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National Collegiate Athletic Association

National Collegiate Athletic Association

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

In its 2016–17 fiscal year the NCAA took in $1.06 billion in revenue, over 82% of which was generated by the Division I Men's Basketball Tournament.

In August 1973, the current three-division system 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.[5] In 2006, Divisions I-A and I-AA were respectively renamed the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

Controversially, the NCAA severely caps the benefits that collegiate athletes can receive from their schools.

There is a consensus among economists that these caps for men's basketball and football players benefit the athletes' schools (through rent-seeking) at the expense of athletes.[6][7]

National Collegiate Athletic Association
FoundedMarch 31, 1906 (IAAUS)[3]1910 (NCAA)
Legal statusAssociation
United States and Canada[4]
1,268 schools/institutions, conferences, or other associations
Mark Emmert
Board of Governors
WebsiteNCAA official website[87]NCAA administrative website[88]


Formation and early years

Intercollegiate sports began in the US in 1852 when crews from Harvard and Yale universities met in a challenge race in the sport of rowing.[8] 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 in the early 20th century in response to repeated injuries and deaths in college football which had "prompted many college and universities to discontinue the sport."[3] Following those White House meetings and the reforms which had resulted, 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).[3] The IAAUS was officially established on March 31, 1906, and took its present name, the NCAA, in 1910.[3]

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.[9]

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.[9]

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.[9]

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.[9]


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.[10] 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 2006) in football.[9]

Until the 1980s, the association did not offer women's athletics.

Instead, the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW), with nearly 1000 member schools, governed women's collegiate sports in the United States. The AIAW was in a vulnerable position that precipitated conflicts with the NCAA in the early 1980s. Following a one-year overlap in which both organizations staged women's championships, the AIAW discontinued operation, and most member schools continued their women's athletics programs under the governance of the NCAA.[11] By 1982 all divisions of the NCAA offered national championship events for women's athletics. 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.[9]

By the 1980s, televised college football had become a 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 favour 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.[12] (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.)

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.[13]

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.[14]

In 2009, Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, became the NCAA's first non-US member institution.[15][16]

In 2014, the NCAA set a record high of a $989 Million in net revenue.

This being just shy of $1 billion, it is among the highest of all large sports organizations.

Notable Court Cases

  • In the late 1940s, there were only two colleges in the country, Notre Dame and Pennsylvania, 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. University of Pennsylvania president Harold Stassen defied the monopoly and renewed its contract with ABC. Eventually Penn dropped their suit when the NCAA, refusing Penn's request that the U.S. Attorney General rule on the legality of the NCAA's restrictive plan,[17] threatened to expel the Quakers from the association. Notre Dame continued televising its games through 1953, working around the ban by filming its games, then broadcasting them the next evening.[18]

  • In 1977, prompted partly by the Tarkanian Case, the US Congress initiated an investigation into the NCAA.[19] It, combined with Tarkanian's case, forced the NCAA's internal files into the public record.[20]

  • In 1998, the NCAA settled a $2.5 million lawsuit filed by former UNLV basketball coach, Jerry Tarkanian. Tarkanian sued the NCAA after he was forced to resign from UNLV, where he had been head coach from 1975 to 1992. The suit claimed the agency singled him out, penalizing the university's basketball program three times in that span. 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.[21]

  • 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.[22]

  • 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."[23]

  • In 2013, Jay Bilas claimed 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. The search results returned corresponding numbered team jerseys. The NCAA subsequently removed the team jerseys listed on its site.[24]

  • 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".[25] 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.[26]


The NCAA's current National Office in Indianapolis

The NCAA's current National Office in Indianapolis

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 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.[27]

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.[28]

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' centre.[29]

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' centre in Union Station. However Kansas City's main sports venue Kemper Arena was nearly 30 years old.[29] 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.[29] 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.[30]


The NCAA's Board of Governors (formerly known as the Executive Committee) is the main body within the NCAA.

This body elects the NCAA's President.[31]

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 advisers.

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.

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's stated objective for the venture is to help improve the fairness, quality, and consistency of officiating across amateur athletics.[32][33]

Presidents of the NCAA

The NCAA had no full-time administrator until 1951, when Walter Byers was appointed executive director.[3] In 1988, the title was changed to President.[34]

  • Walter Byers 1951–1988

  • James Frank 1981-1983 (Executive Director)

  • Dick Schultz 1988–1993 (Executive Director)

  • Judith Sweet 1991-1993 (President)

  • Cedric Dempsey 1994–2002[34]

  • Myles Brand 2003–2009[34][35]

  • Jim Isch (interim) 2009–2010[36]

  • Mark Emmert 2011–present

Division history

1956–1972University Division (Major College)College Division(Small College)
1973–presentDivision IDivision IIDivision III
1978–2006Division I-A (football only)Division I-AA (football only)Division I-AAADivision IIDivision III
2006–presentDivision IFBS(football only)Division IFCS(football only)Division I(non-football)Division IIDivision III

Player eligibility

To participate in college athletics in their freshman year, the NCAA requires that students meet three criteria: having graduated from high school, be completing the minimum required academic courses, and having qualifying grade-point average (GPA) and SAT or ACT scores.[37]

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.[38]

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.[37]

As of the 2017–18 school year, a high school student may sign a letter of intent to enter and play football for a Division I or Division II college in either of two periods.[2] The first, introduced in 2017–18, is a three-day period in mid-December, coinciding with the first three days of the previously existing signing period for junior college players.[40] The second period, which before 2017 was the only one allowed for signings of high school players, starts on the first Wednesday in February.[41] 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 Division I Men's Basketball Tournament; 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.[42] The changes raise the rate from 900 to 930, which represents a 50% graduation rate.[42]

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.

The NCAA currently awards 90 national championships yearly – 46 women's, 41 men's, and coed championships for fencing, rifle, and skiing.

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 held its first championship in the 2015–16 school year.

The Football Bowl Subdivision of Division I determines its own champion separately from the NCAA via the "College Football Playoff"; this is not an official NCAA championship (see below).

The most recently added championship is a single all-divisions championship in women's beach volleyball, which was approved by leaders of all three divisions in late 2014 and early 2015. The first championship was held in spring 2016.[43] 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".[44]

The NCAA awards championships in the following sports:

NCAA sports
Division I (M)Division II (M)Division III (M)SportDivision I (W)Division II (W)Division III (W)
1938–1958–1973–Cross country1981–1981–1981–
Field hockey1981–1981–1981–
1939–1963–1975–Golf1982–1996–99; 2000–1996–99; 2000–
1948–1978–84; 1993–991984–Ice hockey2001–2002–
1971–1974–79; 1980–81; 1993–1974–79; 1980–Lacrosse1982–2001–1985–
1924–1964–1975–Swimming & Diving1982–1982–1982–
1965–1985–1985–Track & field (indoor)1983–1985; 1987–1985; 1987–
1921–1963–1974–Track & field (outdoor)1982–1982–1982–
1970–2012–Volleyball (indoor)1981–1981–1981–
Volleyball (beach)2016–
1969–Water polo2001–
  • In addition to the sports above, the NCAA sanctioned a boxing championship from 1948 to 1960.

  • The NCAA discontinued boxing following declines in the sport during the 1950s and following the death of a boxer at the 1960 NCAA tournament.

The number of teams (school programs) that compete in each sport in their respective division as of 2017 are as follows:[45]

Emerging Sports for Women

In addition to the above sports, the NCAA recognizes Emerging Sports for Women.

These sports have scholarship limitations for each sport, 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.

An "Emerging Sport" must gain championship status (minimum 40 varsity programs for team sports, except 28 for Division III) within 10 years, or show steady progress toward that goal to remain on the list.[46] Until then, it is under the auspices of the NCAA and its respective institutions.

Emerging Sport status allows for competition to include club teams to satisfy the minimum number of competitions bylaw established by the NCAA.

The three sports currently designated as Emerging Sports for Women are:

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.[47]

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.

Men's sports

The men's sports with the biggest net gains during the 1988/89 to 2010/11 period were indoor track and field, lacrosse, and cross-country running (each with more than 100 net gains).

The men's sports with the biggest losses were wrestling (–104 teams), tennis, and rifle; the men's team sport with the most net losses was water polo.[47] Other reports show that 355 college wrestling programs have been eliminated since 2000; 212 men's gymnastics programs have been eliminated since 1969 with only 17 programs remaining as of 2013.[48]

Men's Team Sports:Number of Schools Sponsoring[[CITE|49|http://www.ncaapublications.com/productdownloads/PR2014.pdf]]
6Ice hockey130135+5+4%
8Water polo4943–6–12%

The following table lists the men's individual DI sports with at least 5,000 participating athletes.

Sports are ranked by number of athletes.

Men's individual sports
No.SportTeams (2015)[49]Teams (1982)[49]ChangeAthletes[49]Season
1Track (outdoor)780577+20328,177Spring
2Track (indoor)681422+25925,087Winter
3Cross country989650+33914,330Fall
4Swimming & diving427377+509,715Winter

Women's sports

The women's sports with the biggest net gains during the 1988–89 to 2010–11 period were soccer (+599 teams), golf, and indoor track and field; no women's sports programs experienced double-digit net losses.[47]

Women's Team Sports:Number of Schools Sponsoring
Field hockey268266–2–1%
Ice hockey1786+69+406%
Water polo64+64——

Source: NCAA Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report • 2012-13 [49]

The following table lists the women's individual NCAA sports with at least 1,000 participating athletes.

Sports are ranked by number of athletes.

Women's individual sports[[CITE|49|http://www.ncaapublications.com/productdownloads/PR2014.pdf]]
No.SportTeams (2015)[49]Teams (1982)[49]ChangeAthletes[49]Season
1Track (outdoor)861427+43428,797Spring
2Track (indoor)772239+53326,620Winter
3Cross country1,072417+65516,150Fall
4Swimming & diving548348+20012,428Winter
  • Equestrian was not a women's varsity sport in 1982 and the NCAA report does not include the number of teams for that year.

  • Equestrian is first listed in the NCAA report in 1988-89 with 41 teams, and so the number of teams for that season is listed in the table above.



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 May 30, 2019,[52] Stanford, UCLA, and Southern California (USC) have the most NCAA championships. Stanford has won 123 and UCLA 117 of their combined NCAA team championships in men's and women's sports, while USC is third with 107.

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, which is not officially sanctioned or recognized by the NCAA. 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.


The NCAA is divided into three levels of conferences, Division I, Division II, and Division III, organized in declining program size, as well as numerous sub-divisions.

Division I

Division I FCS football-only conferences

Map of National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Championship Division I-AA schools

Map of National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Championship Division I-AA schools

  • Missouri Valley Football Conference

  • Pioneer Football League

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

Division III

Division III football-only conferences

  • Commonwealth Coast Football (CCC Football) – Started play as the New England Football Conference in 1965; taken over by the Commonwealth Coast Conference after the 2016 football season, though the football league remains a separate legal entity.

  • Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC)

Other Division III single-sport conferences

  • Central Intercollegiate Bowling Conference (CIBC) – bowling; starting competition in 2019–20

  • 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,[53] ESPN and its associated networks have rights to 21 championships, CBS to 67, and Turner Sports to one. The following are the most prominent championships and rightsholders:

  • CBS: Men's basketball (NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, with Turner Sports, and NCAA Division II Men's 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 Division I Men's 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 Division I Men's Basketball Tournament 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.[54][55]

Office of Inclusion

Inclusion and Diversity Campaign

The week-long program took place October 1–5, 2018.

The aim was to utilize social media platforms in order to promote diversity and inclusion within intercollegiate athletics.

Throughout the NCAA's history, there has been controversy as to the levels of diversity present within intercollegiate athletics, and this campaign is the NCAA's most straightforward approach to combatting these issues.[24]

NCAA Inclusion Statement

As a core value, the NCAA believes in and is committed to diversity, inclusion and gender equity among its student-athletes, coaches and administrators.

It seeks to establish and maintain an inclusive culture that fosters equitable participation for student-athletes and career opportunities for coaches and administrators from diverse backgrounds.

Diversity and inclusion improve the learning environment for all student-athletes and enhance excellence within the Association.[24]

The Office of Inclusion will provide or enable programming and education, which sustains foundations of a diverse and inclusive culture across dimensions of diversity including but not limited to age, race, sex, class, national origin, creed, educational background, religion, gender identity, disability, gender expression, geographical location, income, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation and work experiences.

This statement was adopted by the NCAA Executive Committee in April 2010, and amended by the NCAA Board of Governors in April 2017.[24]

Gender Equity and Title IX

While no concrete criteria is given as to a state of gender equity on campuses, an athletics program is considered gender equitable when both women's and men's sports programs reach a consensus.[56]

The basis of Title IX, when amended in 1972 to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, criminalized discrimination on the basis of sex.[57] This plays into intercollegiate athletics in that it helps to maintain gender equity and inclusion in intercollegiate athletics. The NCAA provides many resources to provide information and enforce this amendment.

The NCAA has kept these core values central to its decisions regarding the allocation of championship bids.

In April 2016, the Board of Governors announced new requirements for host cities that includes protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity for all people involved in the event.

This decision was prompted by several states passing laws that permit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in accordance with religious beliefs.[58]


The LGBTQ community has been under scrutiny and controversy in the public eye of collegiate athletics, but the NCAA moves to support the inclusion of these groups. The NCAA provides many resources concerning the education of the college community on this topic and policies in order to foster diversity.[59]

Title IX protects the transgender community within intercollegiate athletics and on college campuses. While controversy surrounds the topic, the NCAA's current policy on transgender student-athlete participation is dependent on testosterone levels. A transgender male student-athlete is not allowed to compete on a male sports team unless they have undergone medical treatment of testosterone for gender transition, and a transgender female student-athlete is not allowed to compete on a women's sports team until completing one calendar year of testosterone suppression treatment. Transgender males are no longer eligible to compete on a women's team, and transgender females are no longer eligible to compete on a men's team without changing it to a mixed team status.[60]

In 2010, the NCAA Executive Committee announced its support and commitment to diversity, inclusion, and gender equality among its student-athletes, coaches, and administrators.

The statement included the NCAA's commitment to ensuring that all students have equal opportunities to achieve their academic goals, and coaches and administrators have equal opportunities for career development in a climate of respect.[59] In 2012, the LGBTQ Subcommittee of the NCAA association-wide Committee on Women's Athletics and the Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee commissioned Champions of Respect, a document that provides resources and advocacy that promotes inclusion and equality for LGBTQ student-athletes, coaches, administrators and all others associated with intercollegiate athletics*.* This resource uses guides from the Women's Sports Foundation It Takes a Team! project for addressing issues related to LGBTQ equality in intercollegiate athletics.[61] The document provides information on specific issues LGBTQ sportspeople face, similarities and differences of these issues on women's and men's teams, policy recommendations and best practices, and legal resources and court cases.[62]

The NCAA expressed concern over Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act that allows businesses to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. This bill was proposed just before Indianapolis was set to host the 2015 Men's Basketball Final Four tournament.[63] The bill clashed with the NCAA core values of inclusion and equality, and forced the NCAA to consider moving events out of Indiana. Under pressure from across the nation and fearing the economic loss of being banned from hosting NCAA events, the governor of Indiana, Mike Pence, revised the bill so that businesses could not discriminate based on sexual orientation, race, religion, or disability. The NCAA accepted the revised bill and continues to host events in Indiana.[64] The bill was enacted into law on July 1, 2015.[64]

On September 12, 2016, the NCAA announced that it would pull all seven planned championship events out of North Carolina for the 2016–2017 academic year.[66] This decision was a response to the state passing the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act (H.B. 2) on March 23, 2016. This law requires people to use public restrooms that correspond with their sex assigned at birth and stops cities from passing laws that protect against discrimination towards gay and transgender people.[67] The NCAA Board of Governors determined that this law would make ensuring an inclusive atmosphere in the host communities challenging, and relocating these championship events best reflects the association's commitment to maintaining an environment that is consistent with its core values.[66] North Carolina has lost the opportunity to host the 2018 Final Four Tournament which was scheduled to be in Charlotte, but is relocated to San Antonio. If H.B. 2 is not repealed, North Carolina could be barred from bidding for events from 2019 to 2022.[68]

Race and Ethnicity

Racial/Ethnic minority groups in the NCAA are protected by inclusion and diversity policies put in place to increase sensitivity and awareness to the issues and challenges faced across intercollegiate athletics.

The NCAA provides a demographics database that can be openly viewed by the public.[24]

Historically, the NCAA has used its authority in deciding on host cities to promote its core values.

The Association also prohibits championship events in states that display the Confederate flag, and at member schools that have abusive or offensive nicknames or mascots based on Native American imagery.

Board members wish to ensure that anyone associated with an NCAA championship event will be treated with fairness and respect.[58]

Student-Athletes with Disabilities

The NCAA defines a disability as a current impairment that has a substantial educational impact on a student's academic performance and requires accommodation.

Student-Athletes with disabilities are given education accommodations along with an adapted sports model.

the NCAA hosts adapted sports championships for both track and field and swimming and diving as of 2015.[59]

International Student-Athletes

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.[59]

College team name changes

As of 2018, there has been a continuation of changing school mascots that are based on racist and/or offensive stereotypes.

Universities under NCAA policy are under scrutiny for specifically Native American inspired mascots.

While many colleges have changed their mascots, some have gotten legal permission from the tribe represented and will continue to bear the mascot.

This Native American Mascot Controversy has not been completely settled, however, many issues have been resolved.[69]

Here is a list of notable colleges that changed Native American mascots and/or nicknames in recent history:

  • Stanford – Indians to Cardinals (1972); became Cardinal in 1981

  • UMass – Redmen and Redwomen to Minutemen and Minutewomen (1972)

  • Dartmouth – Indians to Big Green (1974)

  • Siena – Indians to Saints (1988)

  • Eastern Michigan – Hurons to Eagles (1991)

  • St. John's (NY) – Redmen to Red Storm (1994)

  • Marquette – Warriors to Golden Eagles (1994)

  • Chattanooga - Moccasins to Mocs, suggestive of mockingbirds (1996)

  • Miami (OH) – Redskins to RedHawks (1997)

  • Seattle – Chieftains to Redhawks (2000)

  • Southeast Missouri State – Indians (men) and Otahkians (women) to Redhawks (2005)

  • Louisiana–Monroe – Indiana to Warhawks (2006)

  • Arkansas State – Indians to Red Wolves (2008)[70]

  • North Dakota – Formally dropped Fighting Sioux in 2012; adopted Fighting Hawks in 2015[71]


  • Illinois – Removed Chief Illiniwek as official mascot in 2007.

  • Athletics teams are still called Fighting Illini.

  • Bradley, Alcorn State – Both schools stopped using Native American mascots but have retained their Braves nickname.

  • William & Mary – Adjusted Tribe logo to remove feathers to comply with NCAA.

  • Athletics teams are still called Tribe.

  • (2007)

  • Chattanooga - removed the mascot, Chief Moccanooga and the Moccasin Shoe imagery in 1996; Kept the term, "Mocs", but reasigned its representation to the official State Bird.

Of note: Utah (Utes), Central Michigan (Chippewas), Florida State (Seminoles) and Mississippi College (Choctaws) all appealed successfully to NCAA after being deemed "hostile and offensive."

Each cited positive relationships with neighboring tribes in appeal.[70] UNC Pembroke (Braves), an institution originally created to educate Native Americans and enjoying close ties to the local Lumbee tribe, was approved to continue the use of native-derived imagery without need of an appeal.

Rules violations

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 appearances 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 was because of the Jerry Sandusky Incident that consequently almost landed Penn State on the hook for the death penalty. They received a $60 million fine, in addition to forfeited seasons and other sanctions as well. The NCAA later reversed itself by restoring all forfeited seasons and overturning the remaining sanctions.

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).[72] 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 has a two-tier sponsorship division.

AT&T, Coca-Cola, and CapitalOne are NCAA Corporate Champions, all others are NCAA Corporate Partners.[73]

Buffalo Wild WingsBar and restaurant2015
Coca-ColaNon-alcoholic beverages2002
Enterprise Rent-A-CarCar rental2005
Lowe'sHome improvement2005
CapitalOneBanking and credit cards2008
Nabisco(Ritzand Oreo)Snack foods2017
Google CloudComputing2017
UPSPackage delivery andlogistics2009
Nissan(Infiniti)Car & parts2010
Wendy'sFast-food restaurant2016
Pizza HutRestaurant2016
General Motors( Buick)Car and parts2013
MarriottHotels and hospitality2017
Uber EatsSoftware/Food delivery2018


As a governing body for amateur sports the NCAA is classified as a tax-exempt not-for-profit organization.[74] As such, it is not required to pay most taxes on income that for-profit private and public corporations are subject to. The NCAA's business model of prohibiting salaries for collegial athletes has been challenged in court, but a 2015 case was struck down.[75] As of 2014 the NCAA reported that it had over $600 million in unrestricted net assets in its annual report.[76] During 2014 the NCAA also reported almost a billion dollars of revenue, contributing to a "budget surplus" - revenues in excess of disbursements for that year - of over $80 million.[76] Over $700 million of that revenue total was from licensing TV rights to its sporting events.[76] In addition, the NCAA also earns money through investment growth of its endowment fund. Established in 2004 with $45 million, the fund has grown to over $380 million in 2014.[77]

NCAA expenditures

According to the NCAA it receives most of its annual revenue from two sources: Division I Men's Basketball television and marketing rights, and championships ticket sales.

According to the NCAA, "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."[78]

In 2017 total NCAA revenues were in excess of $1.06 billion.[79] Division I basketball television and marketing rights generated $821.4 million, and "championships ticket sales" totaled $129.4 million.

Other "smaller streams of revenue, such as membership dues" contributed an unspecified amount.[78]

Expenses by category

The NCAA provided a breakdown of how those revenues were in turn spent, organizing pay-outs and expenses into some 14 basic categories.

By far the largest went to Sports Scholarship and Sponsorship Funds, funding for sports and student scholarships under the Division I Basketball Performance Fund, expenses incurred in producing Division I Championshps (including team food, travel, and lodging), the Student Assistance Fund, and Student Athlete Services.

Together these top five recipients accounted for 65% of all NCAA expenditures.

General and Administrative expenses for running the NCAA day-to-day operations totaled approximately 4% of monies paid out, and other association-wide expenses, including legal services, communications, and business insurance totaled 8%.[78]

The categories:

  • $210.8M Sport Sponsorship and Scholarship Funds

Distributed to Division I schools to help fund NCAA sports and provide scholarships for college athletes.
  • $160.5M Division I Basketball Performance Fund

Distributed to Division I conferences and independent schools based on their performance in the men’s basketball tournament over a six-year rolling period.The money is used to fund NCAA sports and provide scholarships for college athletes.
  • $96.7M Division I Championships

Provides college athletes the opportunity to compete for a championship and includes support for team travel, food and lodging.
  • $82.2M Student Assistance Fund

Distributed to Division I student-athletes for essential needs that arise during their time in college.
  • $71.8M Student-Athlete Services

Includes funding for catastrophic injury insurance, drug testing, student-athlete leadership programs, postgraduate scholarships and additional Association-wide championships support.
  • $50.3M Division I Equal Conference Fund

Distributed equally among Division I basketball-playing conferences that meet athletic and academic standards to play in the men's basketball tournament.The money is used to fund NCAA sports and provide scholarships for college athletes.
  • $46.7M Academic Enhancement Fund

Distributed to Division I schools to assist with academic programs and services.
  • $42.3M Division II Allocation

Funds championships, grants and other initiatives for Division II college athletes.
  • $39.6M Membership Support Services

Covers costs related to NCAA governance committees and the annual NCAA Convention.
  • $28.2M Division III Allocation

Funds championships, grants and other initiatives for Division III college athletes.
  • $9.5M Division I Conference Grants

Distributed to Division I conferences for programs that enhance officiating, compliance, minority opportunities and more.
  • $3.3M Educational Programs

Supports various educational services for members to help prepare student-athletes for life, including the Women Coaches Academy, the Emerging Leaders Seminars and the Pathway Program.
  • $74.3M Other Association-Wide Expenses

Includes support for Association-wide legal services, communications and business insurance.
  • $39.7M General and Administrative Expenses

Funds the day-to-day operations of the NCAA national office, including administrative and financial services, information technology and facilities management.

According to the NCAA, the 2017 fiscal year was the first in which its revenues topped $1.0 billion.

The increase in revenue from 2016 came from hikes in television and marketing fees, plus greater monies generated from championship events and investment income.[79]

An ESPN critique of the organization's 2017 financials indicated some $560.3 million of the total $956 million paid out went back to its roughly 1,100 member institutions in 24 sports in all three divisions, as well as $200 million for a one-time payment the NCAA made to schools to fund additional programs.[80]

The Division I basketball tournament alone generated some $761 million, with another $60 million in 2016–17 marketing rights.

With increases in rights fees it is estimated the basketball tournament will generate some $869 million for the 2018 championship.[80]

Player compensation proposals

The NCAA limits the amount of compensation that individual players can receive to scholarships equal to school tuition and related expenses.

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.

There is a consensus among economists that the NCAA's compensation caps for men's basketball and football players benefit the athletes' schools (through rent-seeking) at the expense of the athletes.[6]

Pro-rating payouts to Division I basketball players in proportion to the size of revenues its championship tournament generates relative to the NCAA's total annual revenues would be one possible approach, but will open the door to litigation by students and schools adversely affected by such a formula.

Individual awards

*See also:, ,[81],[81],,, and *See footnote[82]

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.[83]

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) – two-year colleges

  • National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA)

  • United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA)

  • Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) – two-year colleges in Washington, Oregon and Idaho

  • Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) – disbanded in 1982, after NCAA began sponsoring championships in women's sports

Foreign equivalents

  • Australia: UniSport Australia and other school affiliations such as Athletic Association of the Great Public Schools of New South Wales (GPS), and Combined Associated Schools (CAS)

  • Canada: U Sports, and Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA)

  • Indonesia: Liga Mahasiswa (LIMA)

  • Philippines National Collegiate Athletic Association (Philippines) (NCAA), and University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP)

  • United Kingdom: British Universities & Colleges Sport

International governing body

  • International University Sports Federation (FISU) (Fédération Internationale du Sport Universitaire)

See also

  • College athletics in the United States

  • College rivalries

  • College club sports in the United States

  • NCAA Hall of Champions

  • 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

  • NCAA Native American mascot decision

  • Homosexuality in modern sports


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