Northwestern University sponsors 19 varsity athletics programs. A charter member of the Big Ten Conference dating to 1896, 17 of the Wildcats sport programs compete in the Big Ten with women's lacrosse competing in the American Lacrosse Conference while women's fencing is a member of the Midwest Conference. Northwestern perennially ranks among the top 50 schools in the nation in the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup, paced by the 2012 women's lacrosse team's seventh national championship in the last eight years and postseason appearances from 12 of NU's programs. A total of 13 Wildcats student-athletes earned All-America accolades a year ago while 50 notched All-Big Ten distinction.
Off the field, Northwestern student-athletes excel in both the classroom and the community. The 19 programs combined to post a school-record 206 Academic All-Big Ten selections along with 51 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars and three Capital One Academic All-Americans last academic year. Northwestern student-athletes volunteered over 5,000 hours of combined community outreach in 2011-12.