The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a non-profit association which regulates athletes of 1,281 institutions, conferences, organizations, and individuals. It also organizes the athletic programs of many colleges and universities in the United States and Canada, and helps more than 450,000 college student-athletes who compete annually in college sports. The organization is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. In 2014, the NCAA generated almost a billion dollars in revenue. 80 to 90% of this revenue was due to the Men's Division I Basketball Tournament. This revenue is then distributed back into various organizations and institutions across the United States.
In August 1973, the current three-division setup of Division I, Division II, and Division III was adopted by the NCAA membership in a special convention. Under NCAA rules, Division I and Division II schools can offer scholarships to athletes for playing a sport. Division III schools may not offer any athletic scholarships. Generally, larger schools compete in Division I and smaller schools in II and III. Division I football was further divided into I-A and I-AA in 1978. Subsequently, the term "Division I-AAA" was briefly added to delineate Division I schools which do not field a football program at all, but that term is no longer officially used by the NCAA. In 2006, Divisions I-A and I-AA were respectively renamed the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
Inter-collegiate sports began in the US in 1852 when crews from Harvard University and Yale University met in a challenge race in the sport of rowing. As rowing remained the preeminent sport in the country into the late-1800s, many of the initial debates about collegiate athletic eligibility and purpose were settled through organizations like the Rowing Association of American Colleges and the Intercollegiate Rowing Association. As other sports emerged, notably football and basketball, many of these same concepts and standards were adopted. Football, in particular, began to emerge as a marquee sport, but the rules of the game itself were in constant flux and often had to be adapted for each contest.
The NCAA dates its formation to two White House conferences convened by President Theodore Roosevelt to "encourage reforms" to college football practices in the early 20th century, which had resulted in repeated injuries and deaths and "prompted many college and universities to discontinue the sport." Following those White House meetings, Chancellor Henry MacCracken of New York University organized a meeting of 13 colleges and universities to initiate changes in football playing rules; at a follow-on meeting on December 28, 1905 in New York, 62 higher-education institutions became charter members of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS). The IAAUS was officially established on March 31, 1906, and took its present name, the NCAA, in 1910.
For several years, the NCAA was a discussion group and rules-making body, but in 1921, the first NCAA national championship was conducted: the National Collegiate Track and Field Championships. Gradually, more rules committees were formed and more championships were created, including a basketball championship in 1939.
A series of crises brought the NCAA to a crossroads after World War II. The "Sanity Code" – adopted to establish guidelines for recruiting and financial aid – failed to curb abuses. Postseason football games were multiplying with little control, and member schools were increasingly concerned about how the new medium of television would affect football attendance.
The complexity of those problems and the growth in membership and championships demonstrated the need for full-time professional leadership. Walter Byers, previously a part-time executive assistant, was named executive director in 1951, and a national headquarters was established in Kansas City, Missouri in 1952.
Byers wasted no time placing his stamp on the Association. A program to control live television of football games was approved, the annual Convention delegated enforcement powers to the Association's Council, and legislation was adopted governing postseason bowl games.
As college athletics grew, the scope of the nation's athletics programs diverged, forcing the NCAA to create a structure that recognized varying levels of emphasis. In 1973, the Association's membership was divided into three legislative and competitive divisions – I, II, and III. Five years later in 1978, Division I members voted to create subdivisions I-A and I-AA (renamed the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Football Championship Subdivision in 2007) in football.
Until the 1980s, the association did not offer women's athletics. Instead, an organization named the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) governed women's collegiate sports in the United States. By 1982, however, all divisions of the NCAA offered national championship events for women's athletics and most members of the AIAW joined the NCAA. A year later in 1983, the 75th Convention approved an expansion to plan women's athletic program services and pushed for a women's championship program.
In 1999, the NCAA was sued for discriminating against female athletes under Title IX for systematically giving men in graduate school more waivers than a woman to participate in college sports. In National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Smith, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the NCAA was not subject to that law, without reviewing the merits of the discrimination claim.
Over the last two decades recruiting international athletes has become a growing trend among NCAA institutions. For example, most German athletes outside of Germany are based at US-universities. For many European athletes, the American universities are the only option to pursue an academic and athletic career at the same time. Many of these students come to the US with high academic expectations and aspirations.
In 2014, the NCAA set a record high of a $989 Million in net revenue. Being just shy of $1 Billion is among the highest of all large sports organizations.
The modern era of the NCAA began in July 1955 when its executive director, Kansas City, Missouri native Walter Byers, moved the organization's headquarters from the LaSalle Hotel in Chicago (where its offices were shared by the headquarters of the Big Ten Conference) to the Fairmount Building at 101 West 11th Street in Downtown Kansas City. The move was intended to separate the NCAA from the direct influence of any individual conference and to keep it centrally located.
The Fairmount was a block from Municipal Auditorium which had hosted Final Four games in 1940, 1941, and 1942. After Byers moved to Kansas City, the championships would be held in Municipal in 1953, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1961, and 1964.
The Fairmount office consisted of three rooms with no air conditioning. Byers' staff consisted of four people: an assistant, two secretaries, and a bookkeeper.
In 1964, it moved three blocks away to offices in the Midland Theatre. In 1973, it moved to 6299 Nall at Shawnee Mission Parkway in suburban Mission, Kansas in a $1.2 million building on 3.4 acres (14,000 m2). In 1989, it moved 6 miles (9.7 km) farther south to 6201 College Boulevard in Overland Park, Kansas. The new building was on 11.35 acres (45,900 m2) and had 130,000 square feet (12,000 m2) of space.
The NCAA was dissatisfied with its Johnson County, Kansas suburban location noting that its location on the south edges of the Kansas City suburbs was more than 40 minutes from Kansas City International Airport. They also noted that the suburban location was not drawing visitors to its new visitors' center.
In 1997, it asked for bids for a new headquarters. Various cities competed for a new headquarters with the two finalists being Kansas City and Indianapolis. Kansas City proposed to relocate the NCAA back downtown near the Crown Center complex and would locate the visitors' center in Union Station. However Kansas City's main sports venue Kemper Arena was nearly 30 years old. Indianapolis argued that it was in fact more central than Kansas City in that two-thirds of the members are east of the Mississippi River. The 50,000-seat RCA Dome far eclipsed the 17,000-seat Kemper Arena. In 1999, the NCAA moved its 300-member staff to its new headquarters in the White River State Park in a four-story 140,000-square-foot (13,000 m2) facility on the west edge of downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. Adjacent to the headquarters is the 35,000-square-foot (3,300 m2) NCAA Hall of Champions.
The NCAA's legislative structure is broken down into cabinets and committees, consisting of various representatives of its member schools. These may be broken down further into sub-committees. The legislation is then passed on, which oversees all the cabinets and committees, and also includes representatives from the schools, such as athletic directors and faculty advisors. Management Council legislation goes on to the Board of Directors, which consists of school presidents, for final approval. The NCAA staff provides support, acting as guides, liaisons, researchers, and public and media relations.
Sports sanctioned by the NCAA include the following: basketball, baseball (men), beach volleyball (women), softball (women), football (men), cross country, field hockey (women), bowling (women), golf, fencing (coeducational), lacrosse, soccer, gymnastics, rowing (women only), volleyball, ice hockey, water polo, rifle (coeducational), tennis, skiing (coeducational), track and field, swimming and diving, and wrestling (men). The newest sport to be officially sanctioned is beach volleyball, which will hold its first championship in the 2015–16 school year.
Presidents of the NCAA
The NCAA had no full-time administrator until 1951, when Walter Byers was appointed executive director. In 1988, the title was changed to President.
- Walter Byers 1951–1988
- Dick Schultz 1988–1993
- Cedric Dempsey 1994–2002
- Myles Brand 2003–2009
- Jim Isch (interim) 2009–2010
- Mark Emmert 2011–present
|1956–1972||University Division (Major College)||College Division (Small College)|
|1973–present||Division I||Division II||Division III|
|1978–2006||Division I-A||Division I-AA (football only)||Division I-AAA||Division II||Division III|
|2006–present||Division I Football Bowl Subdivision||Division I Football Championship Subdivision (football only)||Division I (non-football)||Division II||Division III|
NCAA sponsored sports
The NCAA currently awards 89 national championships yearly – 44 women's, 42 men's, and coed championships for fencing, rifle, and skiing. In October 2014, Division I leaders approved the formation of a single all-divisions women's beach volleyball championship beginning in 2016, and Division II and Division III leaders approved the new championship in January 2015. This will be the NCAA's 90th annual championship. The NCAA had called the sport "sand volleyball" until June 23, 2015, when it announced that it would use the internationally recognized name of "beach volleyball".
The NCAA has awarded, or will award, championships in the following sports:
- Championships in which an individual title(s) is (are) awarded alongside a cumulative team championship.
- Championship has been discontinued; also noted with italics
In addition to the above sports, the NCAA currently recognizes three "emerging sports" for women. These sports are recognized by the NCAA, with scholarship limitations for each, but do not currently have officially sanctioned NCAA championships. A member institution may use these sports to meet the required level of sports sponsorship for its division.
Note: Equestrian has been recommended for elimination as an "emerging sport" due to lack of growth in the number of participating institutions.
Sports added and dropped
The popularity of each of these sports programs has changed over time. Between 1988–89 and 2010–11, NCAA schools had net additions of 510 men's teams and 2,703 women's teams.
In women's sports, the sports with the biggest net gains during the 1988–89 to 2010–11 period were soccer (+599 teams), golf, and indoor track and field, while no women's sports programs experienced double-digit net losses. In men's sports, the sports with the biggest net gains during the 1988/89 to 2010/11 period were indoor track and field, lacrosse, and cross-country (each with more than 100 net gains), but the men's sports with the biggest losses were wrestling (-104 teams), tennis, and rifle, and the men's team sport with the most net losses was water polo.
Other reports show that 355 college wrestling programs have been eliminated since 2000, and 212 men's gymnastics programs have been eliminated since 1969 with only 17 programs remaining as of 2013.
The following tables show the changes over time in the number of NCAA schools across all three divisions combined sponsoring each of the men's and women's team sports.
For every NCAA sanctioned sport other than Division I FBS football, the NCAA awards trophies with gold, silver, and bronze plating for the first, second, and third place teams respectively. In the case of the NCAA basketball tournaments, both semifinalists who did not make the championship game receive bronze plated trophies for third place (prior to 1982 the teams played a "consolation" game to determine third place). Similar trophies are awarded to both semifinalists in the NCAA football tournaments (which are conducted in Division I FCS and both lower divisions), which have never had a third-place game. Winning teams maintain permanent possession of these trophies unless it is later found that they were won via serious rules violations.
Starting with the 2001–02 season, and again in the 2007–08 season, the trophies were changed. Starting in the 2006 basketball season, teams that make the Final Four in the Division I tournament receive bronze plated "regional championship" trophies upon winning their Regional Championship. The teams that make the National Championship game receive an additional trophy that is gold-plated for the winner and silver-plated for the runner-up. Starting in the mid-1990s, the National Champions in men's and women's basketball receive an elaborate trophy with a black marble base and crystal "neck" with a removable crystal basketball following the presentation of the standard NCAA Championship trophy.
As of December 6, 2015, UCLA, Stanford, and Southern California (USC) have the most NCAA championships. UCLA holds the most, winning a combined 113 NCAA team championships in men's and women's sports, while Stanford is second with 108 and USC is third with 100.
Football Bowl Subdivision
The NCAA has never sanctioned an official championship for its highest level of football, now known as Division I FBS. Instead, several outside bodies award their own titles. The NCAA does not hold a championship tournament or game for Division I FBS football. In the past, teams that placed first in any of a number of season-ending media polls, most notable the AP Poll of writers and the Coaches Poll, were said to have won the "national championship".
Starting in 2014, the College Football Playoff – a consortium of the conferences and independent schools that compete in Division I FBS and six bowl games – has arranged to place the top four teams (based on a thirteen-member committee that selects and seeds the teams) into two semifinal games, with the winners advancing to compete in the College Football Playoff National Championship. The winner of the game receives a trophy; since the NCAA awards no national championship for Division I FBS football, this trophy does not denote NCAA as other NCAA college sports national championship trophies do.
Hall of Champions
- See also: Academic All-America, Best Female College Athlete ESPY Award, Best Male College Athlete ESPY Award, Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, Honda Sports Award, College baseball awards, and Sports Illustrated 2009 all-decade honors (college basketball & football)
- See footnote
The NCAA presents a number of different individual awards, including:
- NCAA Award of Valor (not given every year); selection is based on the heroic action occurring during the academic year.
- NCAA Gerald R. Ford Award, honoring an individual who has provided significant leadership as an advocate for intercollegiate athletics.
- NCAA Inspiration Award (not given every year); selection is based on inspirational action.
- NCAA Sportsmanship Award, honoring student-athletes who have demonstrated one or more of the ideals of sportsmanship.
- NCAA Theodore Roosevelt Award, the highest honor that the NCAA can confer on an individual.
- NCAA Woman of the Year Award, honoring a senior student-athlete who has distinguished herself throughout her collegiate career in academics, athletics, service, and leadership.
- Elite 90 Award, honoring the student-athlete with the highest cumulative GPA who has reached the competition at the finals site for each of the NCAA's 90 men's and women's championships (in Divisions I, II, and III, plus "National Collegiate" championships open to schools from more than one division).
- Silver Anniversary Awards, honoring six distinguished former student-athletes on the 25th anniversary of their college graduation.
- The Flying Wedge Award, one of the NCAA's highest honors exemplifying outstanding leadership and service to the NCAA.
- Today's Top 10 Award, honoring ten outstanding senior student-athletes.
- Walter Byers Scholarship, honoring the top male and female scholar-athletes.
In previous years, the NCAA has presented the following awards at its NCAA Honors event: Astronaut Salute, Business Leader Salute, Congressional Medal of Honor Salute, Governor Salute, Olympians Salute, Performing Arts Salute, Presidents Cabinet Salute, Prominent National Media Salute, Special Recognition Awards, U.S. House of Representatives Salute, and U.S. Senate Salute.
Division I conferences
- FBS conferences in football are denoted with an asterisk (*)
- FCS conferences in football are denoted with two asterisks (**)
- Conferences that do not sponsor football or basketball are in italics
Division I FCS football-only conferences
Division I hockey-only conferences
- Atlantic Hockey
- College Hockey America
- ECAC Hockey
- Hockey East
- National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC)
- Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA)
Division II conferences
Division III conferences
Division III football-only conferences
Other Division III single-sport conferences
- Continental Volleyball Conference (CVC) – men's volleyball
- ECAC East – men's and women's ice hockey
- ECAC Northeast – men's ice hockey
- ECAC West – men's and women's ice hockey
- Midwest Collegiate Volleyball League (MCVL) – men's volleyball
- Midwest Lacrosse Conference (MLC) – men's lacrosse
- Midwest Women's Lacrosse Conference (MWLC) – women's lacrosse
- Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) – men's and women's ice hockey
- Ohio River Lacrosse Conference (ORLC) – men's and women's lacrosse
- United Volleyball Conference (UVC) – men's volleyball
The NCAA has current media rights contracts with CBS Sports, CBS Sports Network, ESPN, ESPN Plus, and Turner Sports for coverage of its 88 championships. According to the official NCAA website, ESPN and its associated networks have rights to 21 championships, CBS to 67, and Turner Sports to one. The followings are the most prominent championships and rightsholders:
- CBS: Men's basketball (NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament, with Turner Sports, and NCAA Men's Division II Basketball Tournament), track and field, ice hockey (women's division I)
- ESPN: Women's basketball (all divisions), baseball, softball, ice hockey (men's division I), football (all divisions including Div. I FCS), soccer (division I for both sexes)
- Turner Sports: NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament with CBS
WestwoodOne has exclusive radio rights to the men's and women's basketball Final Fours to the men's College World Series (baseball). DirecTV has an exclusive package expanding CBS' coverage of the men's basketball tournament.
From 1998 to 2013, Electronic Arts had a license to develop college sports video games with the NCAA's branding, which included its NCAA Football and NCAA Basketball (formerly NCAA March Madness) series. The NCAA's licensing was not required to produce the games, as rights to use teams are not licensed through the NCAA, but through entities such as individual schools and the Collegiate Licensing Company. EA only acquired the license so that it could officially incorporate the Men's Division I Basketball Championship into its college basketball game series. The NCAA withdrew EA's license due to uncertainties surrounding a series of lawsuits, most notably O'Bannon v. NCAA, involving the use of player likenesses in college sports video games.
Football television controversy
In the late 1940s, there were only two colleges in the country with a national TV contract, a considerable source of revenue. In 1951, the NCAA voted to prohibit any live TV broadcast of college football games during the season. No sooner had the NCAA voted to ban television than public outcry forced it to retreat. Instead, the NCAA voted to restrict the number of televised games for each team to stop the slide in gate attendance. Harold Stassen, president of the University of Pennsylvania, defied the monopoly and signed a $200,000 contract with ABC. Eventually Penn was forced to back down when the NCAA, refusing Penn's request that the U.S. Attorney General rule on the legality of the NCAA's restrictive plan, threatened to expel the Quakers from the association.
By the 1980s, televised college football had become a much larger source of income for the NCAA. In September 1981, the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma and the University of Georgia Athletic Association filed suit against the NCAA in district court in Oklahoma. The plaintiffs stated that the NCAA's football television plan constituted price fixing, output restraints, boycott, and monopolizing, all of which were illegal under the Sherman Act. The NCAA argued that its pro-competitive and non-commercial justifications for the plan – protection of live gate, maintenance of competitive balance among NCAA member institutions, and the creation of a more attractive "product" to compete with other forms of entertainment – combined to make the plan reasonable.
In September 1982, the district court found in favor of the plaintiffs, ruling that the plan violated antitrust laws. It enjoined the Association from enforcing the contract. The NCAA appealed all the way to the United States Supreme Court, but lost in 1984 in the 7–2 ruling NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma. (If the television contracts the NCAA had with ABC, CBS, and ESPN had remained in effect for the 1984 season, they would have generated some $73.6 million for the Association and its members.)
To participate in college athletics in their freshman year, the NCAA states that students must meet three requirements: having graduated from high school, be completing the minimum required academic courses, and having qualifying grade-point average (GPA) and SAT or ACT scores.
The 16 academic credits are four courses in English, two courses in math, two classes in social science, two in natural or physical science, and one additional course in English, math, natural or physical science, or another academic course such as a foreign language.
To meet the requirements for grade point average and SAT scores, the lowest possible GPA a student may be eligible with is a 1.70, as long as they have an SAT score of 1400. The lowest SAT scores a student may be eligible with is 700 as long as they have a GPA of 2.500.
As of 2011, a high school student may sign a letter of intent to enter and play football for a college only after the first Wednesday in February. In August 2011, the NCAA announced plans to raise academic requirements for postseason competition, including its two most prominent competitions, football's now-defunct Bowl Championship Series (replaced in 2014 by the College Football Playoff) and the Men's Division I Basketball Championship; the new requirement, which are based on an "academic progress rate" (APR) that measures retention and graduation rates, and is calculated on a four-year, rolling basis. The changes raise the rate from 900 to 930, which represents a 50% graduation rate.
Students are generally allowed to compete athletically for four years. Athletes are allowed to sit out a year while still attending school but not lose a year of eligibility by redshirting.
Member schools pledge to follow the rules promulgated by the NCAA. Creation of a mechanism to enforce the NCAA's legislation occurred in 1952 after careful consideration by the membership.
Allegations of rules violations are referred to the NCAA's investigative staff. A preliminary investigation is initiated to determine if an official inquiry is warranted and to categorize any resultant violations as secondary or major. If several violations are found, the NCAA may determine that the school as a whole has exhibited a "lack of institutional control." The institution involved is notified promptly and may appear in its own behalf before the NCAA Committee on Infractions.
Findings of the Committee on Infractions and the resultant sanctions in major cases are reported to the institution. Sanctions will generally include having the institution placed on "probation" for a period of time, in addition to other penalties. The institution may appeal the findings or sanctions to an appeals committee. After considering written reports and oral presentations by representatives of the Committee on Infractions and the institution, the committee acts on the appeal. Action may include accepting the infractions committee's findings and penalty, altering either, or making its own findings and imposing an appropriate penalty.
In cases of particularly egregious misconduct, the NCAA has the power to ban a school from participating in a particular sport, a penalty is known as the "Death Penalty". Since 1985, any school that commits major violations during the probationary period can be banned from the sport involved for up to two years. However, when the NCAA opts not to issue a death penalty for a repeat violation, it must explain why it did not do so. This penalty has only been imposed three times in its modern form, most notably when Southern Methodist University's football team had its 1987 season canceled due to massive rules violations dating back more than a decade. SMU opted not to field a team in 1988 as well due to the aftershocks from the sanctions, and the program has never recovered; it has only four winning seasons and four bowl appearance since then (mostly under June Jones, the team's head coach from 2008 until his resignation during the 2014 season). The devastating effect the death penalty had on SMU has reportedly made the NCAA skittish about issuing another one. Since the SMU case, there are only three instances where the NCAA has seriously considered imposing it against a Division I school; it imposed it against Division II Morehouse College's men's soccer team in 2003 and Division III MacMurray College's men's tennis team in 2005. In addition to these cases, the most recent division I school to be considered was Penn State. This because of the Jerry Sandusky Incident that consequently almost landed Penn State on the hook for the Death Penalty. They received a 60 million dollars fine, in addition to forfeited seasons and other sanctions as well.
Additionally, in particularly egregious cases of rules violations, coaches, athletic directors, and athletic support staff can be barred from working for any NCAA member school without permission from the NCAA. This procedure is known as a "show-cause penalty" (not to be confused with an order to show cause in the legal sense). Theoretically, a school can hire someone with a "show cause" on their record during the time the show cause order is in effect only with permission from the NCAA Infractions Committee. The school assumes the risks and stigma of hiring such a person. It may then end up being sanctioned by the NCAA and the Infractions Committee for their choice, possibly losing athletic scholarships, revenue from schools who would not want to compete with that other school, and the ability for their games to be televised, along with restrictions on recruitment and practicing times. As a result, a show-cause order essentially has the effect of blackballing individuals from being hired for the duration of the order.
The NCAA runs the officiating software company ArbiterSports, based in Sandy, Utah, a joint venture between two subsidiaries of the NCAA, Arbiter LLC and eOfficials LLC. The NCAA has said their objective is for the venture to help improve the fairness, quality, and consistency of officiating across amateur athletics.
|The Hartford||Mutual funds and related financial services||2004|
|Enterprise Rent-A-Car||Car rental||2005|
|CapitalOne||Banking and credit cards||2008|
|Kraft (Planters)||Snack foods||2008|
|UPS||Package delivery and logistics||2009|
|Nissan (Infiniti)||Car & parts||2010|
- AT&T, Coca-Cola, and CapitalOne are NCAA Corporate Champions. Other sponsors are NCAA Corporate Partners.
As of 2014 the NCAA reported that it had over $600 million in unrestricted net assets in its annual report. Due to its tax exempt status as a non-for-profit the NCAA is not required to pay most taxes on in income that larger corporations are subject to. While this business model has been challenged during court cases, the NCAA has ultimately emerged victorious. During 2014 the NCAA also reported almost a billion dollars of revenue, contributing to a "budget surplus" of over $80 million. Due to its status as a non-for-profit additional money earned that is unspent is "budget surplus" instead of "profit". It received over $700 million during that same year from licensing TV rights to its sporting events. Along with income generated from its sporting events, the NCAA also earns money through its endowment fund. Established in 2004 with $45 million, the fund has grown to over $380 million in 2014.
The NCAA limits the amount of compensation that players can receive. This rule has generated controversy, in light of the large amounts of revenues that schools earn from sports from TV contracts, ticket sales, and licensing and merchandise. Several commentators have discussed whether the NCAA limit on player compensation violates antitrust laws.
- After losing the 1953 case The University of Denver v. Nemeth, where it was found that a student and athlete was owed workers' compensation, it has been argued that the NCAA created the term "student-athlete." Andrew Zimbalist, in his book Unpaid Professionals (1999), claims the portmanteau was invented to prevent similar future litigation losses.
- In 2007, the case of White et al. v. NCAA was brought by former NCAA student-athletes Jason White, Brian Pollack, Jovan Harris, and Chris Craig as a class action lawsuit. They argued that the NCAA's current limits on a full scholarship or Grant in Aid was a violation of federal antitrust laws. Their reasoning was that in the absence of such a limit, NCAA member schools would be free to offer any financial aid packages they desired to recruit the student and athlete. The NCAA settled before a ruling by the court, by agreeing to set up the Former Student-Athlete Fund to "assist qualified candidates applying for receipt of career development expenses and/or reimbursement of educational expenses under the terms of the agreement with plaintiffs in a federal antitrust lawsuit."
- In 2013, Jay Bilas revealed that the NCAA was taking advantage of individual players through jersey sales in its store. Specifically, he typed the names of several top college football players, among them Tajh Boyd, Teddy Bridgewater, Jadeveon Clowney, Johnny Manziel, and AJ McCarron, into the search engine of the NCAA's official online store, and received the players' jerseys as primary search results. The NCAA took down player jersey sales immediately following the incident.
- Former NCAA President Walter Byers, in his book Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Exploiting College Athletes, summarizes his criticisms of the NCAA's operation by stating that "Today the NCAA Presidents Commission is . . . firmly committed to the neo-plantation belief that the enormous proceeds from college games belong to the overseers (administrators) and supervisors (coaches). The plantation workers performing in the arena may only receive those benefits authorized by the overseers."
- The National Collegiate Players Association (NCPA) is a group started by former UCLA football players with the purpose of organizing student-athletes. Their goal is to change NCAA rules they view as unjust. Two of the rules they focus on include raising the scholarship amount and holding schools responsible for their players' sports-related medical injuries.
- In March 2014, four players filed a class action antitrust lawsuit, alleging that the NCAA and its five dominant conferences are an "unlawful cartel". The suit charges that NCAA caps on the value of athletic scholarships have "illegally restricted the earning power of football and men's basketball players while making billions off their labor". Tulane University Sports Law Program Director Gabe Feldman called the suit "an instantly credible threat to the NCAA." On September 30, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that limiting compensation to the cost of an athlete's attendance at a university was sufficient. It simultaneously ruled against a federal judge's proposal to pay student athletes $5,000 per year in deferred compensation.
- Northwestern University's Division one Football team was the first NCAA team to unionize in 2014.
- South Park, in the episode "Crack Baby Athletic Association" (s15e05), made oblique reference to the NCAA and compared its rules to slavery.
Numerous criticisms have been lodged against the NCAA. These include, but are not limited to:
- In 1998, the NCAA settled a lawsuit from former UNLV basketball coach, Jerry Tarkanian, for $2.5 million. Tarkanian sued the NCAA after he was forced to resign from UNLV in 1992. The suit claimed the agency singled him out while he was at UNLV from 1973 to 1992. During that time, the university was penalized three different times by the NCAA. Tarkanian said "They can never, ever, make up for all the pain and agony they caused me. All I can say is that for 25 years they beat the hell out of me". The NCAA said that it regretted the long battle and it now has more understanding of Tarkanian's position and that the case has changed the enforcement process for the better.
- In 2005, a court in King County, Washington ordered the NCAA to pay fired Washington football coach Rick Neuheisel $2.5 million. At issue was whether those questioned by NCAA investigators must be notified of the purpose of the interview. It turned out the NCAA had amended its bylaws to require such notification six weeks before Neuheisel's June 2003 interview. The finding seemed to bolster Neuheisel's argument that NCAA investigators acted improperly, since they hadn't advised him they would ask about his gambling in an auction-style pool on NCAA basketball games.
- In 2013, the NCAA was criticized for denying Georgia offensive lineman Kolton Houston his eligibility for violating the drug policy. Houston tested positive for the anabolic steroid norandrolone that was given without his knowledge to recover from shoulder surgery during high school, but the banned substance remain trapped in the fatty tissues in his body. Despite a huge decline in the substance level to the point where Houston does not gain a significant advantage for using the drug and proof that he had not been reusing it, he remained ineligible. Houston would then undergo dangerous operational procedures to get under the threshold to regain his eligibility, which goes against the mission for the NCAA to help out students. The NCAA is being heavily criticized for maintaining their rigid standards and not making an exception for Houston.
- In 2012, the NCAA was criticized for implementing penalties and bowl suspensions to the Pennsylvania State University and football program without performing an investigation, for overstepping the NCAA bounds of athletic related rules infractions and disallowing any possible appeal as per the NCAA processes and procedures allow.
- In 2009, the NCAA was criticized for suspending Paul Donahoe's NCAA eligibility after it was made public that he had appeared on pornography website Fratmen.
- Several people, notably including former Sports Illustrated columnist Rick Reilly, and NPR's Frank Deford, have criticized the NCAA for its inflexibility.
- Todd McNair vs. NCAA case is at the appellate level. The NCAA sought to dismiss McNair's defamation claims, but the trial judge ruled in favor of McNair. In doing so, the judge had some pretty strong words, including calling the actions of NCAA investigators "over the top" and saying that internal NCAA emails "tend to show ill will or hatred" toward McNair. The NCAA will not unseal all of the documents in the McNair lawsuit. The New York Times and Los Angeles Times are asking the courts to open them. McNair was USC's running back coach and was a key individual in the NCAA investigation of Reggie Bush at USC.
- Ben Wetzler, a baseball player for Oregon State University, was selected in the fifth round of the 2013 MLB Draft. Wetzler did not sign, opting to return to Oregon State for his senior year. The Phillies reported Wetlzer and Jason Monda of the University of Washington, their sixth-round pick who also did not sign, to the NCAA for violating the rule against using a sports agent during financial negotiations, which is "something that reportedly happens all the time". The NCAA suspended Wetzler for 11 games, which is 20% of the Beavers' season. He is scheduled to make his season debut on March 2 against the Wright State Raiders.
- Jan. 2015, In Pennsylvania, a federal judge declined to throw out a state law that requires the $60 million fine Penn State has been paying over the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal be spent to address child abuse within the state. The NCAA said "The NCAA continues to believe the Endowment Act is unconstitutional and will have the right to appeal the lower court's decision at the conclusion of the Corman case". The fine money, which Penn State has been setting aside in installments, is designated to prevent child sexual abuse and help its victims, but the NCAA is attempting to control the funds. In April 2014, the state court also ruled against the NCAA.
- July 14, 2015, a judge ordered the NCAA to pay $44.4 million in attorneys' fees and another $1.5 million in costs to lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Ed O'Bannon class-action antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA. In August, U.S. District Judge Claudia Ann Wilken ruled that the NCAA cannot prevent athletes from selling the rights to their names, images and likenesses.
Other collegiate athletic organizations
The NCAA is the dominant, but not the only, collegiate athletic organization in the United States. Several other such collegiate athletic organizations exist.
In the United States
- National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
- National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA)
- National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA)
- United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA)
- Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) – disbanded in 1982, after the NCAA began sponsoring championships in women's sports
- Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) – Community colleges in Washington and Oregon
Foreign intercollegiate/interuniversity equivalents
- Liga Mahasiswa (LIMA)
- British Universities & Colleges Sport
- Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS)
- Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA)
- National Collegiate Athletic Association (Philippines) (NCAA) and University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) for Philippines (among other leagues)
International governing body
- International University Sports Federation (FISU) (Fédération Internationale du Sport Universitaire)
- Academic Progress Rate
- College athletics in the United States
- College rivalries
- Collegiate Club Sports
- Higher education in the United States
- List of college athletic programs by U.S. state
- List of college sports team nicknames
- List of U.S. college mascots
- National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
- National Junior College Athletic Association
- NCAA Native American mascot decision