The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) offers schools the chance to play at different division levels for their sports, which affects how they are funded and organized. It also attempts to create a fairer system between schools, which large wealthy programs compete with similarly large and wealthy ones, instead of beating up on smaller schools.
At the perceived top of the pyramid is Division 1. Large schools often play here. Funding for scholarships is relatively high and many of the best high school players get recruited here, but many Division II programs have top level players as well. The divisions really are not set up as classifications of better programs and weaker programs. Read below and find out the real separation between Division I, II, and III: –
- Division I and II programs can offer athletic scholarships, but Division III programs cannot. The main difference in the schools comes from the amount of sports that must be sponsored by the schools as well as the financial aid and support that can be offered;
- Division I programs must sponsor at least seven sports for both men and women (or six for men and eight for women) with two team sports for each gender. They have an allotted amount of financial aid and support that can be offered to athletics;
- Division II programs must sponsor at least four sports for both men and women with two team sports for each gender. They have an allotted amount of financial aid and support that can be offered to athletics; and
- Division III programs must sponsor at least five sports for both men and women with two team sports for each gender. Division III programs can not offer financial aid and support based on athletics.
Just read our interviews with college coaches or look at non-conference or friendly game scores and you will frequently see lower division teams beating higher ones. As a general rule the higher division ones have strong teams, but not always. Howvever you will also see from our interviews that the Division 1 coach has a different recruiting strategy than the Division 2 coach and so on. It’s not always the talent, but really the funding and sponsorship that separates the Divisions of play in the NCAA sports. Think about other options such as NAIA and Junior Colleges as an extra option and you will open even more doors for yourself to get an education paid for through soccer.