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Division II is an intermediate-level division of competition in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). It offers an alternative to both the highly competitive (and highly expensive) level of intercollegiate sports offered in NCAA Division I and to the no athletic scholarship environment offered in Division III. Divisions II and III were formerly known collectively as the NCAA College Division.
Nationally, ESPN televises the championship game in football, CBS televises the men's basketball championship, and ESPN2 televises the women's basketball championship. CBS Sports Network broadcasts six football games on Thursdays during the regular season, and one men's basketball game per week on Saturdays during that sport's regular season.
Division II schools tend to be smaller public universities and many private institutions. Athletic scholarships are offered in most sponsored sports at most institutions, but with more stringent limits as to the numbers offered in any one sport than at the Division I level. For example, Division II schools may give financial aid in football equivalent to 36 full scholarships (whereas each school in Division I FBS, the highest level, is allowed 85 individuals receiving financial aid for football), although some Division II conferences limit the number of scholarships to a lower level. Division II scholarship programs are frequently the recipients of student-athletes transferring from Division I schools; a transfer student does not have to sit out a year before resuming sports participation as would be the case in the event of transferring from one Division I institution to another (with the exception of football players transferring from a Division I FBS school to a Division I FCS school, who also do not have to sit out a year). Currently there are 282 either full or provisional members of Division II.
All Division II schools must field athletes in at least ten sports, with male and female competition in a given sport counting as two different sports. In addition, all coeducational schools must field athletes in at least four sports in each gender. Simon Fraser University became the first institution outside the USA to enter the NCAA membership process. This occurred after the Division II Membership Committee accepted the institution's application during a July 7–9 meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana. Simon Fraser, located in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, British Columbia, began a two-year candidacy period September 1, 2009. Prospective members also must complete at least one year of provisional status before being accepted as full-time Division II members. In the fall of 2012 The NCAA President's Council made it official, approving Simon Fraser University as the organization's first international member.
^ Conferences that sponsor football
The newest D-II conference is the Mountain East Conference, formed in 2012 after the football-sponsoring schools in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WVIAC) announced that they would leave to form a new league, a move that led to the demise of the WVIAC. The Mountain East was approved by the NCAA Division II Membership Committee in February 2013, and became an official conference on September 1 of that year.
The NCAA imposes limits on the total financial aid each Division II member may award in each sport that the school sponsors. All Division II sports are classified as "equivalency" sports, meaning that the NCAA restricts the total financial aid that a school can offer in a given sport to the equivalent of a set number of full scholarships. This differs from Division I, in which some sports are "head-count" sports in which the NCAA limits the total number of individuals who can receive athletic aid.
Scholarship limits in bold are identical to those for Division I members in the same sport for the same sex. Most, but not all, of these sports have a single championship open to schools from all divisions (for example bowling and rifle), or a combined Division I/II national championship and a separate Division III championship (as in women's ice hockey and men's volleyball). Examples of sports with identical scholarship numbers in the two divisions, but separate national championships for each, include men's cross-country and women's rowing.
Men's ice hockey has no Division II championship. Several schools in the Northeast-10 Conference compete under Division II scholarship limits; other Division II schools with programs in that sport choose to play as Division I programs under the higher Division I scholarship limits.
Rifle is classified by the NCAA as a men's sport, but allows competitors of both sexes.
|Cross-country/track & field|
|Swimming and diving|
The NCAA does not strictly prevent its member institutions from playing outside of their own division, or indeed playing against schools that are not members of the NCAA, but it is discouraged in many sports.
Many Division II schools frequently schedule matches against members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), which consists of colleges and universities across the USA and Canada that promote competitive and character-based athletics that is controlled by its membership, as opposed to the NCAA that serves as a regulating body.
Division II schools also frequently schedule "money games", usually in football and men's basketball, against Division I schools.
In football, D-II teams once occasionally played games against schools that are now in Division I FBS, but this practice has ended because under current NCAA rules, FBS schools cannot use victories over schools below FCS level for establishing bowl eligibility. Today, D-II "money games" are exclusively against FCS schools, whose postseason eligibility is less seriously impacted by scheduling a D-II opponent. In basketball, where conference tournaments play a large role in determining postseason participants, D-I schools have less of a penalty for scheduling an occasional D-II opponent, resulting in more "money games".
In any event, the D-II school is almost invariably the visiting team, and is invited to play with knowledge that it will likely be defeated but will receive a substantial (at least by Division II standards) monetary reward which will help to finance much of the rest of the season and perhaps other sports as well. Such games are funded by Division I schools which can afford such games.
In recent years, "money games" in men's basketball have also included preseason exhibitions against D-I programs, typically in the same region, that do not count in official statistics for either team. Under NCAA rules, Division I teams are allowed to play two exhibition games in a season, and must host these games.
The University of Kansas helps the state's four Division II members by rotating them onto the Jayhawks' exhibition schedule annually. Milwaukee, which has been a Division I member since 1990, has continued its series with their former Division II rival Wisconsin-Parkside as part of their exhibition schedule.
When these exhibition games do happen, there are times when the Division II team does win, and against a well-respected Division I program. In 2009, a Division II team beat the eventual Big East regular season champion. In 2010 two other Division II teams beat teams that reached the NCAA Division I tournament. In 2011, another Division II team defeated a Division I team that finished in the top half of the Pac-12 Conference. In 2012, another Division II team beat eventual Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season and tournament champion Miami.
Also in basketball, two of the best-known early-season tournaments for D-I schools, the Great Alaska Shootout and Maui Invitational, are hosted by D-II schools that also compete in the events, respectively Alaska–Anchorage and Chaminade. The Great Alaska Shootout has men's and women's tournaments, while the Maui Invitational only involves men's teams. In the men's tournaments, the hosts usually lose all of their games. However, Alaska–Anchorage has been highly competitive in the women's Shootout, winning the tournament five times since 2003.
Matches between the different collegiate divisions in non-revenue sports are often quite competitive. Indeed, in some sports, among them ice hockey and men's volleyball, there is no Division II national championship. In hockey, many schools whose athletic programs are otherwise Division II compete in Division I, and men's volleyball has a truncated divisional structure with a Division III championship but no Division II championship (as opposed to the NAIA, which fully includes men's volleyball in its divisional structure). In any sport that does not have a Division II national championship, Division II members are allowed to award the same number of scholarships as Division I members.