D-III: The Way College Sports Ought’a Be

NCAA D-III Athletics is not for those who cannot cut it at a higher level, it is for those who can cut on several levels – playing fields, classroom, and life.

As a father of two sons playing D-III football, I have come to really appreciate what D-III has to offer.  And having myself been a D-1 athlete for four years during my college days has provided me a pretty good perspective.  And it is not what most seem to think.

It seems most assume that those who choose to participate in D-III sports are those who lacked the ability and/or opportunity to play at higher levels.  I have seen it many times: Athletes and parents hoping to get the call from the Big Boys in the SEC or Big 10 – a call that never comes.  Once realizing that opportunity is not presenting itself they assume they will go to the next level down, and then maybe the next, and if they can’t cut it there why bother.  After all, D-III is just glorified high school competition, right? …And maybe not as good as the competition at some high schools.  But this is just not the case.

In our family, for instance, my older son had several football scholarship offers, and a few offers for track.  Deciding on football, he even signed his National Letter of Intent at a press conference covered by the local TV station, and highlighted on the local network affiliate during the 5pm & 11pm newscasts.  But in the end, during the Summer prior to enrollment, he decided that while he liked the football program, and loved the coach, he did not really like the school.  He preferred a school where he could compete and develop as a well rounded individual.  He asked for, and was granted a release, and enrolled at a D-III school – where his younger brother followed two years later.  (Our younger son was not as widely recruited, but had some opportunities to Walk On had he desired.  But he had his eyes set on some outstanding academic institutions, all of which were D-III, and never considered inquiries from those other schools.)

I am not suggesting one cannot become well rounded at D-1 schools.  As a D-1 product, I certainly hope that is not the case.  I simply offer our family experience as an illustration that D-III is not just for those with no other options.  My son is not unique.  Most of the kids who actually compete on D-III fields had other opportunities. And of those who did not have other offers,  many of those athletes were not so much lacking skill as lacking a couple inches in height, or a couple steps in speed.  In short, those who do play usually can play – really play.

Why do I write this, and post this video?  Well, I guess one reason is simply to express my thoughts, or vent a little about the disrespect that D-III athletes endure from uninformed sports fans.  But there is also a nobler, more hopeful reason.  My hope is that maybe one parent of an aspiring athlete will read this post and then seriously encourage their son or daughter to consider a D-III institution in their recruiting process.  D-III is not a last resort; it is sports the way it used to be – the way it ought to be.  And as one coach said during my older son’s recruitment: “If you don’t plan to go on to play in the NFL (or NBA, or MLB, etc..) then what’s the difference?  Just choose a school you can love, where you’d enjoy being for 4 years, and where in years to come you will be proud to be an alumn – and a letterman.”