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Tuesday, February 13, 2021

Having attended an NCAA Division II school, I have a soft spot in my heart for the equivalent of the lower-minor leagues in college sports.

That said, the brewing storm over the subdivision of the NCAA’s Division III into upper and lower tiers strikes me as pretty pointless.

“At the convention, there were people walking around saying, ‘I’ll never join a Division IV,’” [Williams College athletic director Lisa] Melendy said. “No one wants to be in Division IV. The name has such a substandard sound. It sounds like you’ve been demoted.”

You’re already talking about the basement; would getting shifted from third- to fourth-string be that much of a hit? After you get past Division I and I-A, primetime collegiate sports are largely theoretical.

Then again, things could go even lower:

No one wants to tackle the prickly subject of what to call the new divisions. A Division IV could be avoided with a Division III-A and Division III-AA. Others have proposed using proper names for the divisions. And some administrators suggested there would be enough discord that the N.C.A.A. should be prepared not just for a Division IV but also a Division V.

I think all this splintering will prompt ESPN to start spinning off parallel sub-networks, just to keep up on coverage.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 02/13/2007 11:45:27 PM
Category: College Years, Sports
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5 Feedbacks »
  1. I understand the problem, but I taught at a Division III school and was on the NCAA rules committee, so I have a bit more insight than some people maybe.

    There’s an enormous difference in money and goals between a school like Amherst or Case Western or the University of Chicago or MIT and your “average small college” like Muskingum or Heidelberg or Defiance College. Some Division III schools are state universities, and some are tiny private colleges. It’s just become one big lump category and I understand why they might want to make distinctions. Just look at the Caltech story that was big on ESPN a few weeks ago (they won their first basketball game in several years).

    Where I taught, nearly all of the students were there to continue their athletic careers. Zero of them had any chance of going pro, and in my entire time in the OAC I can think of exactly one player who did (London Fletcher, John Carroll). That isn’t to say those schools are bad; Mount Union wins the national championship nearly every year. But that’s football, a sport the “good” schools have no chance whatsoever of being competitive in. A friend of mine played football for MIT, and it was just a joke. You’re studying too hard to have any time to prepare for games. Studying isn’t a concern at your average Division III school.

    Comment by tim in tampa — 02/14/2007 @ 02:39:48 AM

  2. I hope ESPN the Ocho doesn’t change their programming because of this. I love the Dodgeball Championships.

    Comment by Hunk Oman — 02/14/2007 @ 10:35:26 AM

  3. The Ocho was the one bright spot in that movie. Although I applauded them for use of the proper “dodgeball” for the sport, instead of the lamer name “bombardment”.

    Tim, you hinted at the core of it: The opportunity for exposure. That’s the primary purpose of athletics for all colleges, but especially smaller shools. Competition for students is fierce, so anything that gets an institution noticed is an edge. Sports, especially football, are a marketing vehicle. You may recall that small colleges are starting and re-starting football programs specifically for this reason.

    That’s why I don’t see why the Div. III schools are fretting over possible “demotion” to a Div. IV. For the purposes that they’re running these programs, it doesn’t really matter what league they’re in, just that they’re in the game.

    Comment by CT — 02/14/2007 @ 11:46:42 AM

  4. “No one wants to be in Division IV. The name has such a substandard sound. It sounds like you’ve been demoted.

    I find it interesting that Division IV “sounds bad”. In my home state at the high school level, Division IV was only second to Division V in importance. If it were that “minor league sounding” I’m sure they would have flipped from descending to ascending order.

    Comment by trumwill — 02/16/2007 @ 02:08:58 PM

  5. That’s dealing with established rankings. NCAA Div. I has been the top designation for years, so within that context, Div. IV certainly sounds like a drop.

    But other leagues do the similar reverse-order. Minor-league baseball, for instance, starts with Class A and ascends to Class Triple-A (AAA), with the major leagues being the next step. And that’s not even counting the long-departed semi-pro Class B, C and D system.

    Comment by CT — 02/16/2007 @ 08:37:04 PM

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