College Basketball 101: Divisions

The governing body for college basketball, NCAA, oversees 1098 members from voluntary colleges and universities across the US. Each school brings a representative to make rules for the NCAA tournaments. Member schools are classified into three divisions depending on factors such as budget, competitiveness, and size of the school. Each division makes its own rules and regulations.

Division 1 Schools

Since Division 1 schools are the most prominent, they are publicized and advertised on TVs. They also tend to have the biggest budgets due to the lucrative media contracts they land. Examples are the Duke, University of Kentucky, and UCLA. For a college or university to qualify for Division 1, it must sponsor seven sports or more for both men and women. Alternatively, they can sponsor at least eight women’s sports and six men’s sports. There should be two teams for the two genders. Division 1 schools have a limit for the number of athletic scholarships they can offer.

Division 2 Schools

In this category, student-athletes are given partial athletic scholarships, and the main emphasis is the regional competition to minimize skipping of classes. Division 2 schools are required by NCAA to sponsor at least five men’s and five women’s sports. Or they can sponsor six sports for women and four sports for men with two or more sports for every gender. Basketball teams in Division 2 must play half of their games against other Division 2 or Division 1 schools. Ideally, no minimum home game limits are given. About 310 schools in this division, including Lynn University, Florida, have enrolled less than 8,000 students.

Division 3 Schools

Division 3 schools do not provide athletic scholarships, and they form the biggest division of NCAA with over 430 schools. They sponsor at least five sports for both men and women. Their playing seasons are the shortest because they want students to focus on their academics. Emory University and John Hopkins are in this division.