Whoever says student-athlete is quick to say NCAA. It is the biggest college sports competition in the world. You will wonder, how big then? Well, hold on: almost half a million (!) student-athletes make up the 19,886 teams that are involved. Half a million! Can you imagine? That’s about all residents of The Hague in the Netherlands!

All these 500,000 athletes are divided into three divisions, 24 sports and 90 championships. Time to find out more about the NCAA!

The history of the NCAA

Harvard vs. Yale – Rowing Competition

‘NCAA’ stands for ‘National Collegiate Athletic Association’ and was founded in 1906, 114 years ago! In 1910 it got its current name. However, college sports existed before the NCAA was founded in 1906. In 1852, Harvard and Yale students organized a rowing competition against each other.

As the years went by, more and more sports were added and the competition became bigger and bigger. But problems regularly occurred, especially within American Football, for example, each university had its own rules and safety measures were minimal, which often resulted in injuries or even deaths. So it was time for structure and rules, and that was what the NCAA was for!

It was not until 1921 that the first ‘NCAA National Championship’ was organized, the National Collegiate Track and Field Championship. Due to its great success, more and more national championships for various sports emerged, including the national basketball championship in 1939: the start of something great!

College sports in the USA were getting bigger, so more and more universities and student-athletes became part of the competitions. That is why it became important in 1973 to divide the NCAA into different divisions, in that year Division I, Division II and Division III were created. Five years later, in 1987, the American Football Teams in Division I wanted a dividing within the first division. Which is why that year, the first division became divided in two subdivisions; IA and I-AA. In 2006, these subdivisions were renamed ‘the Football Bowl Subdivision’ and ‘the Football Championship Subdivision’.

1980 was another special year in the history of the NCAA, when a women’s team was added to the league. Previously, the women participated in the AIAW ‘Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women’, with nearly 1,000 universities participating. In 1980, the NCAA took over the AIAW which resulted in a national championship for each women sports in in 1982.

Another big milestone was in 2014, quite recently. That’s when the record number of net income was achieved, a modest $ 989 million. That’s almost 1 billion dollars! A bizarre amount, and therefore one of the highest of all major sports organizations. We said it before about the USA, go big or go home ..

Well guys, that was today’s history lesson though. Get ready because it’s time for some action!

We now know that Ice Hockey, American Football, Baseball and Basketball are the largest and most visited sports in the USA. By big we mean really BIG. Check out the video below with Best College Football Entrances, with universities that are members of the NCAA. You get the impression that you are watching a World Cup final, but this is College Sports! Goosebumps guaranteed!

The different sports

90 different championships are held annually, of which 46 are women’s sports, 41 men’s sports and three mixed sports: shooting, skiing and fencing. The most recent sport to be added is beach volleyball, it was added in the school year of 2015/2016.

A number of sports are practiced within College Sports but are not part of the NCAA. College Rugby is part of USA Rugby, College Rowing is part of the ACRA and IRA and College Cricket is part of American College Cricket.

Here you find a list of sports covered by the NCAA.

Some sports are practiced in more university programs than the others, the following five men’s sports are practiced in most universities:

  • Basketball
  • Baseball
  • Soccer
  • Football
  • Lacrosse

And for women:

  • Basketball
  • Volleyball
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Lacrosse

‘College Soccer’ is the hardest growing college sport in the last 30 years, earlier we wrote this article about college soccer.

Conferences & Trophies

Within each division are a lot of conferences. Within Division I are 45 different conferences, Division II has 24 and no fewer than 58 different conferences are part of Division III. When you become champion (or in some cases finish high) within the conference, you will be qualified for the NCAA Tournament. It is the ultimate goal of every college team to participate here. As with most tournaments, a nice ‘trophy’ is awarded to the first, second and third place.

Last year it was released which universities have the most national titles to their name. The top 3 now consists of Stanford, UCLA and USC. Stanford has 126 to his name, UCLA 118 and USC 107. Impressive right?

Hall of Fame UCLA – NCAA Titles

There is one NCAA Tournament in particular we would like to highlight here. It is the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, also known as ‘NCAA March Madness’. It is held every spring and 68 teams compete for the national championship. UCLA won the title 11 times, taking the first place with the most wins. Followed by Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke.

It’s a mega event that brings in a lot of revenue for the NCAA. In 2019, companies spent a total of $ 910 million on television advertisement during the March Madness tournament. In addition, 700,000 fans attend the March Madness matches every year. For all basketball fans among us, check out the video below that shows highlights of the March Madness Tournament.

So, that’s lot of good stuff about the NCAA! In addition to the NCAA, there are other big and beautiful sports leagues, such as the NAIA and the NJCAA. But also smaller organizations such as the CCCAA, NWAC, NCCAA and the USCAA.

Would you also like to become a student-athlete in the USA? Or do you have other questions about scholarships, student-athletes or various sports competitions? Reach out and we will help you!