What to Do with Division III?


By Gerry Boyle '78 P'06

What would a reconfigured Division III mean for Colby athletics?
Photo by Rob Kievit '09
The NCAA's Division III, in which Colby competes, has problems, members agree. But how and whether to fix them? There the agreement ends"at least for now.
With a membership that has grown to 420 colleges and universities"with widely varying views of athletics and academics"the behemoth that is DIII may split. In January the NCAA formed a group to study the possibility of creating a subdivision of DIII or a Division IV.

"The division has become too large, and the philosophical positions of members are too diverse and in some cases conflicting," said Colby President William D. Adams, in an e-mail in response to a query about the issue. "I think some kind of subdivision is desirable, if not inevitable."

In fact, the most recent study was barely underway when different views began to surface. While most acknowledge the problems with the size and diversity of DIII"from restricted opportunities for postseason play because of the hundreds of teams to widely varying academic requirements"some see a new division as problematic.

Officials at athletic powerhouses like Williams already have said they want to stick with DIII as we know it. "It's a big group, but we can handle it," Williams Acting Athletic Director Lisa Melendy told The New York Times. "I like the diversity, instead of just playing the same New England or eastern schools"

At Middlebury, coaches have warned the administration that moving to a Division IV or a subdivision would make already fiercely competitive athletic recruiting even tougher.

At Colby, Athletic Director Marcella Zalot acknowledged that the size of DIII, and the resulting changes in qualifying hurdles, make it tough for Colby teams"though not individual athletes"to qualify for NCAA postseason play.

But, Zalot said, Colby athletes already play in one of the most competitive conferences in the division. "If you make the (New England Small College Athletic Conference) final four, that's pretty darn good," she said. "We play at the highest level possible. It's the highest academic/athletic conference in the country."
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