The differences among Divisions I, II, and III lie in the number of sports institutions are required to sponsor and the amount of athletically related financial aid an institution awards to student-athletes. There are no minimums or maximums on the enrollment of an institution as it relates to its membership division. The division in which an institution holds membership is selected by the institution based on the criteria below as well as the institution’s philosophies and missions as they relate to the conduct of the intercollegiate athletics program.
In Division I, an institution must sponsor a minimum of either seven sports for men and seven sports for women or six sports for men and eight sports for women. In Divisions II and III, an institution must sponsor a minimum or five sports for men and five sports for women.
In Divisions I and II, an institution may award athletics scholarships to student-athletes, and the number of scholarships an institution may award varies between divisions and varies from sport to sport. Division III institutions are not allowed to award any type of financial aid based in any way on athletics ability. Further, in Division I, an institution must provide a minimum amount of institutional financial aid awards to student-athletes. This minimum requirement may be satisfied by complying with one of four legislative options described in the NCAA Division I Manual.
There are additional differences among the three divisions in other areas such as recruiting, academic eligibility, playing and practice limitations, awards and benefits, and scheduling. Additionally, institutions competing in Division I-A football must meet minimum attendance requirements each year in that sport.