The National Collegiate Athletic Association, more commonly known as the NCAA, governs 23 total different collegiate sports programs at various Division I, Division II and Division III schools throughout the United States. There are 351 Division 1 schools representing 49 of the 50 states. There are 305 schools in Division II, including some Canadian institutions. Division III schools do not offer scholarships to athletes.
The National College Athletic Association divides its sports programs up into three separate seasons: fall, winter, and spring. There is no summer sports season in collegiate athletics, as students are not typically in school during the summer months. However, athletes often train and practice during the summer months in order to prepare themselves for sports once the season starts.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association offers six different sports for the fall season. Out of those six sports, two of them are available to both men and women. The other four are only available to men. 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
- Men's and women's soccer teams
- Women's volleyball
- Men's water polo
The winter is the busiest of the seasons in college sports. The National College Athletic Association offers ten different sports during the winter season. The winter season also offers more available options for women.
Out of the ten sports offered by the NCAA during the winter season, seven of them are offered to both men and women. The only sports that take place during the winter season that are not available to women are bowling, fencing, and wrestling.
The 10 sports offered by the National College Athletic Association for the winter season are:
- Men's and women's basketball teams
- 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
The spring season offers more sports options than the fall season, but not quite as many as the winter season. 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 only sport that is offered to only men during the spring season is volleyball, which is also available to women, just during the fall season.
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
- Men's and women's tennis
- Men's and women's outdoor track and field
- Men's volleyball
- Women's water polo
Sports and the College Experience
Many students take a good hard look at the success of a school's sports teams when considering whether to attend. Scholarships to play sports after high school are sought after by many young adults looking for a way to pay for their college tuition, and may choose a sport based on the opportunities schools have in those sports. For example, a decent high school football player will have a better chance of getting a scholarship at a Division II school vs. a highly sought-after Division I institution.
On the other hand, students who are good athletes but do not need an athletic scholarship can take the chance of being a walk on player at any school they attend.
A strong athletic performance in high school can bring offers from Division III schools, where not scholarships are available, but can boost the odds of gaining admission to a chosen school.
Many college students remain loyal and devoted fans long after they have graduated, giving their alma mater's teams enthusiastic support in both cheering and donations. Sports are an integral part of the college experience.