NCAA community engagement highlights from 2021-22 academic year

By Corbin McGuire8/17/2022 11:00:00 AM

Community engagement is a pillar for the NCAA, its member schools and student-athletes who serve others in several ways during their college careers. While the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted this connection between athletics and communities, much of it returned in the 2021-22 academic year across college sports. 

Below are some highlights of how the NCAA, schools and student-athletes gave back to various communities in the 2021-22 academic year.

NCAA Team Works Award

North Dakota, Arkansas Tech and Saint Mary’s (Minnesota) earned the NCAA Team Works Award for Divisions I, II and III, respectively. Each year, NCAA Team Works sponsors a competition between member athletics departments recognizing the departments that complete the most service hours and have the most impactful community programs in all three divisions during a designated time frame. More than 80,000 student-athletes participate in this competition annually. 

Police Athletics for Community Engagement

As part of the Men’s College World Series, the NCAA, Rawlings and CWS of Omaha Inc. have partnered to support the Police Athletics for Community Engagement group to seed and grow a youth baseball league in the Omaha, Nebraska, area. Grants for field restorations, equipment and uniforms have been provided over the past five years. The children also participate in opening ceremonies and Youth Day during the Men’s College World Series. Over 500 children are participating in the PACE youth baseball league, which has grown from six teams to 30 in five years. 

Legacy Restoration Program

A new Dream Court outdoor playing surface at Hall STEM Academy in Minneapolis was installed as part of the 2022 Women’s Final Four. Nancy Lieberman Charities led the effort, in partnership with the NCAA, the Minnesota Local Organizing Committee and Sport Court. Through the Legacy Restoration Project, new courts are installed in underserved communities within the host cities of the Women’s Final Four. After the official unveiling in May, a basketball skills clinic was held for local students. In addition to the playing surface, Hall STEM Academy also received an outdoor learning center, made possible by a contribution from Degree, the official deodorant of the NCAA. The enhancements include an outdoor classroom learning space and playground equipment for pre-K students.

For the 2022 Men’s Final Four in New Orleans, the Morris F.X. Jeff Sr. Recreation Center was renovated thanks to an investment from Degree, as well as the partnership of the NCAA and local organizing committee. The Legacy Restoration Project is part of the NCAA’s commitment to making an impact in communities hosting the Men’s and Women’s Final Fours each year. The NCAA works with the local organizing committee for the Men’s Final Four to identify youth programs and community centers to support with facilities upgrades, school supplies and products sponsored by Unilever.

Readers Become Leaders

More than 14,000 students took part in the NCAA Readers Become Leaders program in the Fort Worth, Texas, area, where the 2022 National Collegiate Women’s Gymnastics Championships took place. The NCAA Readers Become Leaders program also partners with local school districts in Indianapolis and in conjunction with the Men’s College World Series and the Division I Football Championship. The program encourages third graders to read for at least 30 minutes a day through various incentives and education-based events to lay a foundation for achieving educational goals. 

Over 4,000 students participated in the program through the NCAA partnership with Indianapolis schools and regionally in partnership with a local television affiliate. In total, children participating this past year read more than 16.5 million minutes.

Read to the Final Four 

More than 19,000 students participated this year in the NCAA’s Read to the Final Four competition. Read to the Final Four is an annual reading competition in the states hosting the Men’s and Women’s Final Fours to encourage reading growth in third grade students, with an overall goal of increasing state reading scores. Over 19 million minutes were read collectively this past year. 



Miracle League

At the Division I Football Championship and the Division II Baseball Championship, teams engaged with athletes from the area’s Miracle League, a sports organization for special needs children who range from 5 to 19 years old. The organization’s goal is to provide a positive experience for the children who participate in several sports. 

American Flags at Division II Championships

Since 2015, Division II championships have included flag displays with special guests. The field- and court-sized flags have been held by firefighters, Vietnam veterans, special operations forces, community youth and even the two teams facing off for the championship where the flag is being displayed, among many others. In the 2021-22 academic year, the flags were displayed at the Division II softball and women’s lacrosse championships. 


Folds of Honor

Through the Folds of Honor Military Tribute Program, each hole at the Division II Men’s and Women’s Golf Championships is dedicated to a U.S. military member who died in the line of duty. A sign at each tee box denotes those honored, and the players competing at the championship are given the opportunity to wear a decorative flag to commemorate those fallen service members. 

Youth Engagement

Teams competing in Division II championships interacted with children from a number of  elementary schools and youth clubs during the 2021-22 academic year. This included reading to students and spending time with them on the playground and in the gym. In total, student-athletes interacted with more than 1,000 students. 


Special Olympics

At the Division III Baseball Championship’s opening ceremony in the spring in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, more than 30 Special Olympians were recognized, and two threw out the first pitches. Special Olympics has been a national partner with the Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee since 2011.

Scroll to Top