September 26, 2016

Here’s the Thing: Division Three sports DO matter

There seems to be a sense that just because Webster University is a Division Three (DIII) school, athletics and quality of play are not important.

The saying “it’s only DIII, it doesn’t matter” is somehow used as a reason to not care about the athletic teams. Webster may not be as big as Division One programs, but the saying, “it’s only DIII,” diminishes the accomplishments of the players.

These athletes have worked their entire life to be able to play their respective sport in college. Whether it is baseball, soccer, softball or basketball, these student-athletes have put in as much time and effort, or more, than every student.

It may be DIII, but being named player-of-the-year in the conference or being named to an All-American team still means a player was better than the competition they went against and they are recognized for it.

People like to think of college athletics as a funnel to get to the professional ranks. Being DIII, there are not many athletes that go pro, but it is not impossible. Future Hall of Famer London Fletcher played football at John Carroll University. Ever heard of it? Neither have I.

Even a SLIAC conference team has sent players to the pros. Jack Sikma played for Iowa Wesleyan. The 6’11” center was drafted eighth overall by the Seattle Supersonics in the 1977 NBA draft.

One of the greatest all-around athletes in the history of sports played DIII sports–Jim Thorpe. Thorpe played four different positions in the NFL and was the first man to run the 100-meter dash in 10 seconds flat in Olympic history. Thorpe attended Carlisle Indian Industrial school. He is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and has the Jim Thorpe award trophy named after him to recognize the best defensive back in college football.

Oh, and a couple more NBA players you may know played DIII. Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman played at Central Arkansas and SE Oklahoma State, respectively.

These players did not treat DIII athletics as a joke; they took it as an opportunity to continue their athletic career. It was a chance to play the sport they love at a competitive level for at least four more years.

Coaches should have to hold themselves to that same standard.

Bad coaching has seemed to become acceptable at the DIII level. If you have five losing seasons in a row, your abilities should be in question. I do not want to be the guy that wants to fire everybody, but if your teams are not winning, you are directly responsible.

If you constantly have to recruit a new team because your players quit, the question needs to be raised: why? I can understand if players can not handle the intensity of college athletics compared to that of high school, but if it is directly because players can not deal with the coach it needs to be addressed.

DIII athletics may not be on ESPN every night, but that does not mean they are not important. I believe that to have a successful school, you need to have a successful athletic program.

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