Terms & Definitions


(i.e. Division I, Division II, Division III)

What are the college divisions for sports?

Divisions are groupings or clusters of academic institutions that compete in intercollegiate sports in effort to create fair and equitable sports matchups.

Many factors can be used to set divisions, however, in the United States, collegiate athletic divisions are determined by school size and budget and institutional philosophy and mission. The biggest and most common divisions are the three National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) divisions, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and the three National Junior College Athletics Association (NJCAA) divisions.

  • NCAA Division I
  • NCAA Division II
  • NCAA Division III
  • NAIA
  • NJCAA Division I
  • NJCAA Division II
  • NJCAA Division III

How are divisions determined in college sports?

Many factors can be used to set divisions, however, in the United States, collegiate athletic divisions are primarily determined by , school size, budget, competitive philosophy and institutional mission. Divisions allow athletic programs to stay competitive against teams with similar budgets and goals.

Are there ever subdivisions within divisions?

For sports with many participating academic institutions there are sometimes subdivisions within divisions. For example, in NCAA football, Division I is broken down into two subdivisions: the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

Are Conferences the same as Divisions?

Conferences are not the same as divisions. While both are groupings of institutions based on athletic factors, conferences are smaller subdivisions that reside within the broader framework of a division. Conferences may create rules that are unique to the institutions within its membership, however they may not be less restrictive than those of the Division in which the conference resides.

What is the California Community College Athletics Association?

Also known by the acronym, CCCAA, this organization serves as the governing body that oversees the 108 community college athletic programs within the state of California.

Is Division 1 or Division 3 better in college sports?

Within the NCAA structure, Division I institutions are those that have committed to competing in athletics at the highest level. These institutions devote more financial resources to athletics and sponsor a broader range of sports programs in comparison to Division II and Division III institutions.

What benefits do Divisions provide to student-athletes?

Divisions offer student-athletes a perspective on the level of competition and the amount of resources they should expect at a given institution. An understanding of the philosophy of each division should provide a prospective student-athlete with the necessary information to assist in guiding his or her college choice.

Can institutions have sports programs in multiple divisions?

There are several examples of institutions that sponsor sports programs in multiple divisions. While this is not typically the case, it does occur on occasion.


Lyle Adams


Lyle was a member of the 2007 NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship team at Wake Forest. After embarking on a professional soccer career, Lyle transitioned to the tech industry, where he was one of the first 100 employees at Uber, designing platforms and tools for data consumers. Lyle also holds a Master’s in Sports Management from Columbia University.