The NCAA Division I is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics in the United States. There are currently 351 Division I universities, spanning 48 states and the District of Columbia. However, one state is conspicuously absent from the list of Division I schools – Alaska. Despite its expansive size and population, Alaska is the only state in the United States without a Division I college.
Understanding Division I
Before delving into why Alaska does not have a Division I college, it is important to understand what Division I is and how it differs from lower divisions. The NCAA, or National Collegiate Athletic Association, is the organization responsible for regulating intercollegiate sports in the United States. The NCAA is divided into three divisions, with Division I being the highest level. To be eligible to compete in Division I, a school must meet the NCAA’s minimum standards for size, staffing, and financial support.
The Big Three: Football, Basketball, and Baseball
Division I is most popularly associated with football, basketball, and baseball. These sports are the “big three” in terms of media coverage, popularity, and revenue. To compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision, a school must have at least 15 sports teams, including two teams in the “big three” sports. To compete in the Division I Basketball Tournament, a school must have at least seven teams and one in the “big three” sports.
Why Does Alaska Not Have a Division I College?
The primary reason why Alaska does not have a Division I college is because the state does not have enough population to support a school that meets the NCAA’s minimum standards. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Alaska’s population is roughly 741,000 people. This is far below the NCAA’s minimum requirements for population size and financial support.
Additionally, Alaska’s geographic isolation makes it difficult for the state’s colleges to attract top athletes. The vast majority of Division I athletes come from other states, and recruiting them to Alaska is a challenge.
Alaska’s College Athletics Scene
Despite the lack of a Division I college, Alaska’s college athletics scene is still vibrant. The state is home to two NCAA Division II schools – Alaska Pacific University and University of Alaska Anchorage – as well as several NAIA schools.
Alaska Pacific University competes in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, while the University of Alaska Anchorage is a member of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. The state also has several successful NAIA schools, including Alaska Bible College, Alaska Christian College, Alaska Pacific University, and University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Alaska is the only state in the United States without a Division I college. This is primarily due to the state’s small population and geographic isolation, which make it difficult for schools to meet the NCAA’s minimum standards for size and financial support. Despite this, Alaska still has a vibrant college athletics scene, with two NCAA Division II schools and several NAIA schools.