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.
What Kind of Colleges have D1 Softball Programs?
The states with the largest populations also have the most D1 softball colleges. California (21), New York (20,) and Texas (19) 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 six states only have one D1 program.
Most colleges are public and around a third are private. Over two-thirds of all D1 softball programs are at Doctoral Universities according to the Carnegie Classification. Approximately a quarter are at Master Level Programs. Only nine 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 57,000 full-time undergraduates. When you count all students, the size swells to over 74,000. 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, 83 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 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 $63,000 a year. A 75% scholarship would still leave the player with a bill for $15,750. There are 29 schools that charge over $70,000 and four of those, Northwestern, University of Pennsylvania, Brown, and Dartmouth, are over $80,000.
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, 80 of the schools charged more with 34 of them with a price tag over $30,000. UC Berkeley had the highest total cost at over $40,000 in 2020-21.
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 $40,000. At 33 schools, the cost was over $50,000 and seven were over $60,000. Berkley was once again leading the pack with a price tag of 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 Index.) 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 2019-20, the most recently available year, was $54,562. This is 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 $151,548 on operating expenses per team compared to $234,967 from the previous year. The University of Oklahoma spent the most and was the only university besides the University of Kansas, spending over $700,000. The following are the top ten D1 softball teams ranked by Operating Expenses per Team:
- University of Oklahoma
- University of Kansas
- Auburn University
- University of Washington
- University of Iowa
- Texas A & M University-College Station
- Florida State University
- Brigham Young University-Provo
- University of Kentucky
- Oklahoma State University-Main Campus
The teams came from six conferences with the Big 12 and the SEC having three each.
There were 26 teams with totals less than the overall NCAA average and eleven less than $50,000. The following are the 10 D1 softball teams with the lowest reported average operating expenses for 2019-20:
- Texas Southern University
- Quinnipiac University
- Oregon State University
- Grambling State University
- Bethune-Cookman University
- Coppin State University
- Bradley University
- Alabama State University
- University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
- Southern University and A & M College
Half of the teams were from the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Again, given COVID, you should check with the schools for their current status.
The Big 12 had the highest average operation 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 2019-20:
- 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 have 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 47%. Just under a quarter of the colleges and universities had graduation rates less than 30%. Only 44% 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 Dame
- Georgetown University
- College of the Holy Cross
- Princeton University
- Cornell University
- University of Virginia-Main Campus
- Boston College
- Villanova University
- Duke University
- Santa Clara University
In fact, the Atlantic Coast Conference claimed four of the top six places. The Big East and the Ivy Group placed two schools each in the top ten. The Patriot League and the West Coast Conference had one each.
List of 297 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.
NCAA D1 Softball Colleges
|wdt_ID||Name||ST||Type||Conference||2019 # Participants||2019 Operating Expenses per Team||Full-time Undergraduates||4 yr Grad Rate|
|1||Alabama A & M University||AL||Pub||Southwestern Athletic Conference||29||55,287||4,663||11|
|2||Alabama State University||AL||Pub||Southwestern Athletic Conference||20||31,219||3,289||15|
|3||Auburn University||AL||Pub||Southeastern Conference||25||558,421||22,458||51|
|4||Jacksonville State University||AL||Pub||Ohio Valley Conference||23||72,070||6,031||22|
|5||Samford University||AL||Pri||Southern Conference||20||90,027||3,501||66|
|6||The University of Alabama||AL||Pub||Southeastern Conference||22||375,535||27,750||52|
|7||Troy University||AL||Pub||Sun Belt Conference||21||83,526||8,208||27|
|8||University of Alabama at Birmingham||AL||Pub||Conference USA||22||161,954||10,402||38|
|9||University of North Alabama||AL||Pub||Atlantic Sun Conference||29||92,014||4,708||27|
|10||University of South Alabama||AL||Pub||Sun Belt Conference||22||184,806||7,611||26|
|11||Arizona State University-Tempe||AZ||Pub||Pacific-12 Conference||23||399,520||57,485||51|
|12||Grand Canyon University||AZ||For Profit||Western Athletic Conference||22||192,383||19,937||39|
|13||University of Arizona||AZ||Pub||Pacific-12 Conference||22||402,811||28,556||49|
|14||University of Arkansas||AR||Pub||Southeastern Conference||22||330,100||20,252||50|
|15||University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff||AR||Pub||Southwestern Athletic Conference||18||32,917||2,158||24|
|16||University of Central Arkansas||AR||Pub||Southland Conference||25||109,241||7,301||31|
|17||California Baptist University||CA||Pri||Western Athletic Conference||28||181,504||7,243||41|
|18||California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo||CA||Pub||Big West Conference||22||119,301||20,198||53|
|19||California State University-Bakersfield||CA||Pub||Big West Conference||23||80,710||8,432||15|
|20||California State University-Fresno||CA||Pub||Mountain West Conference||25||258,396||19,297||19|
|21||California State University-Fullerton||CA||Pub||Big West Conference||28||195,294||29,721||26|
|22||California State University-Long Beach||CA||Pub||Big West Conference||24||162,026||29,110||29|
|23||California State University-Northridge||CA||Pub||Big West Conference||26||139,465||29,191||15|
|24||California State University-Sacramento||CA||Pub||Big Sky Conference||24||110,693||24,068||15|
|25||Loyola Marymount University||CA||Pri||West Coast Conference||29||197,402||6,383||75|
|Name||ST||Type||Conference||2019 # Participants||2019 Operating Expenses per Team||Full-time Undergraduates||4 yr Grad Rate|