Student-athletes and NCAA eligibility–will your #1 kid make it to a #1 team?

Last week, I mentioned that when we discuss student-athlete recruitment, we usually mean recruitment within the NCAA. It should be noted that there are other divisions which sanction intercollegiate athletics as well. These include the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).

While there is a tendency to rank divisions (ex: D1 NCAA is ‘better” than D3), ultimately, as a student-athlete, you should choose to play for the division that fits you best.

Because most of our athletes consider playing in the NCAA, let’s delve a bit deeper to understand the 3 divisions within it.

The NCAA is the National Collegiate Athletic Association. It’s the major governing body for intercollegiate athletics. More than 1200 colleges and universities are members of the NCAA. As a non-profit organization, the NCAA generates approximately one billion dollars in revenue annually.

NCAA divisions separate schools by level of competition and by the resources of their respective athletic departments. Most televised collegiate sporting events are competitions between Division I schools.

Division I schools have the biggest student bodies, the largest athletic budgets, and the most athletic scholarships. More than 350 schools field more than 6,000 teams, providing opportunities to more than 170,000 student-athletes. These are the members of NCAA Division I.

All of the major sports conferences, including the SEC, Big 10, Pac 12, and ACC are composed of Division I schools.

Ivy League Institutions are also Division I, but it should be noted that Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships. The Ivy League schools include Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and Yale.

Division II includes approximately 300 schools. Division II schools can offer athletic scholarships, but there are fewer scholarships than are available in Division I. Full athletic scholarships are most common in Division I; most Division II athletes receive partial athletic scholarships.

Division III is the largest of all of the NCAA divisions. In Division III, there are 444 institutions and more than 170,000 student-athletes.
Division III athletes aren’t offered athletic scholarships. However, a majority of the athletes are offered some form of academic or need-based aid. Hours dedicated to practice are shorter, and typically, travel is regional.

In Division III, the emphasis is on the value of competing in sports to the participant. Division III student-athletes assert that they are students first, then athletes. Perhaps because of this, there is less focus on generating revenue or creating events for spectators.

With all this in mind, what’s the point of the NCAA anyway?

The NCAA’s primary responsibilities are to oversee championships and to enforce and establish rules for its member institutions. NCAA rules typically concern financial support for athletes, recruiting, and determining athlete eligibility. Additionally, the NCAA is responsible for changes to the rules of some of the sports that it governs.

Student-athletes who plan to participate in collegiate athletics should register with the NCAA Eligibility Center, no later than the fall of junior year. There is no registration deadline, but students must be cleared by the Eligibility Center before they receive athletic scholarships or compete at a Division I or II institution. The cost to register with the Eligibility Center is $90. Potential student-athletes who need a fee waiver should contact their guidance counselor or athletic director. At IN College Planning, we recommend that students register early, so that required coursework is tracked as needed.

The NCAA Eligibility Center certifies whether prospective college athletes are eligible to play sports at NCAA Division I or II institutions. It does this by reviewing the student-athlete’s academic record, SAT® or ACT scores, and amateur status to ensure conformity with NCAA rules.

Are you ready to compete in college? Check out the 2020-21 guide for the College-Bound Student-Athlete to make sure you’re on track to be eligible for the NCAA.

Not sure where to start? IN College Planning is currently enrolling Class ’23 and Class ’24 student-athletes. Get in touch if you have questions about what comes next for your teen.

Let's keep this conversation going! If you have any questions or comments about this blog post, drop us a note below and we'll get back to you!