From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article
Division III (or DIII) is a division of the National Collegiate Athletic Association of the United States. The division consists of colleges and universities that choose not to offer athletically related financial aid (athletic scholarships) to their student-athletes.
As explained in more detail in the article about NCAA Division II, the NCAA's first split was into two divisions. The former College Division was formed because many NCAA member schools wanted an alternative to the expensive nature of what is now Division I. Division III was formed in 1973 in a split of the College Division. The former College Division members that chose to offer athletic scholarships or to remain in a division with those who did became Division II, while members which did not became Division III.
There are 449 member institutions (both full and provisional), making it the largest of the three divisions in the NCAA.
D-III schools range in size from fewer than 500 to over 20,000 students. D-III schools compete in athletics as a non-revenue-making, extracurricular activity for students; hence, they may not offer athletic scholarships, they may not redshirt freshmen, and they may not use endowments or funds whose primary purpose is to benefit their athletic programs. Also, under NCAA rules, D-III schools "shall not award financial aid to any student on the basis of athletics leadership, ability, participation or performance". Financial aid given to athletes must be awarded under the same procedures as for the general student body, and the proportion of total financial aid given to athletes "shall be closely equivalent to the percentage of student-athletes within the student body." As an example of how seriously the NCAA takes the scholarship ban, in 2005 MacMurray College became only the fifth school to be slapped with a "death penalty" after its men's tennis program was found to have given grants to foreign-born players.
All Division III schools must field athletes in at least ten sports, with men's and women's competition in a given sport counting as two different sports. In 2012, coeducational schools with more than 1,000 undergraduates must field athletes in at least twelve sports, with at least six all-female teams and at least six teams that are either all-male or mixed-sex. Coeducational schools with fewer than 1,000 undergraduates must still field at least five sports in each category. Single-sex schools need only field five or six sports, depending on undergraduate enrollment. For all schools regardless of enrollment, at least three sports for each sex must be team sports.
* Conference sponsors football
† The MASCAC does not currently sponsor football, but has announced that it will begin sponsoring football in 2013.
Twelve D-III schools currently field Division I programs in one or two sports (one maximum for each sex).
Seven of them are grandfathered schools that have traditionally competed at the highest level of a particular sport prior to the institution of the Division classifications in 1971. These schools are allowed to offer athletic scholarships in their Division I sports to remain competitive with their opponents.
(State University of New York at Oneonta was previously grandfathered in men's soccer but moved totally to Division III in 2006.)
The other five schools choose to field Division I programs in one sport for men and optionally one sport for women, but they are not grandfathered and thus are not allowed to offer athletic scholarships. Academic-based and need-based financial aid is still available, as is the case for Division III.
In addition, Lawrence University was formerly a non-grandfathered program in fencing, but the NCAA no longer conducts a separate Division I fencing championship. Lawrence continues to field a fencing team, but that team is now considered Division III (see below).
Football and basketball may not be grandfathered Division I programs because their revenue-enhancing potential would give them an unfair advantage over other Division III schools. In 1992, several Division I schools playing Division III in football, most notably Georgetown University, were forced to make their football programs Division I.
In August 2007, the NCAA instituted a moratorium on all division moves, including moves of individual programs. That moratorium expired in August 2011, but the NCAA has indicated that individual program moves to another division will no longer be allowed as a general policy (though at least one exception has been made in women's ice hockey due to the lack of Division II competition in that sport).
In addition to the D-III schools that play as Division I members, MIT and at least 27 other D-III schools compete alongside D-I and D-II members in sports that the NCAA does not split into divisions; teams in these sports are not counted as playing in a different division from the rest of the athletic program. D-III members cannot award scholarships in these sports.
NCAA bowling is currently a women-only sport.
The NCAA team championship is a combined men's and women's event, with only one team champion crowned. Most NCAA fencing schools have coeducational teams; a few schools field only a women's team.
Only 17 NCAA members now sponsor men's gymnastics as a varsity sport; as a result, the NCAA conducts a single team championship for all divisions. The only non-Division I school among the 17 is a Division III member.
Although the NCAA officially classifies rifle as a men's sport, competition is fully coeducational. Schools may field single-sex or coed teams, and are also allowed to field more than one team (either two single-sex teams, or one single-sex and one coed team).
The portion of college athletics most familiar to the American general public is NCAA Division I, and specifically only the portion of Division I which generates enough interest to get extensive television coverage. Public awareness of the other NCAA Divisions is often limited, so it is natural for interested people to want to compare and contrast them with the most familiar Division as a means to learn about them. The comparisons made here, however, will be with Division I as a whole, not just the portion which obtains most television coverage.
NCAA regulations require signatories to field so many sports programs that a substantial investment in athletics by any member college or university is a must. In any NCAA Division, most schools hire coaches whose job is to coach full-time. They hire people who specialize in developing talent. Recruiting processes are similar for all three NCAA Divisions: most members of any varsity team were successful high school athletes who were solicited to come to their particular college to continue playing the sport on the college's varsity team. Further, college athletes are people who devote long hours to practice for their sports. Such a commitment is prone to produce exceptional prowess in those sports. When coaching staffs which specialize in developing talent full-time are paired with athletes who have devoted and do devote many hours to practice and training for their sports, the result is a high level of athletics, regardless of affiliation.
As noted in the article about NCAA Division II, the former College Division was formed because many NCAA member schools wanted an alternative to the expensive nature of Division I. College Division athletic programs no longer needed to be able to generate and spend a lot of money to have a strong chance at a national postseason tournament. Later, as noted above, the College Division split between schools which did want to offer athletics-based financial aid and schools which did not. The schools that wanted to offer athletics-based financial aid, or pursue the same postseason tournaments with those who did, became Division II; those which wanted to do neither became Division III.
The rationale behind rejection of athletics-based financial aid is based on a particular philosophy of intercollegiate athletics. There were, and are, leaders in higher education who felt and feel that once financial aid specific to athletes is allowed, it is a financial commitment which leads the school in directions which are not always concordant with strict academic priorities. Historically, athletics-based financial aid has generally been offered to entice athletes to come to the college and help their teams win. Ultimately, it means that the student with such financial aid is there to perform well athletically for the school. This has potential to lead to two student bodies: the general student population who are expected to have their studies as their college priorities, and the athletes whose college priorities are athletic performance. Division III personnel in general want to avoid such a situation in their institutions. They want academics to be the college priorities of all students enrolled at their colleges, and rejection of athletics-based financial aid is a means to that end.
This is not to say, of course, that there are no athletics programs in NCAA Division I or NCAA Division II which place a high priority on athletes' academic performances, or Division III programs which do not demand anything more than NCAA academic eligibility minimums. However, a universal high priority on academics was and is the foundation and essence of NCAA Division III.
To ensure the newer divisions and Division I would not have a similar relationship to professional baseball's minor leagues and major leagues, the NCAA has strict regulations. It is not at all uncommon for an athlete in the newer divisions to be capable of contributing to a Division I program; some could do so at the beginnings of their college careers, others after one or more seasons of training and competition. The NCAA has regulations in place to deter transfers for athletic purposes. Coaching staffs are not permitted to recruit athletes from other four-year colleges and universities; any pursuit of a transfer must be initiated by the athlete. Athletes who compete for one program and then transfer to a Division I school to compete in the same sport on its team are penalized. Most student athletes do not transfer, and remain on track to graduate with a degree from a single college or university.
With the creation of new NCAA Divisions, not every school was willing to switch even when a newer Division might be a better match with the nature of its athletic program. For instance, some NCAA Division I programs do not offer athletic scholarships, making them akin to Division III schools. Others invest money in their athletics programs at quantities similar to what is typical for Division II. However, since what was originally called the University Division, now called Division I, holds more prestige and obtains more publicity in athletics, some college sports programs have remained in Division I even when they hold strong resemblance to programs in another Division.
The causes for the NCAA Divisions mean that they all differ in how they invest in their athletic programs. These differences affect recruiting of high school and other prospects. Division I programs typically have more money and more freedom to offer athletics-based financial aid to prospective athletes. They can offer more financial aid money to top prospects, offer to more top prospects, and appeal to the notoriety that their program receives as a Division I program. Division II programs offer less athletics-based money and must limit the quantity of beneficiaries per NCAA regulations for Division II. Division III programs do appeal to some top prospects on the basis of their schools' academic reputations and the priority placed on studies, but they do not offer athletics-based financial aid, and further, commonly have academic demands which would deter many top prospects.
The causes for the NCAA Divisions also mean differences in how they invest in the student athletes of their athletic programs. Programs in Divisions which allow athletic scholarships generally utilize that allowance. In those cases, a student athlete's financial aid is tied directly to athletic performance and obligations to maximize athletic prowess and minimize distractions unrelated to sports. The institution will quite often cooperate with the athletic department in these aims. The student athlete is quite often viewed primarily as an asset of the athletic program, and investments of time, energy, and resources are focused on the athletic aspect of the student athlete. The student athlete must bear in mind that failure to maintain adequate athletic prowess, or to fulfill obligations placed by coaches to maximize athletic development, or to refrain from activities deemed distracting to athletic development, could result in a withdrawal of financial aid. In NCAA Division III, student athletes are not supposed to have financial aid connected to athletics, and are simply students of their institution who participate in varsity athletics as one extracurricular activity among other extracurricular activities available to the general student body. The institution's investment in student athletes is primarily as students, and investments of time, energy and resources are focused on the student as a whole person. Student athletes are expected to pursue their educations under the same general conditions as other students, which presents challenges to student athletes which are often mitigated in other NCAA Divisions. The need to meet these challenges to obtain a degree, maintain academic performance satisfactory to coaching staffs, and still remain competitive at the NCAA/NAIA level is generally very present in the minds of Division III athletic staff and athletes. The priorities and related culture of Division III are quite different from the other two Divisions.
In all three NCAA Divisions, teams are made primarily or entirely of recruits from high school programs or other youth competition programs. These recruits have devoted many long hours to practice in their sports, and have exceptional aptitude in their sports. Whether a college athletics programs gets the very best of high level athletes or the least of high level athletes still means the school gets high level athletes, regardless of NCAA Division. The quality of athlete which a recruit or other new team member develops into depends primarily upon natural potential, quality of training and coaching, and work ethic. College teams are made primarily or entirely of former recruits who have devoted much time and effort to their sports, had and have exceptional aptitude in those sports, and are getting even better, regardless of affiliation.
Further, college athletes are expected to be enrolled students in classes at that school. Whether a college or university affiliates with Division I, II or III, the athletes on those teams are supposed to be involved in academic studies at their schools. The amount the athlete is expected to expend in academic pursuits varies, but every athlete is supposed to be enrolled in college classes and making some level of academic progress.
Division III institutions do not have the same access to scholarship money when it comes to the recruiting process. Division III sports offer non-athletic financial aid packages rather than athletically based support. In addition (as noted previously), the NCAA prohibits Division III schools from using any athletically-related factor in determining financial aid awards, and also requires that the amount of aid awarded to athletes at a Division III school be closely proportional to the percentage of athletes in the student body. Division I sports teams are able to provide aid more directly through athletic based scholarships. Division III schools, barred from using athletics as an aid criterion, have more choice in how they allocate their funds. Not only is there more financial support that is specifically given to Division I athletes, but Division I teams and facilities receive more funding from the NCAA. The NCAA puts substantially more money towards Division I programs than it does Division III. Sixty percent of all NCAA revenue is given directly to Division I institutions alone. From 2009–2010, $433 million made up the NCAA's Division I expenses. Only about three percent of the NCAA’s spending goes towards Division III programs. The differences in financial support has been a major cause in further differences between both divisions.
NCAA regulations in competition and time commitment have made Division III athletics seem less strenuous and binding when compared to Division I athletics. Each sport is subject to different regulations, but when comparing the same sports in Division I and Division III competition, there are differences. For example, Division III baseball limits the number of games to 40 per season while Division I baseball sets the limit at 56 games per season. According to a 2008 NCAA survey, participants admitted devoting more time to athletics than they did towards academic responsibilities. This survey found that the average "major" Division I athlete devotes 44.8 hours a week to athletic responsibilities in addition to a little less than 40 hours a week set aside for academic life. This difference in time commitment can also be seen in the average number of classes missed. Twenty-one percent of Division I baseball players miss more than three classes per week compared to twelve percent of Division III baseball players. This pattern is similar in other sports as well according to the 2011 NCAA survey.
The primary difference between Division III and the other divisions is that athletics-based financial aid is prohibited in Division III. To expect athletes to perform well both in athletics and in academics is normal, and further, athletes are expected to attend to academic responsibilities under the same conditions as the general student body. The publicity given to Division I and to Division III differs. All of these considerations affect recruiting: Division I schools tend to get the top prospects. Some prospects sought by Division I programs choose a Division III program for academic/educational or other reasons, but they are exceptions to the norm. Further, NCAA Division III teams commonly do not make cuts: the coaches give a chance to whomever is willing to do the work, and the aspiring athlete will either quit or improve. Because of these considerations, there is a slight but noticeable difference in athletic prowess between the average Division I and the average Division III athlete.
It is in some ways difficult to gauge the difference in athletic performance. In racing sports, such as cross country and track & field, it is easy because all one has to do is look at the individual standings. In sports where only two teams play each other, it is difficult because of the relative rarity of such competitions, as well as the fact that often the only thing publicized is who won, not the actual competition. Further, both programs have to consent to such competitions. Naturally, schools are more prone to use limited schedule slots to play against teams in their own NCAA Division and mostly to members of their own conference. There are Division III personnel who prefer an aloofness from scholarship athletics in such sports, and have an aversion to any competition in such sports outside NCAA Division III on that principle. Traditionally, prejudices have also discouraged Division I teams from scheduling Division III teams in such sports during the regular season, and not all conferences allow it. In recent years, exhibition games have allowed Division I teams to schedule Division III teams before the regular season without it counting in some sports, fostering a more favorable environment for such competitions, and allowing a greater understanding of the level of Division III teams by Division I personnel. Competitions between Division III programs and comparatively obscure Division I teams remain rarely seen in these sports, but it is becoming more common to see such competitions during both the preseason and regular season involving a well-known program with greater notoriety than many other Division I programs.
In sports where only two teams are competing, such as basketball, the experience for the Division III team typically varies between
1) being blown out from start to finish,
2) being blown out at the start, then bringing the margin down significantly, and playing about evenly for much of the game before eventually losing,
3) staying close and/or leading for much of the game before eventually losing,
4) occasionally winning.
A microcosm from men's basketball could be considered. In November 2012, an unranked Division III team played a ranked Division I team, was down as much as 17 points in the first half, cut the lead to fluctuate between 8 and 17 points, and was only down 10 points at halftime — then cut the lead to single digits again after halftime before eventually losing. The ranked Division I team had a larger halftime lead against another ranked Division I team the week before, later had a halftime lead of 31 points against another Division I team, and went on to beat the #1 team in Division I. The next month, another Division III team played against another Division I team and was leading with 12 minutes remaining before eventually losing. In regards to this second Division I team that season, it defeated another Division I team by a larger margin, and that team beat several other Division I teams by 20+ points, one of which had multiple victories of 20+ points over other Division I teams. Other Division I teams beat/beatable by a wide margin by either of these two Division I teams could have likely been defeated by one or both of these two Division III teams or others roughly equal to or superior to them. Occasionally, a Division III team does come out on top at the end, but more often than not, the game follows one of #1-3.
An indirect way to compare NCAA Division I and NCAA Division III in sports where only two teams compete with each other at a time is to consider the NAIA, a separate intercollegiate athletics association which allows athletics-based financial aid. Competitions with NCAA Division I programs versus NAIA programs are more common in such sports than versus NCAA Division III programs. NCAA Division III programs compete more frequently with NAIA programs than with NCAA Division I programs. NCAA Division III victories against NAIA programs are a fairly common occurrence. NAIA victories against NCAA Division I programs do happen in these sports but they are not common. Like NCAA Division III programs against Division I programs in these sports, there is the uncommon victory, but otherwise the competition usually follows one of #1-3 in the prior paragraph.
In sports where only two teams play each other, most Division I teams will not have a single Division III team on their schedules, and most Division III teams will not have a single Division I team on their schedules. In racing sports, sports teams usually compete against more than one team at a time. Further, programs have less control over whom they compete against; they can control who comes to competitions they host, and they can control which other competitions they travel to, but they have little to no influence on what other teams come to those competitions. These factors cause teams from each Division to compete with more teams both in their Division and in other Divisions.
It is common in racing sports, such as cross country and track & field, to see Division III teams competing with Division I teams. It is common to see Division III teams beat Division I teams. It is even more common for the same among individual competitors. In most such competitions, however, most of the teams towards the top of the team standings will be Division I teams. The average Division III racing sport competitor who competes with Division I teams on a regular basis will beat Division I competitors on a regular basis. In most such competitions, however, the median Division I competitor will beat the median Division III competitor.
Each Division has a continuum of athletes' prowesses in their sports. The observations above indicate there is substantial overlap between both continua, allowing competitiveness, but ultimately the norm is noticeably higher in Division I.
Academically, Division I and Division III have different priorities. In Division I, typically, the athlete is expected to focus on prime athletic preparedness, and perform adequately in academics to meet NCAA academic eligibility minimums. Special support sponsored by the school or athletic department exclusively for athletes, such as tutors, is a common practice. In Division III, athletes are expected to pursue their educations under the same general conditions as other students. Division III athletes are also known to put much more emphasis on their academic experience. College authorities in Division III have chosen that affiliation in general because they do not want conflicts between strict academic priorities and sports competitiveness. Those authorities expect coaching staffs to support those academic priorities. Simply maintaining NCAA academic eligibility minimums is typically not adequate to satisfy expectations Division III coaching staffs place on their athletes. In general, Division III athletes are expected to have solid academic performance to support a positive image of their program/s.
Ultimately, college athletes are college athletes, and in general, excel in their sports. College athletes are also students of their respective schools. There is significant overlap between the Divisions among athletes in both prowess in their sports and in academic achievement. The norm for athletic performance, however, is slightly but noticeably higher in Division I. The academic expectations, as a norm, are higher in Division III.
The differences in division requirements and financial regulation have led to some distinct differences in student life. Participation in school activities outside of intercollegiate athletics is more common in Division III athletes, and they are more likely to see themselves as part of their college's community. Division III athletes are also known to put much more emphasis on their academic experience, including participation in on-campus research and extra-curricular activities. Not only is there more involvement, but Division III Athletes have proven to be more successful in time management when compared to non-athletes at the same institution. There are also differences in the student-athlete social experience. Division I athletes are more likely to have friends who are exclusively part of their respective team.
Division III athletes are not considered to have athletic obligations to their college or university, so they do not feel their prospects of an education to be dependent upon their athletic performance. Because athletics-based financial aid is prohibited, an athlete's financial support is not going to be withdrawn for not performing as well as a teammate. This allows a less stressful approach to the sport itself. Further, because a student's financial aid is not tied to any athletics obligation, an athlete is not going to be told to not declare a particular major or refrain from any course by an athletics staff member who can withdraw financial support from the athlete. This frees the athlete to make the most of the educational opportunities afforded by the college or university.
Division III athletes in general must live a disciplined lifestyle to be successful, because they must undergo rigorous training to be able to compete at the level expected of NCAA/NAIA athletes, and they must attend to their academic responsibilities on the same terms as other students. College administrators who place affiliation with Division III do so by choice, and because of that, expect a priority placed upon colleges as educational institutions. Coaches are expected to support the high priority placed on academics, and those expectations are reflected onto athletes. The NCAA requires a C grade point average to remain eligible, but it is common for Division III programs to consider this unsatisfactory for their athletes. Coaches commonly conduct study tables and other team events to ensure athletes see their athletic ventures as tied to their academic responsibilities. There are not supposed to be course sections specifically for athletes, nor are there supposed to be athletic tutors nor similar special academic support provided by the institution. Athletes are expected to pursue their degrees under the same conditions as other students. Keeping up with the demands of rigorous training and with expectations of solid academic performance present a dual challenge for Division III athletes which calls for a disciplined approach to college life.
Division III alumni are often quite proud of their college experiences and of what is commonly referred to as "the Division III culture" and/or "the Division III philosophy." They commonly take pride in having met the dual challenge of athletic performance at a high level and adhering to strong academic expectations as they earned their degrees.
In 2003, concerned about the direction of the Division, the Division III Presidents' Council, led by Middlebury College President John McCardell, acted to limit the length of the traditional and non-traditional seasons, eliminate redshirting, and redefine a season of participation, all of which changes were approved by a majority vote of the membership.
An additional proposal that would have eliminated the ability of the institutions listed above to offer athletic scholarships in their Division I sports was rejected, though rules limiting the exception to only those schools currently offering D-I programs were approved. These actions took place at the January 2004 NCAA Convention.