College Sport Divisions NCAA I NCAA II and NAIA

Instead of playing a sport as a member of a club in club leagues, where you can ascend or descend to another level based on performance, the amateur competitive sports in the US are mostly played in college leagues, within which the universities are divided into four different divisions in up to 30 different sports.

The NCAA (http://www.ncaa.org) stands for "National Collegiate Athletic Association". and houses three of the four college leagues under one roof. The NCAA I is the largest and also strongest division, in which the biggest universities play.
Smaller colleges and universities play in the NCAA II, and the range of ability is also somewhat bigger here. Universities in the NCAA III do not award scholarships like universities in the other divisions, but those are still coached teams at your disposal. The NCAA III is comparably the weakest division. However, most universities there offer an excellent academic education and do usually offer academic and diversity scholarships.
The NCAA holds its own "Initial-Eligibility-Clearinghouse", which is responsible for the clearing the student-athletes to compete. In order to be allowed to play in the NCAA I and II, you must have registered.

The NAIA (http://www.naia.org) stands for "National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics". The level of performance in the NAIA is roughly comparable to that of the NCAA II, although fewer sports are offered in the NAIA.

Because the divisions are sorted according to factors other than performance, as mentioned above, the strength of teams within the divisions vary considerably. For example, the top teams in the NCAA II or NAIA are usually better than teams in the NCAA I with a lower rank.


 

Other Terms/Links:

NCAA Clearinghouse:
http://eligibilitycenter.org/ECWR2/NCAA_EMS/NCAA.html

Collegiate / intercollegiate / varsity level:
This denotes those who compete with university sponsorship in the NCAA and NAIA, as opposed to...

Intramural level:
Competition on a voluntary basis. These teams do not belong to the NCAA or the NAIA. These free time sports are usually organized by the student themselves.