Participation rates continue to rise
More than 463,000 student-athletes took part in NCAA sports in 2012-13
By Brian Burnsed
Once again, participation rates in NCAA sports are on the rise and have reached record levels.
Overall, the number of both men’s and women’s teams in NCAA championship sports jumped in 2012-13: Association-wide, the number of men’s teams reached 18,561, and the number of women’s teams spiked to 18,835. Both are all-time highs.
The total number of NCAA student-athletes is now 463,202, according to an analysis of self-reported data from member institutions by the NCAA research staff. Thanks in large part to Title IX, the gap between the number of male and female student athletes has closed significantly since the NCAA began collecting data in 1981-82, when men accounted for more than 70 percent of the total student-athlete population. Male student-athletes now account for 56.6 percent of that total.
Division II has the highest proportion of males; they account for 58.8 percent of the division’s student-athlete population. Division I had the most even gender split, with males accounting for only 53.6 percent of all Division I student-athletes. That figure has fallen gradually since the 2008-09 academic year.
The average NCAA institution reported having 424 student-athletes, of which 240 were male and 184 female. There have been more male than female student-athletes every year since data was first collected in 1981-82.
Though there are more male student-athletes across the NCAA, women’s sports have more teams. The average NCAA institutions sponsored 17 teams—nine women’s and eight men’s. This tendency for member schools to have more women’s teams than men’s has continued for the past decade. And the gap between men’s and women’s teams is steadily growing. Association-wide, the number of women’s teams jumped by 157 in 2012-13, while 117 new men’s teams were born. Those numbers, too, are in line with a long-term trend: Since 1988-89, 749 new men’s teams and 3,071 new women’s teams have been sponsored.
Lacrosse has seen the biggest spike in sponsorship. It was the fastest-growing sport in 2012-13, adding 40 new women’s teams and 26 new men’s teams. Other rapidly growing women’s sports include golf, which added 30 teams, and indoor track, in which an additional 27 teams were sponsored. Nine women’s tennis teams were dropped in 2012-13, most among any sport.
Indoor track was also one of the fastest-growing men’s sports, adding 23 new programs in 2012-13, second only to lacrosse. Cross country fielded the third-most new programs with 17. Tennis, too, was the most dropped men’s sport, with eight programs scrapped in 2012-13.
There are more women’s basketball teams (1,090) than teams in any other women’s sport, but outdoor track and field boasts the largest number of female student-athletes with 27,127. With 1,071 teams, basketball is the most sponsored men’s sport, though football has 70,147 players—more than double the number of participants in any other men’s sport.