What do NCAA, NAIA, and Division I, II, and III mean?

One of the most common comments I hear is “I don’t even know what these DI, DII, DIII, and NAIA things are.” If you’re one of the people who have had that thought, this post is for you! (If you know what they are, but want to know which schools are in which category, skip down to Item 3.)

1) The difference between the NCAA and NAIA: The NCAA and NAIA can best be thought of as two different governing organizations over collegiate athletics in the US. Universities choose which one they want to belong to.  In general, NAIA schools are smaller (< 3,000 students), while NCAA schools tend to be a little bigger, but that’s just the trend. You do see some slightly larger NAIA schools and some smaller NCAA schools.

The NCAA and NAIA have different rule sets for both recruiting and for playing the game, but we'll talk about those in another post.

2) The difference between NCAA D-I, D-II, and D-III. Division I, II, and III schools are all under the NCAA umbrella. The major thing that separates them is the way scholarships work. 

At fully funded D-I schools, they get 12 full scholarships (tuition, room, board, books) that they CANNOT divide (i.e., fully funded DI schools are not allowed to give partial scholarships).  The way D-I schools get around that is they may offer students scholarships for one or two years out of four. A “one-for-four” or “two-for-four” would be a D-I school’s way of giving a 25% scholarship or a 50% scholarship. 

At D-II schools, they have 8 athletic scholarships that they can divide any way they want.  So at D-IIs, that’s where you see players getting 50% scholarships, or “full tuition” scholarships where tuition is covered but the player is still responsible for books, fees, room, and board.  (NAIA schools operate like NCAA D-II schools for scholarships. NAIA schools also have 8 to divide any way they want.)

At D-III schools, they are not allowed to give athletic scholarships of any kind.  D-III schools can only give academic scholarships. Some D-IIIs are able to work things out so athletes are able to “find” a little more academic money, but that really depends on the school. 

Due to these scholarship rules, what you TEND to see is that D-I schools are the most competitive athletically (because they can pay the most), D-III schools are the least competitive, and NAIA and D-II schools fall somewhere in between. BUT, there is a lot of overlap. For example, Emory University is D-III, so none of their players are on athletic scholarships, but I would bet at the moment Emory would beat 3 or 4 of the 7 D-I schools in the state of Georgia. Even though they are D-III, they are a very, very good volleyball (and academic!) school. 

3) Where can I find a list of schools that fit into each category? There is a list of VB schools in Georgia here that tells you what division each of those schools are in. You can also see the rankings in each division in these files if you’d like a complete list (download the zip folder after you click the link).  The DI schools are all ranked together. The D-II and D-III schools are ranked by region, so it’s a little more to search through, but it makes it easier to see how schools in the South/Southeast compare with one another on the volleyball court.

The easiest way to search outside of Georgia by DI, II, III, and NAIA is to use the school search feature on Sports Recruits.  It lets you sort by division, so you can see which schools around us belong to which categories.  If you see a school you’re interested in while searching, tag it! 

I hope that helps with some of the confusion! I know it’s a lot to take in, so if you have questions please let me know! 

Thanks!! 

Kim 

 

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