Thursday, June 13, 2024

Division III sports focus more on academics than winning

Athletes at any college level put a lot of work into the sport they play. Whether it is for practice, traveling to face competition or games, a lot of time is put into athletics. For Division I and II athletes, they have a chance to move forward and get closer to the professional level, but at Division III, that chance is slim.

So why do these athletes put so much time into a sport they will be done with when they graduate?

Plattsburgh State track and field head coach Nick Jones said athletes continue to play into their college years because they foster a love, for their sport during high school. He said athletes still want to compete in the sport they love even if there isn’t a chance at moving forward.

Head lacrosse coach Ryan Cavanagh said players come to D-III schools for lacrosse for a different reasons.

He said there is a trickledown effect because there is more D-I-caliber players than D-I schools, so they come to D-III to play. The players who come to PSUC to play lacrosse have the ability to play at D-I, but the schools don’t have room for them.

A benefit that all three coaches see with D-III sports is the focus on academics that the school and the coaches have. They want to make sure the athletes are not only performing well on the field, but also in the classroom.

Jones said the school cares if the athletes do well. He said the school puts on programs, such as bringing in John Underwood, a trainer at the Olympic training center, to speak to the athletes to help them prepare for their futures.

Head coach Kris Doorey said when he first started as a head coach at 24 years old at MacMurray College in Illinois, his main focus was winning and academics was on the backburner.

“I’m 42 now and I still want to win, but it is a lot more important to me that the kids graduate,” Doorey said. “In 1999, I don’t want to say I didn’t care if they graduated, but it was a different kind of care. Now it’s: come to school, play baseball, get an education get a job and for the guys who are good enough, we have had eight to ten guys who signed contracts, all but one of those guys graduated.”

In D-III, sports they put more of an emphasis on the academics because the coaches and the athletes realize that after college, they probably won’t be able to continue to play.

Luke Cyphers, an assistant journalism professor at PSUC and a sports writer who is in favor of getting rid of college sports, said D-III sports is the closest thing to college sports that is the right way of doing it.

While Cyphers said he is in favor of the model of D-III sports, he has one problem with it: student athletic fees. He said it is not really fair to force students to pay for athletics when some can’t even afford to buy the textbooks they need to succeed in college.

He said he does see flaws in the system, but he said it is a better system than the ones at a D-I level.

The athletes go out every year and put a lot of time and effort to entertain the fans and the school is the only ones to profit off it, while the athletes get nothing.

“I don’t think there should be any kind of intercollegiate sports on a Division I level, and I think it is a waste of money and resources and gets really far away from the educational mission of a school,” Cyphers said. “They don’t pay the players, even though the players are earning revenue for the school. They get into huge debt and in kind of a arms race for facilities, building giant stadiums that they don’t need and locker rooms that are just ridiculous that have giant Playstation consoles and comfortable chairs that I’ve heard and I’ve read many of the players don’t end up using. ”

Cyphers said D-I is far from the correct way of doing things and that if a school must keep an athletic program, they should try to follow the D-III system.

He said one of the main things he likes about it is the emphasis on academics the coaches and players have.

“There is not a lot of turnover with the coaching staff and I think that is a healthy thing, it lets them be educators,” Cyphers said. “You can look at a few programs here that had some years where that didn’t do well at all on the court, but they didn’t just up and fire the coach. Then the coach turned it around on the court, had a few good recruiting classes and they did well in terms of the sports, in terms of competition, so I think that is healthy. It seems like that is in perspective.”

Doorey said that he started a program called CHAMPS at PSUC. CHAMPS stands for “Challenging Athletic Minds for Potential Success.”

“To get our athletes in the mindset of learning about organizing, getting all your class syllabi together and just saying, ‘All right here is what you have to do,’ and learning and teaching them to map it out. The more productive our student-athletes can be, the better they can be and if they learn that skil,l it will carry them a long way.”

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