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The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)

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If you are a fan of college athletics, you are probably familiar with the NCAA. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is an association of about 1,200 institutions, organizations, conferences, and individuals that organizes the athletic programs of many colleges and universities in the United States. The NCAA is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana and is currently under the leadership of president, Myles Brand (former president of Indiana University). The NCAA is the largest collegiate athletic association in the world. It is much more prominent than the associations in other countries because of the great popularity of college sports in the United States.

The flying wedge, football’s major offense in 1905, prompted the formation of the NCAA. Because of injuries and deaths, Theodore Roosevelt encouraged reforms in college athletics. This resulted in the founding of the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS). The name was changed to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in 1910. For several years, the NCAA was a discussion group and rules-making body. In 1921, the first NCAA national championship was held – the National Collegiate Track and Field Championships. Gradually, more rules committees were formed and more championships were held. After World War II, abuses in the recruitment of student-athletes and growth of postseason football games demonstrated a need for full-time professional leadership. In 1952 a program to control live television of football games was approved, the annual Convention delegated enforcement powers to the Association’s Council and legislation was adopted governing postseason bowl games.

In 1973, the current three-division setup of Division I, Division II, and Division III was adopted by the NCAA membership in a special convention. Under NCAA rules, Division I and Division II schools can offer scholarships to athletes for playing a sport. Division III schools may not offer any athletic scholarships. Generally, larger schools compete in Division I and smaller schools in II and III. Five years later, Division I members voted to create subdivisions I-A and I-AA (subsequently renamed the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Football Championship Subdivision) in football.

The NCAA began administering women’s athletics programs in 1980 when Divisions II and III established 10 championships for 1981-82. A year later, the historic 75th Convention adopted an extensive governance plan to include women’s athletics programs, services and representation. The delegates expanded the women’s championships program with the addition of 19 events.

The NCAA administers 88 championships in 23 sports for its member institutions. More than 40,600 men and women student-athletes annually compete in these events for national titles. There currently are 10 National Collegiate Championships for which all divisions are eligible—three for men, four for women, and three men’s and women’s events. There are 26 Division I Championships (13 men, 13 women), 25 Division II Championships (12 men, 13 women) and 27 Division III Championships (13 men, 14 women). Championships for men are offered in one or more divisions in baseball, basketball, cross country, football (except in Division I-A), golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, indoor track, outdoor track, volleyball, water polo, and wrestling. Women’s championships are sponsored in basketball, bowling, cross country, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, rowing, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, indoor track, outdoor track, volleyball and water polo. The NCAA sponsors combined men’s and women’s national championships in fencing, rifle and skiing. The NCAA also governs the eligibility standards and recruiting of high school students.

The purpose of the NCAA is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount. There is great focus on the athlete, not just the sport. The Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct has attempted to develop a positive sporting environment for intercollegiate athletics. Values such as respect, caring, fairness, civility, honesty, integrity, and responsibility are the focus for the committee. The NCAA also administers a variety of internship, scholarship and leadership-development programs to enhance the educational opportunities that student-athletes receive on campus. They also conduct research into the academic preparation and performance of student-athletes, among many other topics.

The NCAA is not without critics. A few of the most common criticism includes NCAA rules requiring student-athletes to accept no compensation for their play other than a scholarship. At the same time, universities with major athletic programs reap millions of dollars annually from their athletic programs. They are also concerned that student athletes at universities with major athletic programs often have low graduation rates.

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