Looking to Participate in Sports in College? Here Are the Best Colleges for Sports in the U.S.

Here Are Our Top Picks For The Best Colleges For Sports

Main Image courtesy of Owens Boro Parent.

“The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” - Phil Jackson (basketball)

If you are someone that loves sports and was an avid player during high school, you may want to consider playing a sport in college. This includes both women’s and men’s sports programs. The top 9 colleges for sports in the U.S. are:

  1. University of Michigan
  2. University of Florida
  3. University of Connecticut
  4. Ohio State University
  5. University of Wisconsin-Madison
  6. University of Notre Dame
  7. Duke University
  8. University of California- Los Angeles
  9. University of Texas at Austin

These are the top colleges for their sports programs. Each college might be the best for different sports. Make sure to do any necessary research when deciding what college to attend. It is also important that you find the best school for the sport you would like to participate in. Keep in mind, you do not have to attend the best college for whatever sport you want to play. 

There are other colleges with good sports programs even if they are not the best school. In fact, here are some honorable mentions of other colleges based on certain aspects of their campuses:

  • Florida State University - for school spirit
  • University of Oklahoma - for it’s matchday atmosphere
  • Auburn University - for their reward program
  • University of Maryland, College Park - for basketball teams
  • University of Georgia - for their privet hedges
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill - dominating women’s soccer

Remember, the best colleges for anything are based on certain factors, but keep in mind that you can still get a good quality experience out of college wherever you decide to attend. Going to college in general will give you a boost towards your future. It is so important to attend the college where you will be the most comfortable, especially if you are playing a sport in college. 

Make sure that whatever college you choose, you are comfortable talking with the sports faculty and make sure that the college you choose has the major you would like to study as well. Do not choose the college solely based on them being the best for the sport you would like to play. Make sure you do any necessary research into the sports program as well as the college itself to see if it is a good fit for you.

There are even some colleges that have sports teams that are solely for fun and not for competitions with other schools. It may be a good idea to look into colleges with these activities since it can be a way for you to get a fun experience out of college. College should focus on more than just academics. Try to make the most out of your college experience and join a club or attend other types of campus wide events. 

Now let’s take a deeper dive into the top 4 colleges for sports to get a better understanding at what gives them the title of being the best. Keep in mind, each school may not be the best for the same sport. 

University of Michigan

Do you find yourself asking why the University of Michigan has the top spot? Well here’s why. It is because the University of Michigan regularly attracts crowds of over 100,000 at their home football matches. They are also a true sporting powerhouse, with 24 alumni in the U.S. Olympics teams and 54 conference championships in the last 10 years, along with incredible varsity facilities. Their sports program has a graduation rate of 80% for student athletes. 

The sports offered at the University of Michigan are separated into men, women, and spirit teams. The men’s teams include baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, gymnastics, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, swimming/diving, tennis, track & field, and wrestling. While the women’s teams include some of the same sports as the men’s teams of basketball, cross country, golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, soccer, swimming/diving, tennis, and track & field. The women’s teams also include field hockey, rowing, softball, volleyball, and water polo.

Now the spirit teams are a little different than the men’s and women’s teams since they are in a different department than the other sports teams. The teams in the spirit department include the cheerleading team, dance team, and the marching band.

Image of a cheer team at University of Michigan.
The Cheerleading team at the University of Michigan. Image courtesy of Michigan Athletics

To view the schedule and ranking along with anything else related to the University of Michigan’s Wolverines sports teams and spirit department, feel free to visit their sports website.

University of Florida

The University of Florida has strong football and basketball programs. They are also a party university which makes for a great fan experience. This university was also the joint eighth best university in the world for sports-related subjects based on the QS World University Rankings by Subject in 2017.  

The sports offered at the University of Florida include baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, cross country, football, men’s and women’s golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, soccer, softball, men’s and women’s swimming & diving, men’s and women’s tennis, track & field, and volleyball. 

Image of the Florida Gators football team.
The Florida Gator football team during a game. Image courtesy of the Florida Gators.

At the University of Florida there sports teams are called the Florida Gators and if you would like to learn more about the standings and schedules of the Florida Gators check out this page

University of Connecticut

This University does not have any varsity male sports teams, but this makes the university attract even more attention than usual. However, the men’s basketball team has two national titles in the last decade. The women’s basketball team are the stars of the University of Connecticut since they had a recent winning streak of over 100 consecutive games. Although this may not be the college for you if football is more your thing, there is a lot for sport lovers to enjoy about studying at the University of Connecticut. 

At the University of Connecticut there are more women’s sports programs which is something unique to this college that you do not see a lot. The men’s teams include baseball, basketball, football, golf, ice hockey, soccer, and track & field. While the women’s sports teams include:

  • Basketball
  • Cross Country
  • Field Hockey
  • Ice Hockey
  • Lacrosse
  • Rowing
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Swimming & Diving
  • Tennis
  • Track & Field
  • Volleyball

It is safe to say that if you are a woman looking to play a sport in college the college that has the most options of sports you can choose from at one college would be the University of Connecticut. Now this does not mean that as a female athlete that you have to attend the University of Connecticut, this is just the college that has lots of options for women’s sports teams.

Image of the women’s basketball team.
The women’s basketball team at the University of Connecticut. Image courtesy of Uconn Huskies

The sports teams at the University of Connecticut are called the Huskies and if you want to learn more about the Huskies visit their homepage.

Ohio State University

Ohio State University is full of sporting activities since they have more than 2,500 students playing on a university sports team. This university is great for football lovers and players since their football team has an enviable record and attracts crowds of over 100,000. There is also fantastic school spirit seen at these football games and a 738,500 square feet indoor recreation space, which makes this university a great place for both fans and athletes. 

At Ohio State University their sports homepage has separate menus for the men’s and the women’s sports teams. Their sports teams are called the Ohio State Buckeyes, and feel free to research their sports programs to see what they have to offer.

Most of these colleges have a lot of the same sports so here are the ones that are unique to Ohio State that the other ones do not have:

  • Men’s Fencing
  • Men’s Pistol
  • Men’s Rifle
  • Men’s Volleyball
  • Women’s Fencing
  • Women’s Pistol
  • Women’s Rifle
  • Women’s Synchronized Swimming
Image of a synchronized swimming team.
The women’s synchronized swimming team. Image courtesy of Ohio State Buckeyes

Benefits of Being A College Athlete

There are a number of benefits to being a college student-athlete and they include:

  • College Education
  • Academic Success
  • Scholarships
  • Student Assistance Fund
  • Academic and Support Services 
  • Medical Care 
  • Elite Training Opportunities
  • Healthy Living
  • Exposure and Experiences 
  • Preparation for Life 

Now this does not mean that to have a good experience at college you must be a student athlete. Make sure you take time to consider if being a college student athlete is the right move for you.


Overall, deciding to play a sport in college is a big decision and you should make sure to do any necessary research to see what you will be getting into. Check out all of the options of sports teams out there. You can still have fun and be a part of a college sports team without needing to attend one of these best colleges for sports. Keep in mind that you want to base the decision on which college you attend on more than just their sports program, since you will also need to decide on a major to study. 

Make sure to choose the college that not only has the sport program you want to be a part of but also one that you will be comfortable at with the major you want to study. Remember, college is more than just the sports programs!

Elizabeth Grobstein
Liz Grobstein is a writer based in North Huntingdon, PA.
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