NCAA DI, NCAA DII, NCAA DIII, NCAA FBS, NCAA FCS, NAIA DI, NAIA DII, NJCAA.
There is always much confusion and misconceptions regarding all the different collegiate “levels”. In this post, I will try to clarify and demystify this Alphabet Soup. Here are my Top 10 Misconceptions regarding the different collegiate playing levels:
Misconception #1 – DI or Bust
Many athletes have the attitude that if they don’t get a NCAA DI offer that they have failed; that playing at a so-called “lower level” would be beneath them. Let me assure you that at most of the so-called “lower level” programs, the athletes are very good. If you think you are just going to waltz in and earn a starting spot just because the football team is not classified as an FBS program, you will be in for a rude awakening.
Misconception #2 – I didn’t get a DI offer – I must not be good enough to play at the next level.
If you want to participate in intercollegiate athletics, there is a level and a program out there for you. It will be challenging (see above) and rewarding, but if you want to play and are willing to work, there is a program out there with your name on it.
Misconception #3 – DI schools are larger than their counterparts at the other levels.
The level that a college or university operates on has nothing to do with the size of their campus or student population. SMU (an FBS school) has an enrollment of 7,000 undergraduate students…. Washington University in St. Louis (an NCAA DIII school) has an enrollment of 7,300 undergrad students. NCAA DI basketball powerhouse Butler has fewer than 4,000 undergrad students… The 2013 NCAA DII Basketball National Champions, Drury University in Springfield, MO has a student population of over 4,500. I think this misconceptions has something to do with the way high school activity associations label and group their schools, which is completely based on student population.
So what does determine the collegiate level? There are 340 NCAA DI institutions. The FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision – formerly NCAA I-A) has 120 schools, FCS (Football Championship Subdivision – formerly NCAA I-AA) has 122 schools, and NFS (Non Football Subdivision) has 98 schools. All D-I schools must field teams in at least seven sports for men and seven for women or six for men and eight for women, with at least two team sports for each gender. There are several other NCAA sanctioned minimums and differences that distinguish Division I from Divisions II and III, such as average attendance and facility size.
Misconception #4 – NCAA FBS schools offer more scholarships.
This is partly true, although it comes with a caveat. NCAA FBS schools have 85 full scholarships in their program, while FCS schools have 63 and NCAA DII have 36. But, (the caveat) in all divisions except FBS, the scholarships can be divided up into partial awards. So, although FBS has more full scholarships to offer, the total number of scholarship athletes in the program is about the same.
Misconception #5 – The atmosphere at the “lower level” programs is lacking.
While not the same as an SEC game day experience I am sure, the atmosphere at many DII schools such as Northwest Missouri State University or the University of Central Missouri can rival the experiences at many “larger” universities.
Misconception #6 – Class sizes at NCAA DI schools are going to be much larger than at an NCAA DIII or NAIA school.
While this is often the case, again there are other factors, such as student population, faculty size and course offerings that will ultimately determine this number.
The NAIA and NCAA are two different governing bodies of collegiate athletics. NCAA DIII schools cannot offer any athletic scholarship aid. NAIA schools CAN offer athletic aid (football 24, soccer 12, etc)
Misconception #8 – NCAA DIII does not offer scholarship aid.
While NCAA DIII schools cannot offer athletic scholarship aid, then can and do offer need based and academic aid to students… including student-athletes.
Misconception #9 – You have to go to a FBS school to have a chance at playing in the NFL
Misconception #10 – The DI mascots are way cooler.
I hope this helped in digesting at least a portion of the Alphabet Soup.