High school softball players looking to compete at the highest level in college will be targeting NCAA Division 1 colleges and universities. These schools offer the most scholarships and the most competitive level of play and is the second largest of the NCAA softball divisions. A list of all D1 softball colleges is at the end of the post.
Click HERE to Download List of D1 Softball Colleges
What Kind of Colleges have D1 Softball Programs?
The states with the largest populations also have the most D1 softball colleges. California (20), New York (20,) and Texas (20) have the most colleges with D1 softball programs. Thirteen states have 10 or more D1 softball programs. Alaska, Wyoming, and Vermont don’t have any softball programs and five states only have one D1 program.
The majority of colleges are public and around a third are private. Nearly three quarters of all D1 softball programs are at Doctoral Universities according to the Carnegie Classification. Approximately a quarter are at Master Level Programs. Only ten are at Baccalaureate Colleges.
Subsequently, it’s not surprising that a little less than half of all programs have 10,000 or more full-time undergraduates. Arizona State is the largest with over 60,598 full-time undergraduates. When you count all students, the size swells to over 72,000. Three schools have over 40,000 full-time undergraduates, Texas A&M, University of Central Florida, and Ohio State University. These are all schools known for their big-time collegiate sports programs.
However, there are still plenty of opportunities for students interested in playing at smaller schools, 76 D1 softball programs have 5,000 or fewer full-time undergraduates. Presbyterian College is the smallest with less than 1,000 full-time undergraduates. Another 11 schools are all at under 2,000 students.
While it’s only natural that athletes believe that their scholarships will pay for college, they need to learn that it’s not likely to be a full-ride. Softball is an equivalency sport which means one scholarship can be split among multiple players. Furthermore, the NCAA sets the maximum number of scholarships allowed. This means that just because softball is allowed 12 full scholarships, they do not have to be fully funded. Given that most D1 teams carry an average roster of 20 plus players, the chances for a full-ride scholarship aren’t great. Therefore, families must take tuition costs into consideration when looking at D1 schools.
The average total cost of attendance in 2020-21 at private colleges with D1 softball was over $64,000 a year. A 75% scholarship would still leave the player with a bill for $16,000. There are 32 schools that charge over $70,000 and eleven of those are over $80,000 with Northwestern coming in at just under $84,000 in 2021-22.
Things look better for those who qualify for in-state tuition at public institutions. The average total cost of attendance for public universities with D1 softball programs was over $26,000. However, 87 of the schools charged $27,000 or more with 42 of them with a price tag over $30,000. UC Berkeley had the highest total cost at over $40,000 in 2021-22.
Families need to remember that the majority of D1 softball teams are at public institutions which tend to charge out-of-state students significantly more than their in-state residents. The average total cost of attendance for students paying out-of-state tuition was over $41,000. At 38 schools, the cost was over $50,000 and eight were over $60,000. Berkley and the University of Virginia lead the pack with price tags over $70,000.
Given that not everyone plays softball for all four-years for a variety of reasons, families need to take the time to use college net price calculators and calculate their Expected Family Contribution (which will soon be called the Student Aid.) Athletes can qualify for need-based aid and if they meet the right conditions, even merit scholarships. You can learn more about financial aid at Why Your EFC Should be How You Start Your College Search. Costs and average net price are included in the DIY College Rankings Softball Spreadsheet.
Who Spends the Most on D1 Softball?
The Office of Postsecondary Education collects information on college athletic financial information, including Operating Expenses per team. The NCAA average for all divisions in 2020, the most recently available year, was $75,806. This is up from the 2019 average of $54,562 but still down significantly from the 2018 average of $97,224. All of the following numbers should be viewed in the light of COVID hitting in early 2020.
On average, D1 softball colleges spent $161,445 on operating expenses per team compared to $151,548 from the previous year. The University of Mississippi spent the most at $915,314. The University of Kansas and the University Washington were the only two other schools spending over $700,000. The following are the top ten D1 softball teams ranked by Operating Expenses per Team:
- University of Mississippi
- University of Kansas
- University of Washington-Seattle Campus
- Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College
- Texas A & M University-College Station
- Auburn University
- University of Arkansas
- The University of Alabama
- University of Missouri-Columbia
- University of Arizona
The teams came from only three conferences with the SEC having the majority at seven, the PAC-12 with two and the Big 12 with one.
There were 81 teams with totals less than the overall NCAA average and 35 less than $50,000 (remember-COVID). The following are the 10 D1 softball teams with the lowest reported average operating expenses for 2020:
- Quinnipiac University
- University of Detroit Mercy
- Brown University
- Campbell University
- University of New Mexico-Main Campus
- Bethune-Cookman University
- Texas Southern University
- Alcorn State University
- Dartmouth College
- University of St Thomas
The teams come from seven different conferences. Again, given COVID, you should check with the schools for their current status.
The Big 12 had the highest average operationing expenses per team at $476,041. The SEC followed with $352,030 and the Pac 12 was third at $310,170. The following are the top 10 D1 softball conferences ranked by average operating expenses for 2020:
- Big Twelve Conference
- Southeastern Conference
- Pacific-12 Conference
- Big Ten Conference
- Atlantic Coast Conference
- Mountain West Conference
- American Athletic Conference
- Western Athletic Conference
- West Coast Conference
- Big East Conference
There were 12 conferences where the average was less than $100,000, an increase from the 3 in 2018-19. The Southwestern Athletic Conference had the lowest average at $36,467.
Graduation Rates for Colleges with D1 Softball Teams
It’s not convenient to lookup the graduation rates by sport. Colleges are required to report them, they just don’t have to include it with all of the other data they are required to report to federal databases. You can find out how to lookup the information in How to Find Student-Athlete Graduation Rates. In general, student-athletic graduation rates are higher than the general student population’s. However, the average national 4-year graduation rate for 4-year colleges was less than 40%.
The unweighted average 4-year graduation rate for the general student population at these schools was 49%. Just under a quarter of the colleges and universities had graduation rates less than 30%. A total of 44% of D1 softball schools had graduation rates over 50%. Just four colleges had 4-year graduation rates 90% or higher and only one was from the Ivy League. The following are top ten colleges with D1 softball programs ranked by graduation rates:
- University of Notre DameGeorgetown University
- College of the Holy Cross
- Princeton University
- Duke University
- University of Virginia-Main Campus
- University of Pennsylvania
- Boston College
- Villanova University
- Yale University
In fact, the Atlantic Coast Conference claimed four of the top six places. The Ivy League had three schools, the Big East two, and the Patriot League one.
There were 25 schools with D1 softball programs that 4-year graduation rates less than 20%. Three of them were at 10% or less. In general, their 5-year graduation rate was better but only three of the schools had rates over 40%.
List of 303 D1 Softball Teams
The information in the table below is based on data from the NCAA, the Office of Postsecondary Education, and the Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System. Given conference realignments and schools changing divisions, it’s very likely to contain some inaccuracies or outdated information. Use at your own risk. All of this data can be found in the DIY College Rankings Softball Spreadsheet.
Click HERE to Download List of D1 Softball Colleges
NCAA D1 Softball Colleges
|wdt_ID||Name||ST||Type||Conference||Operating Expenses per Team||Full-time Under-graduates||4 yr Grad Rate|
|1||Alabama A & M University||AL||Pub||Southwestern Athletic Conf.||27,643||4,910||11|
|2||Alabama State University||AL||Pub||Southwestern Athletic Conf.||53,210||3,411||10|
|3||Auburn University||AL||Pub||Southeastern Conference||663,924||23,131||55|
|4||Jacksonville State University||AL||Pub||ASUN Conference||107,028||6,576||26|
|5||Samford University||AL||Pri||Southern Conference||93,216||3,545||68|
|6||The University of Alabama||AL||Pub||Southeastern Conference||626,948||28,652||53|
|7||Troy University||AL||Pub||Sun Belt Conference||117,201||8,391||30|
|8||University of Alabama at Birmingham||AL||Pub||Conference USA||177,024||10,981||42|
|9||University of North Alabama||AL||Pub||ASUN Conference||86,080||5,391||28|
|10||University of South Alabama||AL||Pub||Sun Belt Conference||223,002||8,063||28|
|Name||ST||Type||Conference||Operating Expenses per Team||Full-time Under-graduates||4 yr Grad Rate|