The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a voluntary association of about 1,200 colleges and universities, athletic conferences and sports organizations devoted to the sound administration of intercollegiate athletics.

It was the flying wedge, football's major offense in 1905, that spurred the formation of the NCAA. The game's rugged nature, typified by mass formations and gang tackling, resulted in numerous injuries and deaths and prompted many institutions to discontinue the sport. Others urged that football be reformed or abolished from intercollegiate athletics.

President Theodore Roosevelt summoned college athletics leaders to two White House conferences to encourage such reforms. In early December 1905, Chancellor Henry M. MacCracken of New York University convened a meeting of 13 institutions to initiate changes in football playing rules. At a subsequent meeting December 28 in New York City, the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS) was founded by 62 members.

The IAAUS officially was constituted March 31, 1906, and took its present name (NCAA) in 1910. For several years, the NCAA was a discussion group and rules-making body; but in 1921, the first NCAA national championship was held: the National Collegiate Track and Field Championships. Gradually, more rules committees were formed and more championships were held.

The Association's membership was divided into three legislative and competitive divisions in 1973 at the first special Convention ever held. Five years later, Division I members voted to create subdivisions I-A and I-AA in the sport of football.

The NCAA began administering women's athletics programs in 1980 when Divisions II and III established 10 championships for 1981-82. A year later, the historic 75th Convention adopted an extensive governance plan to include women's athletics programs, services and representation. The delegates expanded the women's championships program with the addition of 19 events.

On August 1, 1997, the NCAA implemented a change in its governance structure that provides greater autonomy for each division and more control by the presidents of member colleges and universities.

Walter Byers retired October 1, 1987, after 36 years as the Association's executive director. He was replaced by Richard D. Schultz, who resigned in 1993. Today, the national office staff of more than 320 employees based in Indianapolis is led by President Cedric W. Dempsey.