College softball is softball as played on the intercollegiate level at institutions of higher education, predominantly in the United States. College softball is normally played by women at the Intercollegiate level, whereas college baseball is normally played by men.
As with other intercollegiate sports, most college softball in the United States is played under the auspices of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) or the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). The NCAA writes the rules of play, while each sanctioning body supervises season-ending tournaments. The final rounds of the NCAA tournaments are known as the Women’s College World Series (WCWS); one is held on each of the three levels of competition sanctioned by the NCAA.
The first NCAA Women’s College World Series was held in 1982, while the first-ever WCWS was held in 1969 in Omaha, Nebraska (sponsored by the Amateur Softball Association and the Division of Girls’ and Women’s Sports) and annually thereafter.[The tournament now starts with 64 teams from 16 different regions that compete in a double elimination round to start off the championship. The sixteen winners then enter a ‘super regional’, usually held at the higher seed’s home ground, for a best-of-3 series. The eight winners then enter a modified double elimination tournament to determine which team is the national champion. Instead of being a ‘true’ double-elimination tournament, the tournament is split up so there are two brackets, though the losers switch brackets. The winners of each of the brackets move onto a best-of-3 championship.
Each NCAA DI program can offer up to 12 scholarships per team, while DII programs have up to 7.2, NAIA programs have 10 scholarships and fully funded.
NJCAA Softball teams have 24 scholarships per team.
Softball is an equivalency sport for NCAA scholarship purposes, so partial scholarships can be awarded to meet the limit per school. For example, an NCAA Division I school can award 18 softball players each a 2/3 scholarship and still meet the limit of 12 per school.