama
Western Athletic Conference WAC 1962 5 [a][y] 20 Arlington, Texas
Notes
  1. ^ a b Includes only members playing in the United Athletic Conference, a football merger between the ASUN and WAC. Due to an NCAA moratorium on the formation of new single-sport conferences, the UAC is not an NCAA-recognized conference, instead being treated as a continuation of a preexisting football alliance between the ASUN and WAC that has a single automatic berth in the FCS playoffs.
  2. ^ 5 ASUN members playing in the UAC in 2024 with addition of West Georgia.
  3. ^ Of the 12 full members, five do not sponsor football at all. Of the football-sponsoring members, four play in the UAC, one in the Pioneer Football League, one as an FCS independent, and one outside of NCAA governance in the weight-restricted variant of sprint football.
  4. ^ The football membership consists of all 10 full members plus football-only affiliates Cal Poly and UC Davis.
  5. ^ a b Includes only members playing in the Big South–OVC Football Association, a single-sport alliance between the Big South Conference and Ohio Valley Conference that has a single automatic berth in the FCS playoffs.
  6. ^ Of the 9 full Big South members, six do not sponsor football at all, while a seventh (Presbyterian) is a member of the Pioneer Football League. Two of the members of the Big South–OVC alliance are Big South associate members: Bryant and Robert Morris.
    • 2 alliance members in 2024 with loss of Bryant and Robert Morris.
  7. ^ Administered by the multi-sports Coastal Athletic Association as a separate entity.
  8. ^ Reflects the establishment of CAA Football by the multi-sports Colonial Athletic Association, now the Coastal Athletic Association. CAA Football officially traces its history to 1947 through the Yankee Conference and Atlantic 10 Conference, and the history can be traced back further to 1938 via the New England Conference.
  9. ^ 16 members in 2024 with addition of Bryant.
    • 15 members in 2025 with loss of Delaware.
  10. ^ Five of the 14 full members of the multi-sports CAA do not play football at all. CAA Football includes six schools outside the multi-sports CAA: Albany, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Richmond, and Villanova. Bryant becomes the seventh such school in 2024.
  11. ^ In football only; such schools almost always are members of multi-sport conferences.
  12. ^ Kennesaw State, otherwise a full ASUN member, was an independent in the 2023 season only.
  13. ^ The Ivy League abstains from the championship tournament and all postseason play.
  14. ^ The count of 33 separately lists all men's and women's sports in which the Ivy League awards a team championship. The following caveats are noted:
    • The Ivy League awards separate men's and women's championships in fencing, a sport in which the NCAA awards a single coed team championship.
    • Includes three non-NCAA sports: men's rowing and men's and women's squash.
    • The Ivy League does not operate a championship event in men's or women's ice hockey. All Ivy members compete as members of ECAC Hockey for that conference's automatic bids to the NCAA men's and women's tournaments. Ivy champions are extrapolated from regular-season results of ECAC games involving two Ivy teams.
    • Through 2023–24, the Ivy League had a similar relationship with the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association in men's wrestling, with Ivy teams competing for NCAA tournament berths as EIWA members and the Ivy championship determined by results of dual meets between Ivy members. Starting in 2024–25, the Ivy League will launch its own men's wrestling championship.
  15. ^ 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 (the most recent example being North Carolina Central in 2023).
  16. ^ Of the 8 full MEAC members, two do not sponsor football: Coppin State and Maryland Eastern Shore.
  17. ^ 11 members in 2024 with loss of Western Illinois.
  18. ^ Of the 9 full NEC members, two do not sponsor football. The seven football-sponsoring schools are joined by associate member Duquesne.
  19. ^ 9 full members and 8 football members in 2024 with the following changes:
    • Loss of Merrimack and Sacred Heart, both of which sponsor football and will become FCS independents.
    • Additions of non-football Chicago State and football-sponsoring Mercyhurst.
    • Addition of Robert Morris as a football associate.
  20. ^ Of the 11 full OVC members, Little Rock, SIU Edwardsville, and Southern Indiana do not sponsor football, while Morehead State competes in the Pioneer Football League. Western Illinois, which became a full member in 2023, played that season in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
    • 7 football members in 2024 with addition of Western Illinois.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ Of the 10 full SoCon members, only UNC Greensboro does not sponsor football.
  23. ^ Of the 10 full SLC members, two do not sponsor football: New Orleans and Texas A&M–Corpus Christi.
    • 9 football members in 2025 with addition of football by UTRGV, which becomes a full SLC member in 2024.
  24. ^ 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 an at-large bid to play if selected.
  25. ^ Of the 11 full WAC members, California Baptist, Grand Canyon, Seattle, UT Arlington, Utah Valley, and UTRGV (which leaves for the Southland Conference in 2024) do not sponsor football at all.

Sports[edit]

Men's team sports[edit]

No. Sport Founded Teams[16] Conf. Scholarships
per team
Season Most
Championships
1 Football 1869 (FBS)[17]
1978 (FCS)[18]
257
(130 FBS,
127 FCS)
24
(10 FBS,
14 FCS)
85 (FBS)
63.0 (FCS)
Fall Princeton (28)
2 Basketball 1939[19] 351 32 13 Winter UCLA (11)
3 Baseball 1947[20] 299 30 11.7 Spring USC (12)
4 Soccer 1959[21] 204 23 9.9 Fall Saint Louis (10)
5 Ice hockey 1948[22] 61 6 18.0 Winter Michigan, Denver (9)
6 Lacrosse 1971[23] 74 10 12.6 Spring Syracuse (10)
7 Volleyball 1970[24] 29 5 4.5 Spring UCLA (19)
8 Water polo 1969[25] 25 4 4.5 Fall 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.
  • Football — D-I football programs are divided into FBS and FCS. The 133 FBS programs can award financial aid to as many as 85 players, with each player able to receive up to a full scholarship. The 128 FCS programs can award up to the equivalent of 63 full scholarships, divided among no more than 85 individuals. Some FCS conferences restrict scholarships to a lower level or prohibit scholarships altogether.
  • Soccer — As of the most recent 2023 NCAA soccer season (part of the 2023–24 academic year), four of the 10 FBS conferences do not sponsor men's soccer—the Big 12, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference, and the SEC. Several other D-I conferences also do not sponsor the sport—the Big Sky, MEAC, Mountain West, Southland, and SWAC. The Ohio Valley Conference is the most recent conference to add men's soccer; it started sponsoring the sport for the first time in the 2023 season. Conference USA shut down its league after losing most of its men's soccer membership to the Sun Belt Conference, followed by the American Athletic Conference taking in CUSA's remaining four teams (three of which fully joined The American in 2023) as associate members for 2022. The MAC was reduced to 5 men's soccer members in the 2022 season, and shut down its league at the end of that season after being unable to find the sixth member needed to maintain its automatic NCAA tournament bid. Of its final men's soccer members, three moved that sport to the Missouri Valley Conference, one to the Big East Conference, and one to the Ohio Valley Conference.
    • The Pac-12 will be reduced to two full members in 2024, with only Oregon State sponsoring men's soccer. Oregon State will house most of its non-football sports in the West Coast Conference in the 2024–25 and 2025–26 school years. Pac-12 men's soccer affiliate San Diego State will move that sport to the Western Athletic Conference.
  • Ice hockey — Almost all D-I ice hockey programs are in the Northeast, the Upper Midwest, or the Colorado Front Range. Only one D-I all-sports conference, the Big Ten, sponsors a men's hockey league. All other conferences operate as hockey-specific leagues. Of the 61 teams competing in D-I hockey in 2022–23, 22 are otherwise classified as either D-II or D-III; a number of schools from D-II play in D-I ice hockey as the NCAA no longer sponsors a championship in D-II and many have traditional/cultural fan bases that support ice hockey, and the D-III schools were "grandfathered" in to D-I through their having sponsored hockey prior to the creation of D-III.
  • Lacrosse — The vast majority of D-I lacrosse programs are from the Northeast, Southeast, and Mid-Atlantic. Only five D-I programs are not in the Eastern Time ZoneAir Force and Denver on the Colorado Front Range, Lindenwood on the Missouri side of the St. Louis metropolitan area, Marquette in Milwaukee, and Utah. Lindenwood will drop men's lacrosse after the 2024 season (2023–24 school year).
  • Volleyball — Of the traditional D-I conferences, only the Big West Conference and Northeast Conference sponsor men's volleyball, with those conferences respectively adding the sport in 2017–18 and 2022–23. Two of the other three major volleyball conferences, defined in that sport as leagues that include full Division I members, are volleyball-specific conferences; the third is the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, a multi-sport conference that does not sponsor football or basketball. In addition to the D-I schools, 33 D-II schools are competing in the National Collegiate division in 2023–24; eight of these are members of Conference Carolinas, the first all-sports league outside Division III to sponsor the sport; six are members of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference; and four are either full or affiliate members of the East Coast Conference, which began sponsoring the sport in 2023–24.
  • Water Polo — The number of D-I schools sponsoring men's water polo has declined from 35 in 1987/88 to 22 in 2010/11.[26] No school outside of California has ever made the finals of the championship, and all champions since 1998 have come from one of the four California schools that are leaving the Pac-12 in 2024.

Men's individual sports[edit]

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. Sport Founded Teams (2022)[27] Teams (1982)[27] Change Athletes[27] Season
1 Track (outdoor) 1921[28] 287 230 +57 11,387 Spring
2 Track (indoor) 1965[29] 264 209 +55 10,369 Winter
3 Cross country 1938[30] 315 256 +59 5,032 Fall
4 Swimming and diving 1937[31] 130 181 −51 3,826 Winter
5 Golf 1939[32] 292 263 +29 2,958 Spring
6 Wrestling 1928[33] 76 146 −70 2,665 Winter
7 Tennis 1946[34] 233 267 −34 2,293 Spring

D-I college wrestling has lost almost half of its programs since 1982.[35]

Women's team sports[edit]

No. Sport Founded Teams[27] Conf. Scholarships
per team
Season Most Championships
1 Basketball 1982 348 32 15 Winter UConn (11)
2 Soccer 1982 335 31 14.0 Fall North Carolina (21)
3 Volleyball 1981 332 32 12* Fall Stanford (9)
4 Softball 1982 293 32 12.0 Spring UCLA (12)
5 Rowing 1997 87 12 20.0 Spring Brown (7)
6 Lacrosse 1982 119 13 12.0 Spring Maryland (14)
7 Field hockey 1981 77 10 12.0 Fall North Carolina (11)
8 Ice hockey 2001 34 5 18.0 Winter Wisconsin (7)
9 Beach volleyball 2016 62 5 6.0* Spring USC (4)
10 Water polo 2001 34 6 8.0 Spring Stanford (8)
Notes
  • As in the men's table above, sports are ranked in order of total possible scholarships. Numbers for head-count sports are indicated without a decimal point; those for equivalency sports are indicated with a decimal point, with a trailing zero if needed.
  • Women's soccer is the fastest growing NCAA D-I women's team sport over a prolonged period, increasing from 22 teams in 1981–82 to 335 teams in 2021–22.[27] However, in recent years, the fastest-growing has been beach volleyball, which went from 14 Division I teams in 2011–12 to 62 in 2021–22.
  • = Since the 2016–17 school year, rugby is classified by the NCAA as an "emerging sport" for women. Beach volleyball, which had previously been an "emerging sport" under the name of "sand volleyball",[36] became an official NCAA championship sport in 2015–16.[37]
  • * = The number of scholarships are partially linked for (indoor) volleyball and beach volleyball. Schools that field both indoor and beach volleyball teams are allowed 6.0 full scholarship equivalents specifically for beach volleyball as of 2016–17, with the further limitations that (1) no player receiving aid for beach volleyball can be on the indoor volleyball roster and (2) a maximum of 14 individuals can receive aid in beach volleyball. If a school fields only a beach volleyball team, it is allowed 8.0 full scholarship equivalents for that sport, also distributed among no more than 14 individuals.

Women's individual sports[edit]

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. Sport Teams (2022)[27] Teams (1982)[27] Change Athletes[27] Season
1 Track (outdoor) 339 180 +159 13,672 Spring
2 Track (indoor) 331 127 +204 13,404 Winter
3 Cross country 347 183 +164 5,896 Fall
4 Swimming and diving 190 161 +29 5,886 Winter
5 Tennis 300 246 +54 2,817 Spring
6 Golf 262 83 +179 2,229 Spring
7 Gymnastics 61 99 −38 1,258 Winter

Broadcasting and revenue[edit]

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 rights Sport National TV contract Total Revenues
(Per Year)
Ref
NCAA March Madness Basketball CBS, Turner $8.8B ($1.1B)
College Football Playoff Football ESPN $5.6B ($470m)
Pac-12 Conference All Fox, ESPN $3.0B ($250m)
Big Ten Conference (Big Ten/B1G) All Fox, ESPN, CBS $2.6B ($440m) [38]
Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) All ESPN, The CW $3.6B ($240m)
Big 12 Conference All Fox, ESPN $2.6B ($200m)
Southeastern Conference (SEC) All CBS, ESPN $2.6B ($205m)
American Athletic Conference All ESPN $910m ($130m)
Mountain West Conference (MW) All CBS, ESPN $116m ($18m) [39]
Mid-American Conference (MAC) All ESPN $100m ($8m) [40]

Scholarship limits by sport[edit]

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:

  • "Head-count" sports, in which the NCAA limits the total number of individuals that can receive athletic scholarships, but allows each player to receive up to a full scholarship.
  • "Equivalency" sports, in which the NCAA limits the total financial aid that a school can offer in a given sport to the equivalent of a set number of full scholarships. Roster limitations may or may not apply, depending on the sport.

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."[41]

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.

Sport Men's Women's
Acrobatics & tumbling 14.0[42]
Baseball 11.7[43][nb 1]
Basketball 13[49] 15[50]
Beach volleyball 6.0[nb 2]
Bowling 5.0[42]
Cross country/Track and field 12.6[53][nb 3] 18.0[42][nb 4]
Equestrian 15.0[42]
Fencing 4.5[53] 5.0[42]
Field hockey 12.0[42]
Football 85 (FBS)[55][nb 5]
63.0 (FCS)[56][nb 6]
Golf 4.5[53] 6.0[42]
Gymnastics 6.3[53] 12[58]
Ice hockey 18.0[59][nb 7] 18.0[nb 8]
Lacrosse 12.6[53] 12.0[42]
Rifle 3.6[53][nb 9]
Rowing 20.0[42]
Rugby 12.0[42]
Skiing 6.3[53] 7.0[42]
Soccer 9.9[53] 14.0[42]
Softball 12.0[42]
Stunt 9.0[42]
Swimming and diving 9.9[53] 14.0[42]
Tennis 4.5[53] 8[58]
Triathlon 6.5[42]
Volleyball 4.5[53] 12[58]
Water polo 4.5[53] 8.0[42]
Wrestling 9.9[53] 10.0[42]
  1. ^ This total is also subject to the following restrictions:
    • The number of total counters is limited to 27.[43]
    • Each counter must receive "athletically related and other countable financial aid" equal to at least 25% of a full scholarship.[44] Most institutional and governmental non-athletic aid falls in the "countable" category;[45] 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.[46] The 25% rule does not apply to baseball schools that offer only need-based aid (such as Ivy League members).[47] 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.[48]
  2. ^ This total is for schools that also sponsor women's indoor volleyball.[51] If a school does not sponsor women's indoor volleyball, it is allowed 8.0 equivalents for beach volleyball.[52] For all schools, the maximum number of counters in beach volleyball is 14.[51][52]
  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.[54]
  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.[54]
  5. ^ FBS programs are also limited to 25 new counters per school year.[55]
  6. ^ FCS programs are also limited to 85 total counters per school year.[56] 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.[57]
  7. ^ The number of total counters is limited to 30.[59]
  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.[60] 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.[61] 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[edit]

The NCAA also has rules specifying the sport in which multi-sport athletes are to be counted, with the basic rules being:[62]

  • Anyone who participates in football is counted in that sport, even if he does not receive financial aid from the football program. An exception exists for players at non-scholarship FCS programs who receive aid in another sport.[63]
  • Participants in basketball are counted in that sport, unless they also play football.
  • Participants in men's ice hockey are counted in that sport, unless they also play football or basketball.
  • Participants in both men's swimming and diving and men's water polo are counted in swimming and diving, unless they count in football or basketball.
  • Participants in women's (indoor) volleyball are counted in that sport unless they also play basketball.
  • All other multi-sport athletes are counted in whichever sport the school chooses.

Football subdivisions[edit]

Subdivisions in Division I exist only in football.[64][65] 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.

As of the 2023 season, the main distinctions between Bowl Subdivision and Championship Subdivision schools are scholarship policies and the existence of an official NCAA championship in the latter subdivision.[66][67] Before the 2023 season, the NCAA required that FBS schools average at least 15,000 attendance, allowing schools to report either total tickets sold or the number of persons in attendance at the games. The requirement was a minimum average of 15,000 people in attendance every other year.[67] These numbers are posted to the NCAA statistics website for football each year. With new rules starting in the 2006 season, it was possible for the number of Bowl Subdivision schools to drop in the future if those schools were not able to pull in enough fans into the games. Additionally, 14 FCS schools had enough attendance to be moved up in 2012.[68] Under current NCAA rules, these schools must have an invitation from an FBS conference in order to move to FBS. 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.

FBS attendance requirements were abolished early in the 2023 season, effective immediately. In their place, Division I added new requirements for athletic funding. Effective in 2027–28, FBS schools must fund the equivalent of at least 210 full scholarships across all of their NCAA sports; spend at least $6 million annually on athletic scholarships; and provide at least 90% of the total number of allowed scholarship equivalents across 16 sports, including football.[66]

Football Bowl Subdivision[edit]

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.[69] 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 upcoming 2024 college football season, there are 133 full members of Division I FBS, plus one transitional school that is considered an FBS member for scheduling purposes. The newest full FBS members are Jacksonville State, James Madison, and Sam Houston, which will complete the transition from FCS prior to the 2024 season. The next school to become a full FBS member is Kennesaw State, which will join Conference USA (CUSA) in 2024 and become a full FBS member a year later. Delaware is set to join CUSA in 2025 and become a full FBS member in 2026.

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.[70] 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.[71] 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.[72][73] 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, and later expansions brought the membership totals to 14 in 2023 and 16 effective in 2024. On the other hand, the Pac-12 Conference has used names (official or unofficial) that have reflected the number of members from the establishment of its current charter in 1959 until its collapse in 2024. 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 most recent additions (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. An even more extrema example of this phenomenon is the Atlantic Coast Conference. For the first 60 years after its 1953 founding, the ACC consisted entirely of schools in Atlantic Coast states. However, in 2013, the conference added three new schools, two of which (Pittsburgh and, for non-football sports, Indiana-based Notre Dame) were in states without an Atlantic shoreline. The following year saw the ACC add another non-Atlantic school in Louisville. Then, in 2023, the conference announced it would expand in 2024 to the Pacific coast with San Francisco Bay Area rivals California and Stanford, and also add SMU from Dallas–Fort Worth.

Conferences[edit]

Conference Nickname Founded Members Sports Headquarters
American Athletic Conference *** The American 1979 [a] 14 [b][c][d] 22 Providence, Rhode Island
Atlantic Coast Conference ** ACC 1953 15 [e][f] 28 [g] Charlotte, North Carolina
Big Ten Conference ** Big Ten, B1G 1896 14 [h][i] 28 Rosemont, Illinois
Big 12 Conference ** Big 12 1996 14 [j][k] 23 [l] Irving, Texas
Conference USA *** CUSA 1995 [m] 9 [n][o] 19 Dallas, Texas
Division I FBS Independents [p] 4[q]
Mid-American Conference *** MAC 1946 12 [r][s] 23 Cleveland, Ohio
Mountain West Conference *** MW 1999 11 [t][u] 19 Colorado Springs, Colorado
Pac-12 Conference ** Pac-12 1915 [v] 12 [w][x] 24 Walnut Creek, California
Southeastern Conference ** SEC 1932 14 [y] 20 [z] Birmingham, Alabama
Sun Belt Conference *** Sun Belt, SBC 1976 14 [aa] 20 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. ^ 13 members in 2024 with loss of SMU.
  3. ^ 13 of the 14 full members sponsor football, with Wichita State as the only non-football member.
    • 12 full members and 14 football members in 2024 with loss of SMU and addition of Army for football only, with Navy already being a football-only member.
  4. ^ In addition to the full members and football-only member Navy, five other schools have single-sport associate membership, and two others are members in two sports.
    • FIU is a member in both men's soccer and women's swimming & diving.
    • Cincinnati, Florida, James Madison, Old Dominion, and Vanderbilt are members in women's lacrosse. Cincinnati will leave after the 2024 season when its primary home of the Big 12 begins sponsoring that sport, and Florida will leave at the same time to join the new Big 12 women's lacrosse league.
    • Old Dominion and Sacramento State are members in women's rowing. Old Dominion will leave in 2024 to join Big 12 women's rowing.
  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. ^ 18 members and 17 football members in 2024 with addition of California, SMU, and Stanford.
  7. ^ 27 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.
  8. ^ 18 members in 2024 with addition of Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Washington.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 16 members in 2024 with the following changes:
  11. ^ In addition to the full members, the Big 12 has 13 members that participate in only one sport, with five more such members to join in the near future.
  12. ^ 25 sports in 2024 with addition of beach volleyball and women's lacrosse.
  13. ^ The conference was founded in 1995, with football competition starting in 1996.
  14. ^ 10 members in 2024 with addition of Kennesaw State.
    • 11 members in 2025 with addition of Delaware.
  15. ^ In addition to the full members, Conference USA features 11 schools that play one sport in the conference, plus one school that is a member in two sports.
  16. ^ "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. ^ 3 members in 2024 with Army football joining the American Athletic Conference.
    • 2 members in 2025 with UMass joining the Mid-American Conference.
  18. ^ 13 members in 2025 with addition of UMass.
  19. ^ In addition to the 12 full members, the Mid-American Conference features 18 members that participate in a single sport, and one that competes in two sports. One other school will become a single-sport member in the near future.
  20. ^ Since 2012, Hawaiʻi has been a football-only associate member, with most of its remaining teams in the non-football Big West Conference.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ 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.
  23. ^ The Pac-12 also includes five associate members that compete in one or two sports.
    • Bakersfield, Cal Poly, and Little Rock compete in wrestling.
    • UC Davis competes in women's lacrosse through the 2024 season, after which it will move that sport to the Big 12 Conference.
    • San Diego State is a member in women's lacrosse and men's soccer. Women's lacrosse moves to the Big 12 Conference and men's soccer to the Western Athletic Conference in 2024.
  24. ^ 2 members in 2024: Oregon State and Washington State.
  25. ^ 16 members in 2024 with addition of Oklahoma and Texas.
  26. ^ 21 sports likely in 2024 with expected (though not yet announced) addition of women's rowing.
  27. ^ In addition to the 14 full members, eight schools are affiliate members:

Football Championship Subdivision[edit]

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.[74] 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).[75] 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.[76] 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.[77]

The postseason tournament traditionally begins on Thanksgiving weekend in late November. When I-AA was formed 46 years ago in 1978,[78] the playoffs included just four teams for its first three seasons, doubling to eight teams for one season in 1981.[79] 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.[80]

Abstainers[edit]

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,[81] 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[edit]

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. A former difference was that FCS schools had a limit of 30 players that could be provided with financial aid in a given season, while FBS schools were limited to 25 such additions per season. These limits were suspended in 2020 before being completely eliminated for both subdivisions in 2023.[66] 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.[82] 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.[83]

Conferences[edit]

Conference Nickname Founded Members Sports Headquarters FCS Tournament Bid
Atlantic Sun Conference ASUN 1978 12 [a][b][c] 21 Atlanta, Georgia Automatic (shared)[d]
Big Sky Conference Big Sky 1963 10 [e] 16 Ogden, Utah Automatic
Big South Conference Big South 1983 10 [f][g] 19 [h] Charlotte, North Carolina Automatic (shared)[i]
Coastal Athletic Association CAA 1983 [j] 14 [k][l][m] 21[n] Richmond, Virginia Automatic
Division I FCS Independents [o] 1[p]
Ivy League Ivy League 1954 [q] 8 33[r] Princeton, New Jersey Automatic – (Abstains)
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference MEAC 1970 8 [s][t] 14 Norfolk, Virginia Abstains
Missouri Valley Football Conference MVFC 1985 [u] 12 [v] 1 St. Louis, Missouri Automatic
Northeast Conference NEC 1981 9 [w][x][y] 24 [z] Somerset, New Jersey Automatic
Ohio Valley Conference OVC 1948 11 [aa][ab] 19 [ac] Brentwood, Tennessee Automatic (shared)[i]
Patriot League Patriot 1986 [ad] 10 [ae][af] 23 Center Valley, Pennsylvania Automatic
Pioneer Football League PFL 1991 11 1 St. Louis, Missouri Automatic
Southern Conference SoCon 1921 10 [ag] 20 Spartanburg, South Carolina Automatic
Southland Conference SLC 1963 10 [ah][ai] 18 Frisco, Texas Automatic
Southwestern Athletic Conference SWAC 1920 12 18 Birmingham, Alabama Abstains
Western Athletic Conference WAC 1962 11 [aj][ak] 20 Arlington, Texas Automatic (shared)[d]
Notes
  1. ^ Most football-playing ASUN members compete in the United Athletic Conference, a football-only merger of the ASUN and the Western Athletic Conference. Of the 12 full members, four do not sponsor football at all. Three others play football outside of the UAC—Kennesaw State as an FCS independent, Stetson in the Pioneer Football League, and Bellarmine outside of NCAA control in the weight-restricted variant of sprint football.
    • 12 full members in 2024 with loss of Kennesaw State and addition of West Georgia, which will play football in the United Athletic Conference.
  2. ^ In addition to the full members, the ASUN has 14 associate members that participate in at least one sport.
    • Air Force, Cleveland State, Detroit Mercy, Robert Morris, and Utah participate only in men's lacrosse.
      • Cleveland State, Detroit Mercy, and Robert Morris will leave in 2024 for the revived Northeast Conference men's lacrosse league.
    • Coastal Carolina competes only in women's lacrosse.
    • Florida Atlantic and UNC Asheville compete only in women's swimming & diving.
    • Gardner–Webb competes in both men's and women's swimming & diving.
    • Liberty competes in women's lacrosse and women's swimming & diving.
    • Lindenwood participates in both men's and women's lacrosse, but will drop men's lacrosse after the spring 2024 season.
    • Mercer competes in men's lacrosse.
    • Old Dominion and SMU compete only in men's swimming & diving. SMU will leave in 2024 when it joins the ACC, which sponsors that sport.
  3. ^ 12 full members and 5 football members in 2024 with loss of Kennesaw State and addition of West Georgia.
  4. ^ a b The ASUN and WAC have merged their football leagues as the United Athletic Conference. The NCAA does not consider the UAC to be a conference, instead treating it as the continuation of a pre-existing football alliance between the two all-sports conferences.
  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. ^ The Big South's four football members—full members Charleston Southern and Gardner–Webb, plus football-only associates Bryant and Robert Morris—compete in the Big South–OVC Football Association, an alliance between the Big South and the Ohio Valley Conference that shares a single berth in the FCS playoffs.
    • 2 football members in 2024 with loss of Bryant and Robert Morris.
  7. ^ In addition to the full members and football affiliates, Furman, Mercer, and Wofford are associate members in women's lacrosse.
  8. ^ Technically 19 sports, but football is organized as an alliance between the Big South and OVC.
  9. ^ a b The Big South–OVC Football Association has a single FCS playoff berth.
  10. ^ The CAA football conference, branded 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. However, the CAA does not consider this conference to be a part of the history of CAA Football. 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. The CAA considers its football history to have started with the formation of the Yankee Conference.
    • 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 A-10's automatic berth in the FCS playoffs.
  11. ^ The CAA has 14 full members, nine of which compete in CAA Football. Currently, six associate members fill out the ranks of CAA Football: Albany, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Richmond, and Villanova. Villanova is an associate of the all-sports CAA in women's rowing.
  12. ^ 14 full members and 16 football members in 2024 with addition of Bryant to CAA Football only.
    • 13 full members and 15 CAA Football members in 2025 with loss of Delaware.
  13. ^ In addition to the CAA Football members, the CAA has four associate members that each participate in one sport:
  14. ^ 21 sports under CAA administration, with the all-sports CAA also governing CAA Football.
  15. ^ "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. ^ Kennesaw State.
  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. ^ This is the number of sports in which the Ivy League awards men's and women's team championships. However:
    • Separate men's and women's team championships are awarded in fencing, a sport with a single coed NCAA team championship.
    • Championships are awarded in three non-NCAA sports (men's rowing plus men's and women's squash).
    • No conference championship tournament is held in men's or women's ice hockey; all Ivy members that sponsor varsity ice hockey compete in ECAC Hockey for that conference's automatic NCAA tournament bids.
    • The Ivy League will hold its first championship meet in men's wrestling in 2024–25. Before that time, Ivy members competed for NCAA championship berths as members of the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association.
  19. ^ The football conference currently consists of 6 of the 8 member schools.
  20. ^ In addition to the full members, Monmouth, North Carolina A&T, and UAB participate in women's bowling.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ 11 members in 2024 with loss of Western Illinois.
  23. ^ 8 full members and 7 football members in 2024 with the following changes:
  24. ^ The conference has 7 full members that sponsor football (dropping to 5 in 2024). Duquesne of the non-football Atlantic 10 is a football associate, and Robert Morris of the non-football Horizon League will become a football associate in 2024.
  25. ^ In addition to Duquesne, which is also an NEC associate in bowling, the NEC has 12 other associate members that participate in one or more sports, with four more set to join in 2024.
    • Binghamton is an associate in men's golf, plus men's and women's tennis.
    • Cleveland State, Detroit Mercy, Robert Morris, and VMI will become men's lacrosse associates in 2024.
    • 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, women's golf, women's lacrosse, and women's soccer.
    • 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. It will add men's volleyball to its NEC membership in 2025.
    • Niagara competes in bowling.
    • North Carolina Central is an associate in men's and women's golf.
  26. ^ 25 sports in 2024 with reinstatement of men's lacrosse.
  27. ^ The OVC's 6 football members compete in the Big South–OVC Football Association, an alliance between the OVC and Big South Conference that shares a single berth in the FCS playoffs. Morehead State plays non-scholarship football in the Pioneer Football League, while Little Rock, SIU Edwardsville, and Southern Indiana do not sponsor football. Western Illinois, which became a full member in 2023, played the 2023 football season in the Missouri Valley Football Conference before joining the Big South–OVC alliance in 2024.
  28. ^ In addition to the full members:
  29. ^ Technically 19 sports, but football is organized as an alliance between the Big South and OVC.
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ Five of the full members do not sponsor FCS football. American, Boston University and Loyola (Maryland) do not sponsor football at all, and as of the upcoming 2024 season, Army and Navy will play in the FBS American Athletic Conference. Fordham and Georgetown are associate members in football.
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ In addition to the full members, the SoCon currently has 9 associate members, each of which plays one sport in the conference.
  34. ^ The football conference currently consists of 8 of the 10 member schools.
    • 11 full members and 8 football members in 2024 with addition of UTRGV, which will play an exhibition-only football season in 2024.
    • 9 football members in 2025 when UTRGV elevates football to full varsity status.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ 11 full members and 5 football members, with all football members competing in the United Athletic Conference.
    • 10 full members in 2024 with loss of UTRGV.
  37. ^ In addition to the full members and football associates, the WAC currently has 9 associate members that house one or two sports in the conference, with one more associate joining in 2024.

Division I non-football schools[edit]

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.[84]

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[edit]

Conference Nickname Founded Members Sports Headquarters
America East Conference America East 1979 9 [a] 18 Boston, Massachusetts
Atlantic 10 Conference A-10 1975 15 [b][c] 22 Newport News, Virginia
Big East Conference Big East 2013 [d] 11 [e] 23 [f] New York City, New York
Big West Conference Big West 1969 11 [g] 18 Irvine, California
Horizon League Horizon 1979 11 [h] 19 Indianapolis, Indiana
Independents[i] Independents 1 [j]
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference MAAC 1980 11 [k][l] 25 [m] Edison, New Jersey
Missouri Valley Conference MVC / Valley 1907 12 [n] 17 St. Louis, Missouri
The Summit League The Summit 1982 10 [o] 19 Sioux Falls, South Dakota
West Coast Conference WCC 1952 9 [p] 15 San Bruno, California
Notes
  1. ^ In addition to the full members, there are five associate members:
    • California, Stanford, and UC Davis are associates in field hockey. California and Stanford will leave in 2024 when they join the field hockey-sponsoring Atlantic Coast Conference.
    • Merrimack is an associate in men's lacrosse, but will leave in 2024 for the lacrosse-sponsoring MAAC.
    • VMI is an associate in men's and women's swimming & diving.
  2. ^ 14 members in 2025 with loss of UMass.
  3. ^ In addition to the full members, four schools are single-sport associates:
    • High Point and Hobart, the latter a Division III member that plays men's lacrosse in Division I, compete in men's lacrosse.
    • Lock Haven, otherwise a Division II institution, and Saint Francis University compete in field hockey.
    • After UMass leaves for the Mid-American Conference in 2025, it may remain an A-10 member in men's lacrosse and women's rowing, neither of which is sponsored by the MAC.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ In addition to the full members, the following schools are Big East affiliates in one or more sports:
  6. ^ 22 NCAA-sanctioned sports plus the non-NCAA and fully coeducational esports.
  7. ^ In addition to the full members, Sacramento State is a member in beach volleyball and men's soccer.
  8. ^ In addition to the full members, the following schools are Horizon affiliates in tennis:
  9. ^ "Independents" is not a conference, it is simply a designation used to indicate schools which are not a member of any conference.
  10. ^ Chicago State.
    • No independents in 2024, with Chicago State joining the Northeast Conference.
  11. ^ 13 members in 2024 with addition of Merrimack and Sacred Heart.
  12. ^ In addition to the full members, 12 other schools are MAAC affiliates in at least one sport.
    • Albany and Dayton in women's golf.
    • Drake, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart (which becomes a full member in 2024), and Stetson participate in women's rowing. Sacred Heart also competes in men's lacrosse.
    • LIU, Villanova, VMI, and Wagner participate in women's water polo. LIU, VMI, and Wagner also compete in men's lacrosse. VMI men's lacrosse will leave in 2024 for the revived Northeast Conference men's lacrosse league.
    • Jacksonville participates in women's rowing and the non-NCAA sport of men's rowing.
    • La Salle participates in women's golf and women's water polo.
  13. ^ 23 NCAA-recognized sports plus two non-NCAA sports, esports (fully coeducational) and men's rowing.
  14. ^ In addition to the full members, four schools house one sport in the conference:
  15. ^ In addition to the full members, four schools are single-sport associates, and three others house two sports in the conference:
  16. ^ In addition to the full members, four schools are single-sport WCC associates, with two more becoming multi-sport associates in the near future:

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 Coastal 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;[85][86] 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.[87] This partnership was renewed for the 2022 season, with five ASUN and three WAC schools participating, though each conference will play its own schedule.[88] After the 2022 season, the ASUN and WAC announced a full football merger for 2023 and beyond under the banner of the United Athletic Conference.[89][90]

Division I in ice hockey[edit]

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[91] 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.[91] 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,[92] 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.[93] Additionally, six other schools from those conferences withdrew to form the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference at the same time.[94][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,[95] which in turn led to the demise of the men's side of the WCHA.[96]

Conferences[edit]

Conference Nickname Founded Members Men Women
Atlantic Hockey [a] AHA 1997 11 11 none
Big Ten Conference Big Ten, B1G 1896 [b] 7 7 none
Central Collegiate Hockey Association CCHA 1971,
2020 [c]
9 9 none
College Hockey America[a] CHA 1999 [d] 6 [e] none 6
ECAC Hockey N/A 1961 [f] 12 12 12
Hockey East HEA 1984 [g] 12 11 10
Independents 6 [h] 6 none
National Collegiate Hockey Conference NCHC 2011 [i] 8 [j] 8 none
New England Women's Hockey Alliance NEWHA 2018 [k] 8 none 8
Western Collegiate Hockey Association WCHA 1951 [l] 8 none 8
Notes
  1. ^ a b Atlantic Hockey and College Hockey America have announced plans to merge in 2024. The branding of the new entity has yet to be announced.
  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. ^ 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.
  5. ^ 7 members in 2025 with addition of Delaware.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Founded as a men's-only conference in 1984, with women's hockey added in 2002.
  8. ^ Alaska, Alaska Anchorage, Arizona State, Lindenwood, LIU, and Stonehill.
    • 5 independents in 2024 with Arizona State joining the NCHC.
  9. ^ Date of founding; play began in 2013–14.
  10. ^ 9 members in 2024 with addition of Arizona State.
  11. ^ Founded as a scheduling alliance in 2017; formally organized as a conference in 2018. Received official NCAA recognition in 2019.
  12. ^ 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[edit]

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.[97][98] 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[edit]

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