The National Collegiate Athletic Association has proposed to split its Division III into two divisions; one more restrictive and one more competitive. The idea has been contemplated for several years but has been brought up recently in many NCAA Division III conferences, including conferences in which members of the Cabrini athletic department were present.
Cabrini’s athletic director Dr. Leslie Danehy said she is not in favor of such a split. “We discussed this a few years ago and the Division III membership could not decide on how we would execute this type of split.”
Division III is the largest division in the NCAA and is made up of 420 colleges and universities that all ban athletic scholarships. The colleges and universities in Division III have enrollment rates that range from 400 to 40,000 students.
The Division III program can be considered to be the most diverse division in the NCAA program, according to the New York Times. A split may be in order because of how fractured the membership is over issues such as money, national championships and the appropriate mission of athletics in higher education.
Danehy said, “I don’t mind that we are the largest division and that we are diverse. That makes it fun in my opinion.”
The biggest question professionals have to deal with is that if the nation’s top small colleges complete this split, will the impact be fatal on academic rankings used by prospective students and parents?
The result of this split would be a Division IV. This new division would be made up of some of the more highly selective academic schools such as Haverford, Franklin and Marshall and Swarthmore Colleges in the area. These colleges would restrict out-of-league play, limit preseason games and emphasize participation by fielding teams in many sports.
John Douglas, the co-acting director of athletics at Haverford College, said, “We are very interested in the discussion of the split but we are not an acting member as of right now.”
Douglas was reluctant to speak on behalf of Haverford’s entire athletic department.
However, some colleges believe the proposal has been going on long enough and they wish to see change soon.
John Fry, the chairman of the Division III President’s Council and the president of Franklin and Marshall College, said to the New York Times, “We must have a fundamental change in the structure of the division. The tent has been stretched far enough.”
Ultimately, the presidents of colleges and universities will make the decisions on how and whether to segregate Division III.
According to the New York Times, if this rip in the system occurs, one division would require institutions to play a larger number of sports (possibly as many as 18), would restrict athletic departments in their area of recruiting, the lengths of playing seasons and the number of off-season practices. Then the other division would be more accommodating in its recruiting, practice and competition rules and require as little as six to 10 sports so that members are able to focus more on high profile sports.
At many Division III schools, athletic recruiting plays a big part in the admissions process and has drastically diminished retention rates. Varsity athletes at institutions make up one third or more of the student body. Coaches at these institutions take as much time as Division I coaches in the recruiting process. With this split, recruiting top athletes to Division IV colleges could be more difficult.
Recruiting student-athletes is an important aspect at Cabrini for many coaches. Most students choose to compete in the Division III program before enrolling because of coaches and admissions counselors’ persistence. Four out of the six admissions counselors also coach a varsity sport at Cabrini.
Steve Colfer, associate director of admissions and head men’s lacrosse coach, believes that it is true that Divison III is as competitive with recruiting as the Division I program is. Colfer said that he keeps his recruiting process competitive and extensive because he “knows that other coaches are doing the same thing.”
Some Cabrini athletes feel that the split would be a terrible idea for the athletic program.
“Who cares if it’s getting more competitive? I think the split would be awful and I totally disagree with it,” sophomore Lauren Magill said. Magill is a member of the women’s basketball and lacrosse teams.
Freshman accounting major and men’s soccer player Chris Lasher said, “That’s lame. Nobody would want to play for Division IV because Division III is bad enough.”
Colfer believes even a Division IV program would eventually become just as competitive as Division III.
“That’s how the world is and everyone is always ‘keeping up with the Jones’,” Colfer said.