Participation rates over the last 10 years (Division I, Division II and Division III overall)
Year Men Women Total
2002-03 214,464 158,469 372,933
2003-04 214,845 160,997 375,851
2004-05 219,744 164,998 384,742
2005-06 224,926 168,583 393,509
2006-07 230,259 172,534 402,793
2007-08 236,774 175,994 412,768
2008-09 240,822 180,347 421,169
2009-10 245,875 184,426 430,301
2010-11 252,946 191,131 444.077

The number of NCAA student-athletes and the teams on which they compete continue to climb. For the ninth consecutive year, data from the NCAA Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report show a marked increase in athletics opportunities in sports for which the NCAA sponsors championships, with more than 444,000 student-athletes competing on more than 18,000 teams.

That’s almost 15,000 more student-athletes than in the 2009-10 report (the largest single-year jump since 1984-85) and about 1,200 additional teams. In the last decade, the number of student-athletes has more than doubled (from 209,890 to 444,077), and the number of teams (men and women) in championship sports has grown from 16,829 to 18,314.

Of the sports-participation total, 57 percent are male student-athletes. The highest proportion of male student-athletes is in Division II (59.5 percent). That trend has been going down slightly in Division I, where the proportion went from 54.4 and 54.5 percent in the two previous years to 53.8 percent in the latest report (it was 54.7 percent and 54.8 percent in 2007-08 and 2006-07, respectively).

While there typically are more males in the NCAA student-athlete population, there tends to be more women’s teams than men’s, as has been the case since 1996-97. The number of women’s championship sports teams in fact has increased annually for the past 29 years. In 2010-11, there were 9,746 women’s teams (up 165 from the previous year) and 8,568 men’s squads (an increase of 159 from 2009-10).

While the number of men’s teams has decreased in three of the last 10 years, it has increased steadily since 2003-04. The 2010-11 total is an all-time high.

Among other highlights from the 2010-11 Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report:

• In 2010-11, just as in the past three years, the average NCAA athletics program fields 17 teams, eight for men and nine for women.

• Basketball is the most frequently sponsored women’s sport, followed by volleyball, cross country, soccer, softball, tennis, and track and field. Basketball also leads the way in men’s sport sponsorship, followed by cross country, baseball, golf, soccer, tennis, track and field, and football.

• As for sports that have the highest population by gender, football is the obvious leader for males, having twice as many as the next sport (baseball). The next highest participation levels for men are in indoor and outdoor track and field, soccer, basketball, and cross country. Outdoor track and field is the leader for women, followed by soccer, indoor track and field, softball, basketball, volleyball, cross country, swimming and diving, and tennis.

• In 2010-11, there were 171 men’s teams and 182 women’s teams added at NCAA schools, while 59 men’s teams and 69 women’s teams were dropped, resulting in a net gain of 112 men’s and 113 women’s teams.

• Since 1988-89, there has been a net gain of 510 men’s teams and 2,703 women’s teams. Women’s teams have experienced net gains in each of the past 10 years, while men’s teams have experienced net losses in four of those years.

• Most of the net losses in men’s sports have come in Division I. Since 1988-89, there has been a net loss of 312 teams in Division I, while women’s sports have experienced a net gain of 715 teams in the same period.

• In all divisions, the men’s sports (including combined men’s and women’s sports) with the greatest net losses since 1988-89 have been wrestling (-104), tennis (-69), rifle (-47), gymnastics (-37), skiing (-26), fencing (-25) and water polo (-20). Sports with the largest net gains since 1988-89 are indoor track and field (130), lacrosse (115) and cross country (110). Lacrosse and cross country experienced one-year net gains of 18 in 2010-11 alone.

• In 2010-11, the women’s sport with the great net gain in sponsorship was cross country (17). Historically, soccer has experienced a net gain of 599 teams since 1988-89. Other women’s sports with large net gains since then are golf, indoor track and field, softball, and lacrosse. Women’s sports with significant net losses in that span are gymnastics (-40), fencing (-22) and skiing (-20)