Everything You Wanted to Know about the Best Sport Colleges and Sport Culture in the USA

sport colleges

An interesting fact is that sports in America are not merely forms of committing to good health and entertainment. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, over 520,000 students participated in NCAA championship sports in 2021-2022. But why are sport colleges a thing in the educational system, and what benefits do they hold for students? Let’s find it out.

Why Are College Sports So Popular in America? 3 Main Reasons

Sports in college are always associated with an exciting spirit of friendly rivalry and an opportunity to find your “chosen family.” It’s a perfect reason for people of different origins and backgrounds to find common ground, which is beneficial in students’ multicultural reality. But here are a few more reasons why college athletes take playing so seriously and eagerly:

1. To have fun, of course! The first reason does not need any special rationale. Playing golf, tennis, soccer, or any other sports in colleges is beneficial for physical and mental health. Moreover, when the academic workload becomes a hard burden to carry, college sports make pursuing an education more manageable.

2. To protect legacies, loyalties, and traditions. College sport is a way to connect both students and the local communities in loyalty to shared interests. You can be a professional athlete with a major in sports or just a university alum who used to come to see peers play a sport. Either way, being in a sports college community equals enrolling in some rigorous club and finding a self-association with your preferred teams. As the famous idiom says, “Once a member, always a member.”

Being a part of a student sports team always means being a part of the college’s sports history. For instance, it is known that the universities of the Ivy League had absolute dominance in sports competitions for half a decade, from 1869 to 1926. Now, if you play for any of those colleges, you carry the same honorable flag as those people before you.

3. To make exciting shows out of competitions and rivalries. Let’s face it: not everyone is born to participate in fantastic sports spectacles. However, everyone can enjoy some sort of competition and the view of experienced players commanding the game. Sports are an important part of American culture and economics. Hence, many universities propose sports scholarships to support both the students and the collective national obsession.

Best College Sports Programs. Getting a College Sports Scholarship and How to Look for It

The whole system of top sports colleges stands on the various athletic associations. If you are looking for a sports scholarship, do not try to do that solely by checking the universities’ websites. Instead, you must understand first that the best sport colleges belong to athletic associations and that the volume of scholarships depends on the college’s NCAA level.

What factors determine the best colleges for sports?

Here is how that works. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the major institution that administers and sets eligibility rules for college athletic programs. NCAA has three levels of membership divisions: divisions I, II, and III. The divisions indicate the colleges’ and universities’ size to ensure the fairness of competition for athletes. The larger schools with more enrolled students usually have more funding resources and compete in the first and second divisions.

However, the type of division also impacts the complexities and criteria for the students to pass before they can be accepted into the colleges’ sports membership. Hence, if you are looking for good colleges for sports, evaluate your chances with the following criteria:

  • Do you fit the requirements of the NCAA I, II, or III division?
  • What D1, D2, and D3 division schools and colleges are in your proximity?
  • What sports programs do these schools offer, and what degree types can you pursue?
  • Are there any possibilities for you to receive the full athletic scholarship, and are you eligible for other state or college scholarships?

Answering these questions will create a complete college assessment map based on your academic and athletic interests.

Apart from the NCAA, there are a few more associations related to top colleges for sports. You can also check the resources of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA).

Okay, but where do I find NCAA division college lists?

The NCAA has all the most frequently asked questions covered on their official website. According to its statistics, there are:

  • 363 schools in Division 1
  • 313 schools in Division 2
  • 442 schools in Division 3

In each division, you can find the best sports colleges, sorted by state, type (private or public), and conference (the unit of teams in one league). After getting all this information, you must go to the particular college website and contact the student support service for more details.

The benefits of good sports colleges you don’t want to miss

Being an athlete often requires an excruciating amount of effort and time-management skills. Football, baseball, or basketball players still have to go to classes and complete their assignments. Yet, they also have to attend training and keep a good physical form. For that reason, there are some compensation bonuses available for college athletes:

  • Special scholarships. Along with the need-based, identity-based, state, and government scholarships, athletes can receive their financial aid for studying. In many cases, it covers the whole cost of tuition and living expenses. If you are an athlete and also fall into any other scholarship category, you can apply for both.
  • Unlimited or extended meals. Some schools have special areas near the athletic faculties to supply the athletes with the required protein-rich nutrition.
  • Medical, time-management, academic, and other need-based assistance services. Since managing little daily processes is already a complicated task for the athletes’ workload, universities usually have funds, support committees, and tuition services to help the students get their needs met.
  • Athletic facilities. Students who play sports for their college get to keep their good physical form for free. Gyms, training rooms, and practice fields are always open for athletes, and their team gear and equipment are always provided by the college.
  • Travel opportunities. College athletes often have the privilege of traveling to compete against other schools, both regionally and nationally.

Quite understandably, for these reasons, many students strive to be good at sports.

Most Popular College Sports. Why Are They Popular?

If you are not part of the sports college community and are just contemplating your interests, here are a few reasons why you may like watching or playing the most common sports.


The National Football League firmly gained about 113 million overall televisions views from 2010 to 2023, with the highest annual view score of 17.9 million views. Football is among the top favorite sports for its complexity and dynamics. While the universities continue to support the team spirit, football has all the chances to maintain its leading positions.

football_sport colleges

Source – Giphy


A good thing about basketball is that the game is perfectly suitable for any number of players. One only needs a ball to shoot around, and if you have a companion, you can do a full workout to level up your skills. Moreover, it is a high-action and highly entertaining game. No wonder 56.6% of respondents of Statista Global Consumer Survey name basketball as their favorite sport.

Basketball_sport colleges

Source – Giphy


If you get the vibe of American baseball, you get it. Not many sports can compete with the level of spectacularity of the baseball player’s smooth moves. After all, baseball is called “America’s National Pastime” for a solid reason, as this game holds a special place in the United States’ history and culture.

Baseball_sport colleges

Source – Giphy


Out of the other sports collage students can choose from, golf is the most communication-friendly. You can take your time while in the field, and there is no need to keep a close track of scores or compete too fiercely with other players. Golf is rather about being free from any responsibilities and being relaxed. This game is not as active as others, so you can communicate freely with your teammates.

Golf_sports colleges

Source – Giphy


Hockey is all about the heart-racing spectacle that makes viewers carefully follow each stunning gesture of the professional skaters. Hockey is popular among those who love the extreme, the dopamine rush, and being on the edge of emotions.

Hockey_sports colleges

Source – Giphy

Can You Play Sports in College for Fun? Two More Common Questions Answered

Yes, absolutely! If you wonder how to play sports in college just for fun, you can join sports clubs or intramural leagues. Sports colledge participation must not be solely about varsity competition and fierce efforts. You can still play just to keep yourself healthy and happy through your student years.

How many sports can you play in college?

You can play as many sports as you can manage; there are no restrictions about it. If you are doing it just for fun, you can switch between sports and choose what you feel like doing each new day.

However, it is better to focus on one particular sport for the professional athlete. Moreover, if you have received an NCAA or other sports-related scholarship, you are supposed to show consistent results. Managing a few different sports at the same time is almost impossible for good academic scores and sports performance.

Sports in colleges. What if you want to try for the college sports team?

Each year, the NCAA publishes the calendar of recruitment, tryouts, and rules for the new season and for each particular division. Usually, it is the coach’s responsibility to distribute the recruiting information among students. Therefore, if you are a freshman, no worries; you will know when the tryouts start.

However, if you feel especially anxious about making it on the team, you can ask the coach whether you can do anything in advance to prepare for the recruiting season. In both cases, good luck with your sports career in college!

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Steven Bloom
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Steven is an IT student who constantly seeks new opportunities for self-development. He is also fond of popular culture and entertainment. Lately, Steven has started writing about the challenges he faces as a student. He finds it helpful to brainstorm when difficult tasks arise.