The NCAA University Division was a historic subdivision of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) consisting of member schools competing at the highest level of college sports. The University Division was first established as a basis for determining eligibility to participate in the 1957 NCAA University Division basketball tournament. It was replaced in 1973 with the creation of NCAA Division I.


The University Division began for purposes of college basketball. In August 1956, NCAA executive director Walter Byers announced that, starting in 1957, the NCAA would hold separate basketball tournaments for major schools and smaller colleges. Approximately 156 major schools competing in the "University Division" would compete for 24 spots in the University Division tournament, while 285 smaller schools in the "College Division" would compete for 32 spots in a separate tournament.[1]

From its inception, the University Division included all member schools in NCAA-allied conferences, and champions of those conferences automatically qualified to participate in the NCAA University Division basketball tournament. The original allied conferences were:[citation needed]

The first separate "University Division" basketball tournament was held in March 1957.[2]

Main article: 1957 NCAA University Division basketball tournament

By December 1957, the ranks of the University Division expanded to 179 universities and colleges.[3]

Extension to football

While the University Division was initially created as a basis for determining eligibility for the basketball tournament, the concept was extended to college football as well.[when?] As of 1962, 140 college football teams were recognized as being part of the "University Division" for purposes of football, while another 370 schools were in the "College Division".[4] In 1963, the NCAA began holding regional football championships within the College Division. At that time, 120 of the 419 NCAA football programs were classified as being part of the University Division.[5]

Classification into the University Division for purposes of basketball was broader and included more schools than for purposes of football.[6] For purposes of football, and unlike basketball, classification into the University Division was not automatic based on conference membership.[7]

Changes in status

For purposes of football, the ranks of the University Division evolved from year to year. Promotion of football programs to the University Division Annual was determined in earlier years by members of the American Football Writers Association,[8][9] and in later years by an NCAA sanctioning committee.[10] Annual changes in the University Division football membership include the following:


  1. ^ "NCAA Group Opens Talks On Money Aid To Players". Kingsport Times. August 20, 1956. p. 7 – via
  2. ^ "Playoffs For National Title Shots Face Leading Cage Teams". The Corsicana Daily Sun. March 11, 1957. p. 8 – via
  3. ^ "Coach Wilson Is Named To NCAA Rating Board". Owensboro Messenger and Inquirer. December 18, 1957. p. 8A – via
  4. ^ "Bowl Survey May Lead To Tighter Code". The Miami News. December 12, 1962. p. 32 – via
  5. ^ "NCAA Widens Its Program For Next Year". The Press Democrat. August 14, 1963. p. 23 – via
  6. ^ "Academic Rule Okayed by Most NCAA Groups". Clarion-Ledger. February 20, 1966. p. 43.
  7. ^ "Status Of Furman, Davidson Being Reviewed By NCAA". The Greenville News. August 6, 1965. p. 30.("Classifications are not made by conferences . . . and being in the Southern Conference does not automatically make a school be of major standing. Nor does one sport affect another.")
  8. ^ "Big Sky to Stay In NCAA Division". The Billings Gazette. May 24, 1967. p. 14 – via
  9. ^ "ASC To Compete In University Division". Irving Daily News. January 16, 1967. p. 8 – via
  10. ^ a b "Northern Football Program Granted University Status". Journal Gazette. July 1, 1969.
  11. ^ Tommy Devine (December 12, 1962). "Bowl Survey May Lead To Tighter Code". The Miami News. p. 32 – via
  12. ^ "NCAA Lists New Events". Tulare Advance-Register. August 15, 1963. p. 4 – via
  13. ^ "Ostyn says Pacific cost major status". Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. August 9, 1967. p. 15.
  14. ^ a b "NCAA ups 4 colleges". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Associated Press. July 2, 1969. p. 22.
  15. ^ "Ball State Sports Go Into a New Era . . . New Coaches and 'Faster Leagues'". Muncie Evening Press. September 10, 1968. p. C8 – via
  16. ^ "65 Colleges Playing 11 Tilts in '70". Austin American-Statesman. September 15, 1970 – via
  17. ^ "Two Elevated To University NCAA Status". Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph. June 16, 1971 – via
  18. ^ "Colleges Open Schedule Soon". Dayton Daily News. September 3, 1972 – via