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College Tennis Divisions
Friday, 02/16/2018
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Sports fans can enjoy tennis games online or in real life at professional, amateur or college tennis courts. Each venue offers a different option for enjoying the action-filled game. If you watch college tennis, chances are that you will have heard the terms "Division 1," Division 2," and "Division 3" as part of the commentary. What do those designations mean?

Colleges that offer tennis as one of the school's official athletic programs are classified as being part of either Division 1, Division 2 or Division 3 by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). NCAA guidelines determine the division to which a college's tennis team will be affiliated based on the number of teams that the college fields, each team's size, the college's game calendar and the financial support that the tennis team receives. Within the world of college sports it is generally acknowledged that Division 1 will be the most intense and competitive and Division 3 games will be more relaxed.

Many students who envision a future career in tennis try to gain acceptance at a college that fields a Division 1 team. For students who don't want to play in a highly competitive level or who don't quality or want to play at such an intense level, Division 3 colleges are a good solution.

There are also club games and intramural tennis games for students who enjoy sports aren't interested in the time commitment that Division teams demand. 

NCAA Division 1

Division 1 is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics that operates under the auspices of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the U.S. The majority of the high-powered teams and individual players are associated with Division 1 schools. These tennis programs receive the biggest budgets, more athletic scholarships and more advanced facilities than other schools with competitive tennis teams including Divisions 2 and 3 schools and smaller schools that have competitive/non Division teams.

The NCAA and student athletes debated whether team members of Division 1 teams should be paid. The debate took place in 2014 with students saying that their participation in these teams, in terms of the many hours of practice and the hours of travel to meets, justified the request. The students also noted that their meets brought in significant funds to the college and for that, they should receive monetary compensation. (In the 2009-2010 school year Division 1 athletic programs generated $8.7 billion in revenue for their schools). The NCAA turned down the student-athletes' request for payment. They approved, instead, unlimited free snacks and meals for the student athletes.  

NCAA Division 1 includes 347 schools. There are Division 1 schools in 49 of the 50 states. To field a Division 1 tennis team the school must:

  • Offer at least 14 sports: seven for women and seven for men, or eight for women and six for men
  • Offer at least two team sports for women and two for men
  • Guarantee an audience of specific size for basketball and football
  • Provide athletic scholarships. To be a Division 1 school the college must give a minimum number of financial aid awards to students in their athletics program; There financial aid awards for each sport is capped and  the school cannot exceed that limit.
  • Maintain a schedule with a minimum number of games to fit specific requirements
  • Have students on the team who maintain a pre-determined GPA and take at least 16 core courses.

Coaching jobs for Division 1 teams pay very well but there are few such jobs.

NCAA Division 2

In general teams compete with other teams in the same division but there are competitions in which teams from one Division are matched against teams against another Division. Sometimes the lower-division team is outclassed but not always……some of the lower level teams are actually among the elite programs in their sport 

Three hundred and nine colleges are classified as Division 2 schools where teams compete in fencing, tennis, water polo and golf. These colleges' student-athletes may be just as skilled as those in Division 1 but the Division 2 colleges have fewer financial resources to devote to their athletics programs' facilities, staffs and scholarships.  

Division 2 schools:

  • Have a minimum of 10 sports
  • Offer five each or four men's and six women's plus two team sports each
  • Has enough games to fit each sport's specific requirements.
  • Students must maintain a 2.0 GPA and take at least 14 core courses to be eligible. (Note: Beginning in the fall of 2013, that number rose to 16 core courses.)

An institution that is a member one NCAA Division may elect to participate in a different Division in one of its sports (other than football or basketball). So even if the membership rests in another Division the school and must abide by the bylaws governing the sport in the Division in which it is competing.

Division 3 Schools

There are 442 Division 3 schools. These colleges do not offer financial aid or scholarships to athletes for athletic participation. Athletes at these schools are still eligible for other types of scholarships. Division 3 schools have at least five women's and five men's sports – these must include at least two team sports for both men and women. There are 438 Division 3 colleges.

Best Schools

Students and their parents are rightly concerned that the young athlete will have the opportunity to attend a top university, not only for the sports program but for the academic program.

According to USA Today which compiles one of the most respected annual school ranking, the top Division 1 schools are Ohio State University, Texas Christian University, Duke University, Notre Dame, University of Alabama, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Baylor University and Clemson University.