Division III athletes should be eligible to receive athletic scholarships.
Division III athletes are expected to complete the same rigorous workout and academic regimens, yet they have not been granted athletic scholarship eligibility like their Division I counterparts.
In 1964, the NCAA allowed students who played Division I sports for their college to receive athletic scholarships from the NCAA for attending their university. Almost 60 years later, on July 1, 2021, the NCAA granted these high-level athletes the ability to receive money through company sponsorships.
If Division I athletes are allowed to receive sponsorships, Division III students should be eligible to receive athletic scholarships. Allowing Division I athletes to receive additional financial support through sponsorships while Division III athletes are not eligible for scholarships creates a disparity between the divisions in return for the same expectations.
According to their website, “NCAA Divisions I and II schools provide more than $3.6 billion in athletics scholarships annually to more than 180,000 student-athletes.” Students on full scholarships have their tuition and fees, room and board and course-related textbooks all covered by the NCAA.
In contrast, according to Next College Student Athlete, there are 144,062 student-athletes at 418 Division III colleges, and none of them receive such scholarships. The NCAA’s argument is that “Division III schools provide an integrated environment focusing on academic success while offering a competitive athletics environment.”
The biggest difference between Division I and Division III athletics is their emphasis on academics versus sports. Division I schools prioritize students’ athletic performance, while Division III schools focus on success in the classroom.
Hannah Liverman, a freshman on the UMW volleyball team, said, “I do think that it’s a good step for [Division I athletes] to get those sponsorships because I think it’ll open doors for [Division III] at some point, but I wish we did get athletic scholarships here.”
An NCAA Division I women’s volleyball season consists of 30 matches. In comparison, the UMW women’s Division III volleyball team will take on 30 matches this season as well. Being as they have the same number of games to play, it is absurd that only one group of athletes is eligible for athletic scholarships.
If Division III schools provided student-athletes with athletic scholarships, it would most likely drive enrollment up in the university. This enrollment increase would bring more money to the school to be reinvested into better sports facilities and equipment. Not only would this look enticing to athletes looking to play sports in college, but it would also attract more students who are looking for colleges with sports-centered school spirit.
Now that Division I athletes can receive sponsorships, they are also afforded stronger connections with sports companies and executives through their athletics. This widens the gap between the benefits of Division I athletes and Division III athletes. Therefore, in order to lessen this disparity, Division III athletes should be rewarded with being eligible for athletic scholarships.
According to the NCAA, only two percent of all student-athletes continue to play in professional leagues for their respective sports, which means that the other 98 percent of student-athletes will rely on their academics after graduation, rather than their athletic history.
In leveling the playing field by offering athletic scholarships to all NCAA divisions, athletes would be able to follow their athletic passions in college while they develop their professional and post-graduate interests.