Update on the Future of D-III discussion

As this article from the Chronicle of Higher Education reports (see below), the long discussion of altering D-III has concluded, I believe, with good results.  Each conference within D-III will retain the right to govern its own affairs on major issues such as scheduling, recruiting, admissions, and overall standards and expectations for its athletics programs.

NCAA’s Division III Members Nix the Idea of a ‘Division IV’

By LIBBY SANDER

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has scuttled a proposal to subdivide Division III or add a new grouping altogether after an overwhelming majority of the division’s member institutions said they opposed the idea.

The association had touted that proposal as a solution to the rapid growth projected for the division in the coming years. In February the NCAA sent a survey to the 442 active and provisional members of Division III.

When the results came in, the message was clear: No changes are necessary.

Of the 96 percent of Division III institutions that responded to the survey, whose findings were released on Thursday, 82 percent said they supported or strongly supported maintaining the current Division III setup. Only 17 percent supported or strongly supported either the creation of subdivisions or a new division altogether.

John A. Fry, president of Franklin & Marshall College and chair of the Division III Presidents Council, said in an interview on Thursday that he was disappointed by the reaction from member institutions.

“Not enough people are focusing on what’s going to happen in the next five years and beyond,” said Mr. Fry, who has studied membership-growth issues with other presidents and chancellors from all three NCAA divisions. “Unfortunately, people are saying, ‘Hey, we’re surviving. We don’t want a fourth division.'”

Division III colleges and universities offer no athletics scholarships. Although the division includes some of the smallest institutions in the NCAA in terms of enrollment, it is by far the association’s largest group, and it is growing larger every year. The division has added 100 or so members since 1990, and NCAA officials estimate that by 2020, it will reach 480 members. (Division I, by contrast, has 329 active members, and Division II has 282.)

But the survey results indicated that the growth projections were not enough to persuade Division III institutions that a restructuring was needed.

In their responses, institutions listed several reasons for keeping Division III in its current format. They cited the breaking up of athletics conferences and the loss of traditional rivalries as potential drawbacks of splitting the division, and some colleges said the loss of the Division III moniker could negatively affect their ability to retain and recruit athletes.

“We see the survey results as significant news,” Rudy Keeling, commissioner of the Eastern College Athletic Conference and chairman of the NCAA’s Division III Working Group on Membership Issues, said in a statement. “Our members are saying that despite their differences, they like being a part of Division III.”

The full survey is available on the NCAA’s Web site.

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