All About the NCAA

What You Need to Know About the NCAA If Your Kid Is An Athlete

NCAA Hall of Champions in Indianapolis
NCAA Hall of Champions in Indianapolis. Barry Winiker/Photolibrary/Getty Images

If you're the parent of a student-athlete, you've probably heard the term NCAA. The NCAA, or National Collegiate Athletic Association, is the governing body that oversees 23 different sports and athletic championships at 1,200 colleges and universities in the United States. It stresses a well-rounded student, who excels at sports, as well as academics and campus life.

Recruitment for the NCAA

The point at which parents and the NCAA usually intersect is during college recruitment.

High school athletes who want to play college ball (or track, swimming, etc.) at Division I, II or III school must register with the NCAA through its online eligibility center. If your child is interested in playing sports at the college level, his counselor and coach can help him navigate that path. 

Divisions I, II, and III

Schools that are part of the NCAA are divided into Division I, II and III schools. Each of these divisions reflects the relative priority of sports and academics.

Division, I schools generally have the largest student bodies, as well as the largest budgets and scholarships for sports. 350 schools are classified as Division I and 6,000 teams belong to those schools.

Division II schools strive to provide student-athletes with a high level of athletic competition, while also maintaining high grades and a well-rounded campus experience.

Division III schools also provide opportunities for student-athletes to compete and participate athletically, but the primary focus is on academic achievement.

This is the largest division in both total participants and number of schools.

NCAA Sports By Season

Fall Sports

The NCAA offers six different sports for the fall season. Arguably, the most popular overall collegiate sport is football, which takes place during the fall season. Overall, though, the fall season offers the least amount of sports out of the three seasons, as more sports take place during both the winter and spring seasons.

The six sports offered by the National College Athletic Association for the fall season are:

  • Men's and women's cross-country
  • Field hockey
  • Football
  • Men's and women's soccer teams
  • Women's volleyball
  • Men's water polo

Winter Sports

Winter is the busiest season in college sports. The NCAA offers ten different sports during the winter season:

  • Men's and women's basketball teams
  • Bowling
  • Fencing
  • Men's and women's gymnastics
  • Men's and women's ice hockey
  • Men's, women's and mixed rifle
  • Men's, women's and mixed skiing
  • Men's and women's swimming and diving
  • Men's and women's indoor track and field
  • Wrestling

Spring Sports

Eight separate sports are offered during the spring season. Out of those eight sports, seven of them are available to both men and women. The spring season offers baseball for men, as well as softball for women.

The eight sports offered by the National College Athletic Association for the spring season are:

  • Baseball and softball
  • Men's and women's golf
  • Men's and women's lacrosse
  • Rowing
  • Men's and women's tennis
  • Men's and women's outdoor track and field
  • Men's volleyball
  • Women's water polo