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, the 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.
A series of crises brought the NCAA to a crossroads after World War II. The "Sanity Code" - adopted to establish guidelines for recruiting and financial aid - failed to curb abuses involving student-athletes. Postseason football games were multiplying rapidly. Member institutions were increasingly concerned about the effects of unrestricted television on football attendance.
The complexity and scope of these problems and the growth in membership and championships demonstrated the increasing need for full-time professional leadership. In 1951, Walter Byers, who previously had served as a part-time executive assistant, was named executive director. A national headquarters was established in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1952. A program to control live television of football games was approved, the annual Convention delegated enforcement powers to the Association's Council and legislation was adopted governing postseason bowl games.
The Association's membership was divided into three legislative and competitive divisions - I, II and III - in 1973. Five years later, Division I members voted to create subdivisions I-A and I-AA (subsequently renamed the Football Bowl Subdivision and the Football Championship Subdivision) in 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 membership 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 University of Virginia Athletics Director Richard D. Schultz, who resigned in 1993. Schultz was replaced by University of Arizona Athletics Director Cedric Dempsey, who led the Association beginning in 1994 and served as president until December 2002. Dempsey was replaced by Indiana President Myles Brand, the first university president to serve as the Association’s chief executive.
Brand led the Association beginning in 2003 until his death from pancreatic cancer in September 2009. Today, the national office staff of more than 380 employees is led by Interim President Jim Isch. Isch was named interim president in September 2009 after serving as the Association’s senior vice president for administration and chief financial officer.
A comprehensive history of the Association, yearly updates since the book's publication in January 2006, notes, a bibliography, an NCAA chronology, an all-time roster of NCAA leadership, and all-time team champions in all sports.
In November and December, 1999, The NCAA News published a four-part series on the history of the NCAA in the 20th century.