American colleges (2-year and 4-year schools) have generally an internal Athletic’s Department containing a full administrative structure that goes from the Athletics Director up to a complete marketing and communication staff, events coordinator and athletic material office
Each school’s team is formed exclusively by students that are full-time, regular university students in that institution. To be able to participate in athletics, other than being a regular student at the college, the athlete has to be between 18 and 24 years old (except some special cases).
The university leagues are divided into:
The NCAA – “National College Athletic Association”, which is divided into 3 different divisions:
- Division I: has the most competitive championships; the schools participating in this division are those in which athletes looking to continue their careers as professional players will have to play, but only. Most of the biggest and most important universities compete in this Division.
- Division II: includes mid-size and smaller schools. However, since in this division there are also hundreds of schools, there are many schools and championships of good level.
- Division III: has more schools than the other two divisions but the level of competition is definitely lower having as its main goal the academic development of the student-athlete.
The NAIA – “National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics”: is an independent organization, different from all other ones and having its own rules; there are mid-size and small schools and it also includes many religious institutions.
The NJCAA – “National Junior College Athletic Association”: is the organization of all 2-years Junior and Community Colleges. It has its own championships and in some sports have also 3 division as the NCAA does. Most of the best athletes will continue their sport and academic career at a 4-year school either at the NCAA or at the NAIA after graduating from a Junior College.
Other college leagues that do usually do not offer athletic scholarships and the level of competition is in most cases considerably lower than the above mentioned associations.
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