NCAA Division-II sports are at the intermediate level of competition in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. It is the middle ground essentially between Division-I and Division-III athletics.
NCAA Division-II offers an alternative to the highest-level (and usually more expensive) D1 sports programs, and to the non-scholarship division offered in D3.
How many Division-II schools are there in the NCAA?
To date, there are around 300 schools that are considered NCAA Division-II programs. These schools tend to be smaller, public schools. Sometimes, they will be private institutions, but most D2 schools are public universities that are related to the larger state schools that you see in major Division-I sports. Think California-Santa Cruz or UC-Davis compared to Cal-Berkeley or UCLA.
If you're interested in how many teams other NCAA divisions have, check out this article: Why does Division-I Basketball have the most teams of any sport?
Do Division-II schools offer as many sports as Division-I schools?
Division 2 programs have requirements for the number of sports offered to each gender at their school. For instance, they must sponsor at least five sports for both men and women.
For some sports, like basketball or tennis, there is a team for each gender, usually playing in separate seasons. Other sports, like volleyball, baseball, softball, or field hockey, are only offered to one gender. In that case, an equivalent sport is usually offered to the opposite gender to offer the same number of athletic scholarship opportunities.
Do Division-II sports make money?
In D2 sports, there are no attendance requirements at games such as football or basketball. They do not depend on the number of people attending the games to make money. Since every sports program in Division-II is operated at a fraction of the cost of Division-I sports, D2 schools do not have to generate as much revenue.
D2 sports also offer less scholarships than Division-I, making the annual operating costs for each sport a lot lower. Many student-athletes will pay for school through partial athletic scholarships, academic scholarships, financial aid, and student loans that they acquire. Most state schools are lower in cost than the larger Division-I schools, making it more affordable for student-athletes who may not be able to receive a full-ride in D2.
Interested in how Division-II and Division-III athletes make due with less scholarship money? Check this article out: Is playing at a Division III college affordable without athletic scholarships?
How much to Division-II teams travel?
D2 athletes still have to travel once or even multiple times per week. But the number of miles put on the team bus is a lot less than Division-I teams, who often fly across the country for a single game or two-day tournament. That is because the competition in Division-II sports on a much more regional level.
Without big TV rights and grant money that D1 schools have to fight over, Division-II teams are able to stay in the same local conferences as they've always been in. Most of a team's schedule will be against rival opponents in the same state or region, which is always fun for fans to see.
You can read more about Division-II conferences in this article: Ranking the Five Best Division-II Football Conferences
Do Division-II schools offer athletic scholarships?
In terms of money, each sport at a Division-II school has a specific fund limit that they are not legally allowed to exceed. The big difference between Division-I and Division-II sports is the amount of money that each program has, and is allowed to offer to recruits or current players.
Athletic scholarships are permitted in D2 sports. However, they are more stingy limits on the number and amount of scholarships these divisions can hand out to their athletes.
In football, Division-I teams are allowed to hand out 36 full scholarships, whereas some Division-I football programs can hand out as many as 85 full scholarships to their athletes. The NCAA restricts the number of scholarships each sports program can deliver to its athletes.
Are there full athletic scholarships available to D2 athletes?
All division 2 sports are known as “equivalency” sports, which means that the NCAA restricts the total amount of financial aid that is available for each sport to the equivalent of full scholarships. This is known as the partial-scholarship model. This model allows division 2 schools to recognize student-athletes for their skills through athletic aid while keeping budgets more on track. Typically, division 2 schools will choose to split up and offer partial scholarships to athletes, so that more people can receive athletic aid. This does not mean that a division 2 school will never hand out a full-athletic scholarship, but most of the time they will prefer to split them up. The operating costs in division 2 tend to be smaller than programs of smaller sizes, and it does not cost them as much to sponsor competitive athletic programs. This means that teams have the right to divide and split the money up into partial offers for more people to receive. Additionally, division 2 sports are limited to a total of 60 scholarship equivalents for men’s sports, not including football and basketball.
Do Division-II athletes get a lot of free clothes and equipment?
The equipment and amount of gear that an athlete will receive vary at each school. D1 schools, with more money to spend and less budget restrictions, will typically give out more gear, equipment, recovery tools, and other random items to their athletes. However, this does not mean that D2 schools do not do the same thing. Most players at the division-II level, will also receive free gear and equipment throughout their four or five years of college.
For instance, if you are playing lacrosse at a division 2 school, you may get new helmets, backpacks, sticks, or cleats from your program. If you run track or cross country at a division 2 school, you may get new running shoes, a warm-up suit and a training top for when meet day arrives. All of this is typically dependent on the number of members of the team, and the amount of money available to spend on gear and equipment.
For the most part, you will be taken care of as a division 2 student-athlete, and shouldn’t have to worry about spending a lot of money on buying your gear.
Athletes looking to compete at a collegiate level, but don’t want the stress or financial burden of being a walk-on at a NCAA D1 school, may benefit from looking into a division 2 school. They offer a balance between high-level competition and academics. Also, they do offer a decent amount of money out to their athletes, which can be helpful for recruits.