College Pickleball: Is NCAA Pickleball on the Horizon?

Pickleball is sweeping across college campuses as an exciting and accessible alternative to traditional NCAA sports like basketball, football, and tennis. With its lower risk of injury, ease of learning, and affordability, pickleball is capturing the attention of students and administrators alike. As the movement to establish NCAA pickleball gains momentum, it’s crucial to understand the benefits and challenges of this fast-growing sport, as well as the collaborative efforts required to make it a mainstay in the collegiate athletic landscape.

NCAA pickleball

Understanding the NCAA

Founded in 1906 as the Intercollegiate Athletic Association, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has come a long way since its inception. Initially focused on improving safety standards in college football, the NCAA now oversees various intercollegiate sports. As a nonprofit organization, it ensures student-athletes maintain academic focus and safeguards them from exploitation. The NCAA generates significant revenue through television contracts, ticket sales, and endorsements, which it redistributes as scholarships and financial support for member colleges and athletes.

Is Pickleball a College Sport Today?

Currently, NCAA pickleball doesn’t exist, as there are no official collegiate tournaments or games. However, the sport is gaining traction across college campuses and throughout the country. Many students have fond memories of playing pickleball with family, while others discover it in college, intrigued by its unique name. College campuses often host pickleball clubs where students can enjoy friendly competition.

The first intercollegiate pickleball tournament took place in 2017, and since then, it has expanded on a small scale. Five U.S. schools with official USA Pickleball clubs include:

  1. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  2. Baptist Bible College in Springfield, Missouri
  3. North Carolina State University in Raleigh
  4. ERAU in Daytona Beach, Florida
  5. Metropolitan State University of Denver, Colorado

Other schools participate in national tournaments, potentially paving the way for future NCAA pickleball recognition. See the full list at the end of the article and let us know if any programs we have missed!

Innovations in college pickleball clubs include playing games to 15 points instead of 11, simplified skill rating systems, cumulative team scoring, and matches consisting of the best of five games.

Why College Students Love Playing Pickleball

Playing pickleball offers numerous benefits for college students, whether they join a club or play casually.

Physical Activity
Pickleball helps students combat the “freshman 15” phenomenon, keeping them active and reducing the risk of weight-related health issues.

Social Interaction
Pickleball encourages students to make friends, socialize, and bond over a shared interest, offering a healthy alternative to partying and potentially harmful activities.

By learning to play pickleball, students can find a sense of identity, belonging, and purpose within their campus community.

Stress Relief
Pickleball serves as an enjoyable break from academic stress, helping students relax, focus, and increase productivity. Engaging in physical activity also reduces cortisol levels and stimulates endorphin production, promoting calm and relaxation.

The Potential Benefits of NCAA Pickleball 

If pickleball becomes an NCAA-recognized college sport, students could enjoy additional advantages:

Financial Aid
NCAA support could lead to scholarships for talented pickleball players and the potential for endorsement deals following recent rule changes.

While pickleball is not yet an NCAA-recognized college sport, it continues to gain popularity on campuses nationwide. This engaging, social activity offers numerous benefits for college students and could one day become an official collegiate sport with added advantages for its players.

For colleges and universities, embracing pickleball could lead to several benefits, such as increased admissions, higher revenue, affordability, and stronger alumni support. However, there are also challenges to overcome, such as the limited pool of young players and resources. By working together, students, faculty, alumni, and the community can help promote pickleball on college campuses and make NCAA pickleball a reality.

Why Pickleball Is a Safer Option for College Athletes

While sports like basketball and football can cause severe injuries like Achilles tears, ACL tears, and concussions, pickleball is a lower-impact sport that’s easier on the joints. With simple rules and quick learning, pickleball offers students who have had to give up their primary sport due to injury another chance at an athletic scholarship and higher education, as long as they have recovered enough to attempt a new sport.

Benefits of NCAA Pickleball for College Administrators

Colleges and universities that offer pickleball programs could attract more students, increase admission numbers, and earn revenue from hosting competitions and selling merchandise. Pickleball is also more affordable than other college sports, with inexpensive equipment and the possibility of repurposing existing tennis courts.

Challenges and Solutions for Establishing NCAA Pickleball

The main obstacles to officially recognizing pickleball as an NCAA sport include the limited number of young players and resources for coaching and facilities. To increase the pool of players, schools can introduce pickleball in elementary, middle, and high schools, making it an accessible sport for all students. Schools with existing tennis or badminton programs can also leverage their resources to create a pickleball program.

Promoting Pickleball on College Campuses

To help establish NCAA pickleball, college faculty, alumni, and current students can work together in various ways:

  1. Alumni can organize events to teach students how to play pickleball, make donations for pickleball programs, or offer scholarships for talented students.
  2. Faculty and administrators can gauge student interest in pickleball, host events like tournaments, advise pickleball clubs, and apply for grants to finance new programs.
  3. Current and prospective students can express their interest in playing pickleball during the admissions process, start pickleball clubs, and participate in community projects to teach pickleball to younger students.
  4. Local businesses and corporations can offer discounts to students interested in playing pickleball or sponsor competitions between students, faculty, alumni, and their employees.

With its popularity and growth, NCAA pickleball could become a reality in the near future. If you’re interested in playing pickleball in college, start preparing by finding the right pickleball equipment and learning tips and strategies for the sport.

Arizona State University


Baptist Bible College

Butler University

Cal State Northridge

Case Western Reserve

Colby College

Columbus State

College of Charleston

Dakota Collegiate

Davidson College

Dixie State

ERAU—Daytona Beach

Florida State

George Mason University

George Washington University

Georgia Tech University

Gonzaga University

Grand Valley State

Jacksonville State University

Kansas University

Lehigh University

Lindenwood University

Lipscomb University

Metropolitan State University of Denver

Montana State

Michigan State University

North Carolina State

Ohio State University

Penn State University

Radford University

Rider University

Robert Morris University

Saint Louis University

Samford University

Seattle University

Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville

Southern Utah University

Texas A&M

Texas Tech


United States Air Force Academy

University of Alabama-Birmingham

University of Arizona

University of Iowa

University of Kentucky

University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

University of Nebraska

University of Oregon 

University of Minnesota

University of North Carolina

University of Tennessee

University of Texas- San Antonia

University of Virginia

University of Wisconsin

Utah State 

Utah Tech

UW Whitewater


Villanova University

Washington University

Weber State University

Western Michigan University

Xavier University

3 thoughts on “College Pickleball: Is NCAA Pickleball on the Horizon?”

  1. Let’s go Utah! We are well represented by 5 NCAA schools that cover the state top to bottom. Utah has aggressively added hundreds of public and private courts as they have embraced the sport at all levels. The junior’s program has been and will continue to be recognized across the nation as leader. We are proud of the number of high-quality pros from Utah and support them and their efforts within the sport.


Leave a Comment

Cookie Consent with Real Cookie Banner