College athletics or college sports encompasses non-professional, collegiate and university-level competitive sports and games requiring physical skill, and the systems of training that prepare athletes for competition performance.
The assimilation of sport into academic life at Cambridge University in the nineteenth century was documented by Andrew Warwick:
Present-day college athletics have been criticized for diverting resources away from academics, while unpaid student athletes generate billions of dollars of income for their universities and private entities such as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States.
The first World University Games were held in 1923. There were originally called the Union Nationale des Étudiants Français. In 1957, following several previous renames, they became known in English as the World University Games.
College athletics is a major enterprise in the United States, with more than 400,000 student athletes competing annually. The largest programs participate in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), while other programs compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). Amongst many other sports, the most-watched competitions are in college football and college basketball, though there are competitions in all the other sports. Those include baseball, swimming and diving, track and field, golf, tennis, soccer, and many others depending on the university. In the United States, college athletes are considered amateurs and their compensation is generally limited to athletic scholarships. However, there is disagreement as to whether college student-athletes should be paid. Due to the passage of Title IX in the United States, universities must offer an equal number of scholarships for women and for men.
University sports are viewed as having a positive social impact in Canada. The Federal government is involved with university sport. Wrestling is a university sport in Canada, with the system helping to provide future and current members of the Canadian national wrestling team.
University sport has received little academic attention in Australia. In 1863, rugby union was first played in Australia at the University of Sydney when several clubs affiliated with the university were established. One of Australia's earliest cricket teams was founded at the University of Sydney in 1854. This university affiliated team is one of the only teams from that period that still exists.
New Zealand universities's sports teams normally compete in local sports leagues against non-university teams. There is an annual national event which covers a large number of sports and competitive cultural activities (such as debating). The event is typically held over Easter, rotating around university centers.
University sport was established in China by the 1930s. One of these programs was at the Catholic University of Peking. In 1936, members of the team traveled to Japan as members of a team to participate in a basketball and association football competition. During the early stages of World War II in the region, most universities suspended their sport programmes. The exceptions were Fu Ren University and Yanjing University which kept these programmes open until 1942 before shutting them down.
Chinese universities organised boat races before the cultural revolution. These races were modeled after the boat races in England.
University sport was established in Japan by the 1930s. By 1977, ultimate Frisbee had been established as a university sport. National championships were held that year with Aichi Gakuin University winning the inaugural event.
During the 1970s, the National Union of South African Students worked to create a university sport programme where race was not considered in team and competition arrangements. The organisation faced some governmental hurdles. At the time, inter-racial sport was only allowed to be played on private grounds, which meant games and competitions could not be played on public university grounds. They had models from the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Cape Town which had already held such events.
British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) is the governing body for university and college sport in the UK. It runs leagues in 16 sports and an annual championship meeting, which in 2011 covered 19 sports. BUCS organization is very different from the USA's NCAA in the sense that BUCS is not competitive to compete in like the NCAA.
There were undergraduate boat races in Victorian England, and The Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge is still a notable annual event. During the 1990s, ultimate frisbee became a popular sport in England with events organized on many university campuses. This university participation would help lead to the establishment of a national sport federation for ultimate Frisbee.
Universities in Wales support national development of athletics. One example of this is the Wales National Pool at Swansea University which with local government constructed a pool for high level development of swimming in Wales.