Athletics certification was approved for Division I institutions at the 1993 Convention as a key part of the NCAA’s reform agenda. Certification was originally introduced in 1989 and tested in a two year pilot program. Participants generally agreed that the pilot program was valuable but could be improved by limiting the scope of the self-study. After a special committee reworked the idea over the next year, the NCAA Presidents Commission, the NCAA Council and the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics supported a revised version of the program.
Athletics certification began its second cycle in 1999. Since 1999, the program has been reviewed annually and in 2004 the Board of Directors supported a revised version of certification that reduced the number of operating principles to seven.