Thursday, October 2, 2008

'Redefining' Division III?

WOW! A MOMENT ON TENURE-TRACK TO BLOG! Too bad it is the result of a sick day. . .

There is an interesting article at Inside Higher Education which should be required reading for anyone concerned with preserving NCAA Division III, which remains the last bastion of true amateurism in college sports. With the failure this spring of proposals that would have split Division III into two divisions, some institutions continue to advocate nixing its core principle:

"[Division III Institutions] Shall not award financial aid to any student on the basis of athletics leadership, ability, participation or performance."
From the article:
The Division III Presidents Council released a report last week outlining some of the key issues that the division must address as its membership continues to swell and now that proposals to create either a subdivision within it or a completely separate Division IV failed last spring. . . .

Perhaps most striking is the report’s notation that nearly two-thirds of the surveyed members of the division responded that “consideration of leadership in athletics (e.g., team captain) in the awarding of financial aid should be allowed provided it is consistent with the consideration of leadership in other student activities.” . . .

“I nearly fell off my chair when I saw that in the survey,” says John Fry, president of Franklin & Marshall College and chair of the President’s Council. “When one of your bedrock principles is in question, that’s more than a philosophical difference. What would separate us from Divisions I and II? One of the big differences between us is how we view financial aid. We put student first and athlete next. Frankly, if that changes, I don’t know what we’re doing.” . . .
This, ultimately, is the heart of the matter:
Some argue that enrollment pressures might cause a tuition-strapped institution — such as the profile of many new Division III members — to favor offering some sort of financial aid that considers athletic ability. Partial financial aid for athletic leadership might help these institutions garner more recruits and, in time, more revenue from their tuition. These institutions have a place, loyalists argue — just not in Division III.

“If financial aid is driving enrollment, then there’s another option for those schools, and that’s Division II,” says James T. Harris, president of Widener University and a member of the Division III President’s Council. “I can’t foresee a day when Division III would allow athletic scholarships. I don’t think that’s a reasonable future.”

EXCELLENT. And it should be noted that any athlete at a Division III school is perfectly welcome, and indeed encouraged, to apply for need-based financial aid. It is, of course, the only reason that a middle-class kid like myself was able to attend, and ski at a college like Bates, where the comprehensive fee this year hit $49,350.

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