Division II is a collection of more than 300 NCAA colleges and universities that provide thousands of student-athletes the opportunity to compete at a high level of scholarship athletics while excelling in the classroom and fully engaging in the broader campus experience. This balance, in which student-athletes are recognized for their academic success, athletics contributions and campus/community involvement, is at the heart of the Division II philosophy.
All three NCAA divisions emphasize athletics and academic excellence for their student-athletes; after all, the NCAA’s overall mission is to make athletics an integral part of the educational experience at all member schools. The differences among the divisions emerge primarily in how schools choose to fund their athletics programs and in the national attention they command.
Most Division I institutions, for example, choose to devote more financial resources to support their athletics programs, and many can do so because of the large media contracts Division I conferences are able to attract, mostly to showcase the publicly popular sports of football and men’s basketball.
Division II student-athletes are just as competitive and, in many cases, just as skilled as their Division I counterparts, but institutions in Division II generally don’t have the financial resources to devote to their athletics programs or choose not to place such a heavy financial emphasis on them.
What makes Division II unique:
- Division II schools are located in 45 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, and the District of Columbia. The division also expands its membership into Canada with the NCAA’s only international member institution, Simon Fraser University, and features three schools located in Puerto Rico.
- Enrolments at Division II schools range from more than 25,000 to less than 2,500, though about 87 percent of the division’s member schools have fewer than 8,000 students.
- Division II offers a “partial-scholarship” model for financial aid in which most student-athletes’ college experiences are funded through a mix of athletics scholarships, academic aid, need-based grants and/or employment earnings.
- Division II features a high championship-participant ratio (one championship opportunity for every eight student-athletes – the highest among all three NCAA divisions), an emphasis on regional competition in order to reduce missed class time, and a robust community engagement philosophy that integrates student-athletes within both their campus and regional communities.
- Division II is the only NCAA division that conducts National Championships Festivals, Olympic-style events in which a number of national championships are held at a single site over several days.
- Division II student-athletes get their share of television exposure. Since 2006, the NCAA has produced regular-season Division II television broadcasts in football and men’s and women’s basketball. In addition, almost all Division II championship finals are either broadcast live or live-streamed online.
- Student-athletes generally comprise a high percentage of the student body at Division II schools, which insists that athletics is an important component of the learning experience at these institutions.