Interesting article about Williams and the NCAA by Adam Bloch ’06 from several years ago.

NCAA experiencing a growing problem
Thirty-four years after a three-way division completely altered its
shape and future, the NCAA now stands on the brink of a similarly
revolutionary split. Fueled by unceasing growth over the past two
decades and increasing philosophical differences within the
association, all three divisions of the NCAA are currently wrestling
with issues regarding membership that could transform the landscape
of collegiate athletics. Though NCAA officials are quick to assert
that any current discussions concern the entire association, debate
is nowhere more advanced and fractured than in Division 3, which as
soon as 2009 could split into two subdivisions or a completely new
NCAA grouping – a Division 4.

“The growth issues are important across the board for the
association,” Division 3 Vice President Dan Dutcher said in a phone
interview last week. “There’s been much more growth, though, as it
relates to Division 3, certainly.”

That growth has seen the division increase from 315 active members in
1989 to 418 this year. Division 1 has 326 schools, while Division 2
hosts 281. With such dramatic expansion has come plenty of
administrative and competitive challenges. Most importantly, the
increasing diversity of Division 3 institutions with regard to
enrollment, funding and program size has led many college officials
to believe that a split is imperative.

“There has been a need for a fundamental change in Division 3 for at
least a decade,” Doug Bennett, president of Earlham College in
Indiana and the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC), told the
Transcript on Monday. “You can see that in two sorts of way. On the
one hand, the number of insititutions in the division has grown so
large as to become unwieldy. There also is no longer a possibility of
having everybody share the same approach to intercollegiate athletics
in Division 3. There are standing disagreements on some very
important issues. By accepting more and more members, we’re just
making the problem more untenable.”

The NCAC was one of the first leaders in the movement for a Division
3 split, which began in the early part of this decade, but the roots
of the current problems stem from long-ago developments.
In 1974, the NCAA broke into three groups mostly defined by different
requirements regarding athletic scholarships and sports sponsorship
(Division 1 later split football teams into two subdivisions). Those
rules remain largely intact to this day: Division 1 schools currently
must sponsor a minimum of 16 varsity sports and provide at least 200
grants or $4 million in athletic scholarships. Division 2 must field
at least 10 varsity sports while offering at least 20 full grants or
$250,000 in total athletic scholarships. For these two divisions, a
host of more detailed rules apply regarding attendance and scheduling
in revenue sports like football and basketball.

That left Division 3 as the only group with no athletic scholarships
and the ultimate representative of the old amateur ideal. It is a
notion that the division still clings to today, no matter how
tenuously.

That sense of harboring the true student-athlete has grown more
clouded with divisional growth. The original tripartite split of the
NCAA had a great effect on the NAIA, the other prominent collegiate
athletics governing body in the country. The NAIA had a longtime
orientation toward smaller schools, while the NCAA administered to
larger institutions. When the NCAA split, small colleges began
switching over from the NAIA, a process that gained speed after the
NCAA implemented fully-funded championships in Divisions 2 and 3 a
little less than 20 years ago. The unbridled growth that ensued over
the next 15 years eventually forced the division to look at several
problems.

The growth of Division 3 has led to a playing field that includes
schools running the full gamut with regard to enrollment, sports
sponsorship and athletic funding. The fundamental divide is between
older, private schools that tend to be relatively small and field
dozens of teams and larger schools that are often public and large
but sponsor fewer teams.

On one end of the spectrum are the schools of the NESCAC, which are
all private, small (average enrollment is around 2,200), old and
wealthy enough to field over 30 teams. At the other end is the New
Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) and colleges like Montclair State,
which has over 12,000 undergraduate students but only 17 teams.
Such demographic diversity among disparate institutions has led to
philosophical differences great enough that some officials feel they
are now tearing the division apart. The larger schools with fewer
sports tend to favor a less restrictive approach to athletics that
allow them to focus on building their teams’ strength through such
practices as redshirting and non-traditional seasons (spring football
or fall baseball). The schools with more sports often encourage their
athletes to play for more than one team and feel that legislative
restrictions are necessary to level the playing field.

“There’s an interest among the membership that feels it’s not
necessary for the student-athlete experience to be further
restricted,” Dutcher said. “They feel that fewer regulations and
bureaucratic requirements are more to their liking. On the other
side, there are schools that are interested in potentially adopting
additional restrictions because they feel that there is still work to
be done to make sure that athletics is fully integrated into the
educational experience.”

The schools that focus on fewer sports feel threatened by such a
reform movement. Their teams often provide more than simple athletic
endeavor. Instead, success on the field is seen as a boon to
enrollment, retention and a college’s profile.

“For some schools, it is a matter of enrollment and attractiveness –
this notion of being at a school that has an idea of the importance
of athletics,” Kevin McHugh, athletic director of The College of New
Jersey (another NJAC institution) and Vice-Chair of the Division 3
Management Council, told the Transcript last week. “There’s about as
many different philosophies combined with practical realities as
there are schools. The more we talk about it, the more things are
splintered.”

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