College athletics
College athletics refers primarily to sports and athletic competition organized and funded by institutions of tertiary education (universities, or college
A college is an educational institution or a constituent part of an educational institution. Usage varies in English-speaking nations...

s in American English
American English
American English is a set of dialects of the English language used mostly in the United States. Approximately two-thirds of the world's native speakers of English live in the United States....

). In the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, college athletics is a two-tiered system. The first tier includes the sports that are sanctioned by one of the collegiate sport governing bodies. The major sanctioning organizations include the National Collegiate Athletic Association
National Collegiate Athletic Association
The National Collegiate Athletic Association is a semi-voluntary association of 1,281 institutions, conferences, organizations and individuals that organizes the athletic programs of many colleges and universities in the United States...

 (NCAA), the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics is an athletic association that organizes college and university-level athletic programs. Membership in the NAIA consists of smaller colleges and universities across the United States. The NAIA allows colleges and universities outside the USA...

 (NAIA) and the National Junior College Athletic Association
National Junior College Athletic Association
The National Junior College Athletic Association , founded in 1938, is an association of community college and junior college athletic departments throughout the United States. It is held as Divisions and Regions. The current NJCAA holds 24 separate regions.-History:The idea for the NJCAA was...

 (NJCAA). Individual sports not governed by umbrella organizations like the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA are governed by their own organizations, such as the National Collegiate Boxing Association and Intercollegiate Rowing Association. Additionally, the first tier is characterized by selective participation, since only the elite athletes in their sport are able to participate. The second tier includes all intramural and recreational sports clubs, which are available to a larger portion of the student body.

Competition between student clubs from different colleges, not organized by and therefore not representing the institutions or their faculties, may also be called "intercollegiate" athletics or simply college sports. College sports originated as student activities.

In the United States today, many college sports are extremely popular on both regional and national scales, in many cases competing with professional championships for prime broadcast and print coverage. The average university will play at least 20 different sports and offer a wide variety of intramural sports as well. In total, there are approximately 400,000 men and women student-athletes
Student athlete
A student athlete is a term used to describe a participant in an organized competitive sport sponsored by the educational institution in which he or she is enrolled, a term primarily used in the United States. It is used to describe the direct balance of a full-time student and a full-time athlete...

 that participate in sanctioned athletics each year.


The first organized college sports club was formed in 1843 when Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

 created a boat club. Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 then followed in their footsteps, creating a similar boat club a year later. The creation of these organizations set the stage for the first intercollegiate sporting event in the U.S. This event took place in 1852, when the rowing team from Yale competed against the rowing team from Harvard at Lake Winnipesaukee
Lake Winnipesaukee
Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in the U.S. state of New Hampshire. It is approximately long and from wide , covering — when Paugus Bay is included—with a maximum depth of ....

, New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

. This marked the beginning of intercollegiate competition and triggered the creation of numerous college athletic organizations.

In the late 1850s, bat and ball games had started to become widely known and the sport of baseball
Baseball is a bat-and-ball sport played between two teams of nine players each. The aim is to score runs by hitting a thrown ball with a bat and touching a series of four bases arranged at the corners of a ninety-foot diamond...

 was starting to become an establishment at U.S. universities. The first intercollegiate baseball game took place in 1859 between Amherst College
Amherst College
Amherst College is a private liberal arts college located in Amherst, Massachusetts, United States. Amherst is an exclusively undergraduate four-year institution and enrolled 1,744 students in the fall of 2009...

 and Williams College
Williams College
Williams College is a private liberal arts college located in Williamstown, Massachusetts, United States. It was established in 1793 with funds from the estate of Ephraim Williams. Originally a men's college, Williams became co-educational in 1970. Fraternities were also phased out during this...

. The popularity of collegiate baseball increased from this point, and by 1870, college teams were playing extensive schedules. In 1879, the first official intercollegiate baseball league was formed. Track and field
Track and field
Track and field is a sport comprising various competitive athletic contests based around the activities of running, jumping and throwing. The name of the sport derives from the venue for the competitions: a stadium which features an oval running track surrounding a grassy area...

 also grew in popularity during this time, and the first intercollegiate track and field event occurred in 1873. This competition featured a two-mile race between athletes from Amherst College, Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

, and McGill University
McGill University
Mohammed Fathy is a public research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The university bears the name of James McGill, a prominent Montreal merchant from Glasgow, Scotland, whose bequest formed the beginning of the university...

 of Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

, Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. The intercollegiate soccer in the U.S. took place on November 6, 1869, in New Brunswick
New Brunswick
New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the only province in the federation that is constitutionally bilingual . The provincial capital is Fredericton and Saint John is the most populous city. Greater Moncton is the largest Census Metropolitan Area...

, N.J., when clubs from Princeton
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

 and Rutgers played under rules modified from those of Association Football. The first intercollegiate rugby game took place on May 15, 1874, at Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

 when Harvard played rugby
Rugby football
Rugby football is a style of football named after Rugby School in the United Kingdom. It is seen most prominently in two current sports, rugby league and rugby union.-History:...

 against McGill University. The first intercollegiate football game between teams from Rutgers College (now Rutgers University) and the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) took place on November 6, 1869 at College Field (now the site of the College Avenue Gymnasium at Rutgers University) in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Popularity and importance of intercollegiate athletics in the United States

Intercollegiate athletics exist in numerous countries around the world, however nowhere does it have the impact and popularity that it does in the United States. The reasons for this are both cultural and economic. American colleges seek the publicity of being successful in college sports, believing it to be good at increasing interest from potential students and donations from alumni, whereas a university's athletic history is considered unimportant by students in most of the rest of the world and alumni donations are much less substantial. As well, in the United States, college athletics is run much like a business and ticket and merchandise sales and broadcast contracts provide a source of income for the institution, whereas in other countries universities are primarily government-funded. As well, in many European and Latin American countries, university is free-of-cost, so there is no possibility of offering the generous scholarships to athletes
Athletic scholarship
An athletic scholarship is a form of scholarship to attend a college or university awarded to an individual based predominantly on his or her ability to play in a sport...

 that American colleges do. Even where university is not free, such as in Canada or the United Kingdom, the costs for most students are highly subsidized by the government. In Canada the governing body, Canadian Interuniversity Sport
Canadian Interuniversity Sport
Canadian Interuniversity Sport is the national governing body of university sport in Canada, comprising the majority of degree granting universities in the country. Its equivalent body for organized sports at colleges in Canada is The Canadian Colleges Athletic Association...

, bans certain types of scholarships precisely to prevent the type of commercialization of university sport seen in the United States. For these reasons, elite international athletes may move to the United States for their higher education, although they only usually benefit financially, after higher tuition costs are accounted for, if they have "full-ride" scholarships.

The scale of college sports in the US is measured by the great number of universities that participate, the number of both male and female athletes that participate, and the number of sports being played. Furthermore, the great scope of college athletics in the United States can be seen merely by examining the number of people who are fully employed and make a living contributing to college athletics, including coaches, referees, and so forth.

Another reason for the importance of college athletics in the U.S. is the important role it plays in the hierarchy of sport organizations. In his article about collegiate sports programs, Thomas Rosandich refers to a "performance pyramid", which shows the general progression of athletic organizations in the United States. At the bottom of this pyramid is youth sports organizations, since these organizations have participation open to nearly everyone. As the pyramid progresses, the level of competition increases, while the number of competitors decreases until the highest level of organized sport, professional sports
Professional sports
Professional sports, as opposed to amateur sports, are sports in which athletes receive payment for their performance. Professional athleticism has come to the fore through a combination of developments. Mass media and increased leisure have brought larger audiences, so that sports organizations...

, is reached. In many respects, the intercollegiate sports level serves as a feeder system to the professional level, as the elite college athletes are chosen to compete at the next level. This system differs greatly from nearly all other countries in the world, which generally have government-funded sports organizations that serve as a feeder system for professional competition. As well, in many countries professional clubs recruit athletes as children and develop them in their own academies, rather than through high school sports, signing them to professional contracts before they are done secondary school.

The last factor in this is the great economic impact created by college athletics in the American economy. Universities spend a very large amount of money on their college organizations in the facilities, coaches, equipment, and other aspects, and as a result produce substantial revenue from their incollegiate athletic programs in ticket and merchandise sales. The economic impact distinguishes United States collegiate athletics from the college athletics elsewhere.

Modern debate

In recent years, a debate has arisen over whether college athletes should be paid or not. Ever since the instatement of the collegiate athletics, athletes have not received compensation for their participation. Yet, with the extremely high professional sports salaries in today's world, it has been argued that college athletes should be treated similarly.

College athletes help to generate a large amount of revenue for their school, but are not personally rewarded for their contribution. Instead, this money is distributed among administrators, coaches, media outlets, and other parties. Due to the time-consuming, intense commitment that collegiate athletics entail, this could detract from an athlete's college experience. ESPN
Entertainment and Sports Programming Network, commonly known as ESPN, is an American global cable television network focusing on sports-related programming including live and pre-taped event telecasts, sports talk shows, and other original programming....

 writer Robert Lipsyte contends that "a lot of athletes are simply getting cheated out of the chance for an education" since they are not able to truly focus on their studies. It is for these reasons that many people believe that college athletes should be paid.

On the other hand, college athletes are often (though not always) given a full scholarship to their respective college and benefit from perks that the general student body does not receive. ESPN columnist Dan Shanoff insists that college athletes are able to take advantage of "Not just a free room and board: the best dorm rooms on campus [ and ] not just free books and classes: first choice of any classes they want". A college athlete can receive up to $120,000 in total scholarships, so essentially they already are being paid for their participation. "The NCAA also is setting up a $17 million Student-Athlete Opportunity Fund that has no financial-need restrictions. It's to be used for "educational and developmental opportunities" [Nebraska Proposal, 2009]. Some would argue that the $17 million granted by this fund would be sufficient compensation. This debate has caused certain elite colleges to take caution asking athletes to sign forms that prevent them from suing the college. The signed forms gives the college full imagery benefits, allowing them to use their names to sell team t-shirts and jerseys. Insurance wise - a plan proposed by William E. Kirwan, Ohio State University President, would insure athletes against injuries and mishaps during workouts, practices and games [Lipsyte, 2009]. Furthermore, because of title IX all college athletes would have to be paid, including teams that do not produce a lot of revenue. More and more programs would be cut in order to make paying athletes work economically.

Facts about NCAA student athletes

  • NCAA By law sets a 20 hour per week limit on time spent on athletics for Division I athletes; however,in a 2006 University of Nebraska study, done in cooperation with the NCAA, it was reported "coaches do not follow the rules of hours of week for practicing".
  • In the same study, 60% of the student-athletes surveyed reported they view themselves "more as athletes than students".
  • The study also reports, "many individuals with whom student-athletes come in contact with view them more as athletes than as students".

Longest-running annual international sporting event

Every year, the United States Military Academy (Army) Black Knights
Army Black Knights
Army Black Knights is the name of the athletics teams of the United States Military Academy. They participate in NCAA Division I-A as a non-football member of the Patriot League, a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision independent school, and a member of Atlantic Hockey, the Collegiate Sprint...

 face the Royal Military College of Canada
Royal Military College of Canada
The Royal Military College of Canada, RMC, or RMCC , is the military academy of the Canadian Forces, and is a degree-granting university. RMC was established in 1876. RMC is the only federal institution in Canada with degree granting powers...

 (RMC) Paladins
RMC Paladins
The RMC Paladins are the athletic teams that represent Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. Team colours are red and white...

 in the annual West Point Weekend ice hockey game. This series, conceived in 1923, is claimed as the longest-running uninterrupted annual international sporting event in the world.

See also

  • List of college athletic programs by U.S. state
  • List of college athletic conferences
  • List of Division I athletic directors
  • List of college mascots in U.S.
  • List of college sports team nicknames
  • College rivalries
  • Recruiting (college athletics)
  • Intercollegiate sports team champions
    Intercollegiate sports team champions
    The first tier of intercollegiate sports in the United States includes sports that are sanctioned by one of the collegiate sport governing bodies. The major sanctioning organization is the National Collegiate Athletic Association . Before mid-1981, women's top-tier intercollegiate sports were...

  • Pre-NCAA intercollegiate championships
    Pre-NCAA intercollegiate championships
    Before the various NCAA championships in the United States were inaugurated, intercollegiate national championships were conducted in sports that were destined to become part of the NCAA’s eventual offerings...

  • College Curling USA
    College Curling USA
    College Curling USA is the governing body of collegiate Curling in the USA. The organization acts as the NCAA does in other college sports — setting game play, eligibility, and organizational rules...

  • College rugby
  • National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
    National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics
    The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics is an athletic association that organizes college and university-level athletic programs. Membership in the NAIA consists of smaller colleges and universities across the United States. The NAIA allows colleges and universities outside the USA...

  • National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA)
  • United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCCA)
  • Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW)
  • National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics
    National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics
    The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics is a professional organization for college and university athletic directors in the United States. NACDA boasts a membership of more than 6,100 individuals and more than 1,600 institutions throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico...

  • Canadian Interuniversity Sport
    Canadian Interuniversity Sport
    Canadian Interuniversity Sport is the national governing body of university sport in Canada, comprising the majority of degree granting universities in the country. Its equivalent body for organized sports at colleges in Canada is The Canadian Colleges Athletic Association...

  • Canadian Colleges Athletic Association
    Canadian Colleges Athletic Association
    The Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association is the national governing body for organized sports at colleges in Canada. It was formed in 1974. The CCAA hosts nine annual national championships. The CCAA's name in French is l'Association canadienne du sport collégial .Its equivalent body for...

  • International University Sports Federation
    International University Sports Federation
    The Fédération Internationale du Sport Universitaire , based in Brussels, Belgium is responsible for the organisation and governance of worldwide competitions for student-athletes between the ages of 17 and 28...

     (Fédération Internationale du Sport Universitaire (FISU))
  • Universiade
    The Universiade is an International multi-sport event, organized for university athletes by the International University Sports Federation . The name is a combination of the words "University" and "olympiad"...

     (sponsored by FISU)
  • Collegiate Club Sports
    Collegiate Club Sports
    Collegiate Club Sports are any sports offered at a University or College that compete competitively with other Universities or Colleges but are not regulated by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Collegiate Club Sports can exist at schools that do have teams that are part of the National...

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