Division II (NCAA)

Division II (NCAA)
Main logo used by the NCAA in Division I, II, and III.

Division II is an intermediate-level division of competition in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. It offers an alternative to both the highly competitive (and highly expensive) level of intercollegiate sports offered in NCAA Division I and to the non-scholarship level offered in Division III. Divisions II and III were formerly known collectively as the NCAA College Division.

Division II has 281 active member institutions, ranging in size from less than 2,500 to over 15,000, with the average enrollment being around 4,500.

Very few of the 100,000 student-athletes competing in Division II receive a full athletics grant that covers all of their expenses, but most of them will receive some financial aid to help them through school. For the rest of their expenses, student-athletes are on their own—using academic scholarships, student loans and employment earnings just like most other students attending the Division II institution. This healthy partnership is the essence of Division II, where student-athletes are valued for their athletics contribution and for being an important part of the overall student body.

Division II also provides an intersection where athletically gifted students can compete at a high level, while maintaining much of a traditional student experience. Excellent outcomes come from athletics programs that are properly aligned with the educational mission of the institution. This balance is what distinguishes Division II from the others, and this philosophy is at the heart of all decisions made by the division's governing bodies.

Nationally, ESPN televises the championship game in football, CBS televises the men's basketball championship, and ESPN2 televises the women's basketball championship. CBS College Sports broadcasts six football games on Thursdays during the regular season, and one men's basketball game per week on Saturdays during that sport's regular season.



Division II schools tend to be smaller public universities and many private institutions. Athletic scholarships are offered in most sponsored sports at most institutions, but with more stringent limits as to the numbers offered in any one sport than at the Division I level. For example, Division II schools may give financial aid in football equivalent to 36 full scholarships (whereas each school in Division I FBS, the highest level, is allowed 85 individuals receiving financial aid for football), although some Division II conferences limit the number of scholarships to a lower level. Division II scholarship programs are frequently the recipients of student-athletes transferring from Division I schools; a transfer student does not have to sit out a year before resuming sports participation as would be the case in the event of transferring from one Division I institution to another (with the exception of football players transferring from a Division I FBS school to a Division I FCS school, who also do not have to sit out a year). Currently there are 282 either full or provisional members of Division II.

All Division II schools must field athletes in at least ten sports, with male and female competition in a given sport counting as two different sports. In addition, all coeducational schools must field athletes in at least four sports in each gender.[1] Simon Fraser University became the first institution outside the United States to enter the NCAA membership process. This occurred after the Division II Membership Committee accepted the institution’s application during a July 7–9 meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana. Simon Fraser, located in Burnaby, British Columbia, began a two-year candidacy period September 1, 2009. Prospective members also must complete at least one year of provisional status before being accepted as full-time Division II members, meaning the Canadian institution could become an active Division II member by fall 2012.[2]

NCAA Division II conferences

^ Conferences that sponsor football

The newest D-II conference is the Great American Conference, made up of the Arkansas-based institutions formerly in the Gulf South Conference and three Oklahoma schools previously in the Lone Star Conference. This league was accepted as a Division II member conference during the 2011 NCAA Convention in January.

The Great Lakes Football Conference will disband after the 2011–12 school year. It is effectively being absorbed by the Great Lakes Valley Conference, which is adding football in fall 2012. The initial GLVC football members include all four current GLFC members.

Interaction with other divisions

The NCAA does not strictly prevent its member institutions from playing outside of their own division, or indeed playing against schools that are not members of the NCAA, but it is discouraged in many sports.


Many Division II schools frequently schedule matches against members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which consists of colleges and universities across the United States and Canada that promote competitive and character-based athletics that is controlled by its membership, as opposed to the NCAA that serves as a regulating body.

Division I

Division II schools also frequently schedule "money games", usually in football and men's basketball, against Division I schools.

In football, D-II teams once occasionally played football games against schools that are now in Division I FBS, but this practice has ended because under current NCAA rules, FBS schools cannot use victories over schools below FCS level for establishing bowl eligibility. Today, D-II "money games" are exclusively against FCS schools, whose postseason eligibility is less seriously impacted by scheduling a D-II opponent. In basketball, where conference tournaments play a large role in determining postseason participants, D-I schools have less of a penalty for scheduling an occasional D-II opponent, resulting in more "money games".

In any event, the D-II school is almost invariably the visiting team, and is invited to play with the almost-certain knowledge that it will be defeated but will receive a substantial (at least by Division II standards) monetary reward which will help to finance much of the rest of the season and perhaps other sports as well.

In recent years, "money games" in men's basketball have also included preseason exhibitions against D-I programs, typically in the same region, that do not count in official statistics for either team. Under NCAA rules. Division I teams are allowed to play two exhibition games in a season, and must host these games.[3] However, prior to the 2011–12 season, two D-I men's programs in Missouri, namely Missouri[4] and Missouri State,[3] received NCAA waivers to travel to D-II Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, a city devastated by a May 2011 tornado, for third exhibition games. Both games were played as fundraisers for tornado relief efforts. Under normal circumstances, these exhibitions can still provide the D-II program with a financial boost similar to that of an in-season game.

Also in basketball, two of the best-known early-season tournaments for D-I schools, the Great Alaska Shootout and Maui Invitational, are hosted by D-II schools, respectively Alaska–Anchorage and Chaminade. Both D-II hosts compete in their respective events.

Non-revenue sports competition

Matches between the three NCAA divisions in non-revenue sports are often quite competitive; the difference in the level of competition between the two divisions is often considerably less in these sports than it is in football and men's or women's basketball. Indeed, in some sports, among them ice hockey and men's volleyball, there is no Division II national championship. In hockey, many schools whose athletic programs are otherwise Division II compete in Division I, and men's volleyball has no NCAA-sanctioned divisional structure (as opposed to the NAIA, which includes men's volleyball in its divisional structure). In any sport that does not have a Division II national championship, Division II members are allowed to award the same number of scholarships as Division I members.


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