Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tiny Schools, Massive Sports

Williams College in Williamstown, MA 
As Fall roles along, there is much talk about colleges, and the early stages of the application process. Being only a junior, my parents thought this long weekend would be a great opportunity to look at some schools out east. Both my parents, and my older sister attended small liberal arts colleges, in New England so I looked at similar schools. Both my parents and I were surprised to find these schools, with no more than 2,500 undergraduate students, to have incredibly large and expensive athletic facilities.

Bill Pennington from the New York Times wrote an article in 2007, regarding the change of trends and priorities to these small, Division III schools. As DIII schools still prohibit full athletic scholarships, schools find there ways around this by offering merit scholarships, and coaches will help students get through the admissions process by helping them get into many of these highly selective, and prestigious schools.

The issue, as Pennington points out, regarding the recent surge in athletic funding is that "Any real or perceived de-emphasis of sports could diminish applicant pools or cause prospective students to decline admission offers — major factors used in the powerful U.S. News and World Report rankings." 

Small colleges with reputations of academic rigor and success turn to athletics to not draw in more prospective students and to diversify their campus, by accepting many minorities to each of their respective athletic programs. It has brought in much speculation, whether highly regarded institutions should be shifting their focus away from the academics by which these schools are most reputable. Especially as U.S education system is falling behind to some of our foreign competitors such as China, and Japan. There is a huge cultural difference when it comes to athletics in college. Why is it that many teens in the U.S go to college, and prioritize athletics over the academics? Isn't the purpose of college not to attain a higher education and prepare for the adult-working world? Please comment below your thoughts on the topic. For a deeper inside on the changing trends for small colleges please also read this link.

Bowdoin College's athletic center ranks higher than many Divison 1 athletic powerhouses, yet  boasts DIII athletics and a student body of  only 1,700 students.


  1. Some kids have to focus on sports over academics because they want an education, but cannot afford it. Sports are a way for people to go to college on scholarships. I think it defiantly make sense that small colleges have extravagant expensive sports facilities because that is how some people get the chance to achieve a post high school education. It also is a revenue source for the school because the better the team, the more spectators, which in the end gives the college the most money.

  2. Yes, but that is only true with Division I athletic programs. The schools that my post and the New York Times article is referring to, are small liberal arts colleges that compete at a DIII level. At this level, there is NO athletic scholarships given. The students who go to these schools aren't playing for their education. However, moving over to Division I scholarships, many athletes don't take their education seriously while at these schools, thinking classes are pointless and that they don't need an education to play in the NFL, NBA, etc. Just a few days ago Ohio State's THIRD STRING quarterback tweeted ""Why should we have to go to class if we came here to play FOOTBALL, we ain't come to play SCHOOL classes are POINTLESS." This is concerning considering that only 2% of NCAA athletes make it to the pros, and once there hold a career on average of only FIVE years.

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  3. Noah, I find this really interesting. Personally, I think one of the main reasons Division III schools offer such extensive sports facilities and programs is purely because of the STUDENT-athlete. Like you said in your comment above, some students in Division I programs only really care about athletics. Even if the athlete is one of the best in the nation, with a guaranteed career as a professional athlete, there still is reason for concern. The athlete can get injured, meaning their career could end early, with less money than expected. On top of that, if the given athlete didn't care about their studies, they might not have anything to fall back on. I'm worried for the THIRD STRING Ohio State QB. Back to the Division III point, I feel that STUDENTS who care about their studies, but also want to continue what they love to do (being sports) have an ideal option in a DIII school. It may not be as glorified as Division I, but it's certainly a wise option for any STUDENT-athlete. On a more personal note, I actually hope to play at a DIII school one day. In conclusion, I really think that DIII schools are investing in athletic programs and facilities to provide for STUDENT-athetes who want to continue a high level of education and athletics.

  4. I completely agree that it just offers more opportunities for students to pursue athletics and for small colleges to get their names out to a wider range of students, if they have reputable athletics programs; Something that is values very highly in American life. Take Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut for example: Having failing programs they turned to squash, a non-popular college sport and changed their athletic reputation. Trinity reached out to some of the world's brightest as well as the best squash players and took 13 back-to-back national titles as a Division 1 squash powerhouse. They recently lost their first match, to Yale, in 253 matches! People call the small college's Men's squash team the greatest athletic dynasty in history.