Student Well-Being

NCAA Participation Breaks Record With 450,000-Plus Student-Athletes

By Bryan Toporek — September 19, 2012 2 min read
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A total of 453,347 student-athletes during the 2011-12 school year participated in sports for which the National Collegiate Athletic Association holds a championship, setting a new all-time record, according to the NCAA’s latest Sports Sponsorship and Participation Report published online Thursday.

The number of NCAA championship sport teams also reached a new all-time high (18,561), eclipsing the record 18,314 teams from the 2010-11 school year. There were 154 more women’s teams and 93 more men’s teams in 2011-12 compared to 2010-11, according to the report.

Overall, there’s about a 57-43 split when it comes to male versus female participation in NCAA championship sports. When you break it up by division, Division II has the greatest male-female imbalance, with 59.1 percent of all participants being males.

In Division I sports, the male-female ratio has actually been evening out over recent years, according to the report. During the 2008-09 school year, 54.5 percent of all Division I athletes in NCAA championship sports were male; in 2011-12, only 53.7 percent were.

Unlike the high school level, where boys’ sports participation actually fell by nearly 10,000 athletes in the 2011-12 school year, the NCAA experienced increases in the number of both male and female student-athletes in 2011-12. There were nearly 5,000 more males playing NCAA championship sports in 2011-12 compared to 2010-11, and approximately 4,500 more females.

You likely won’t be surprised to hear that football was the most popular sport for collegiate males, with a total of 69,643 athletes around the country. That’s more than twice as many participants as baseball, the next closest sport, which had 31,999 male athletes in 2011-12. Outdoor track and field (26,416), indoor track and field (23,183) and soccer (22,573) were the other three most popular sports for males this past school year.

Notably, unlike at the high school level, male football participation rose from 2010-11 to 2011-12 by nearly 2,000 athletes. According to the most recent data from the National Federation of State High School Associations, high school male football participation dropped by over 12,000 student-athletes last school year.

For females, outdoor track and field led the way in 2011-12 with 26,227 total athletes, followed closely by soccer (25,164), indoor track and field (24,262), softball (18,505), basketball (16,134), and volleyball (15,890). Cross-country (15,483), swimming and diving (12,206), tennis (8,977), and lacrosse (8,482) rounded out the top 10 most popular NCAA championship sports teams for females.

The NCAA pulled out highlights from the report here, for anyone who’s interested in more detail.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.