With limited exposure to most casual sports fans and stadiums that are smaller than some Texas high schools, Division-III sports have long been thought of as a third tier of college athletics. But, that certainly isn't the case.
While they may play for smaller schools and not have the huge support of the household names in the Power 5, the NCAA's Division-III is chock-full of top athletes and excellent academic opportunities.
While there have been athletes who rise from the Division 3 ranks to even play professionally, the casual fan and hopeful prospects still have mixed feelings about it. So, we are going to share five benefits why playing sports at a D3 school.
1) The athletes you compete with and against are really, really good.
A lot of people think Division 3 athletes just weren't good enough to play anywhere else. That isn't the case at all.
Division III teams across the nation have rosters full of athletes who were among the best at their high school or even in their entire state. And any Division III sporting event you watch is essentially is full of All-District or All-State athletes from across the country.
A main reason really talented athlete should choose Division III for college sports is the chance to play early and build stats. Rather than walking on to a Division-I team (which can cost a lot...) or competing for a position at the FCS or Division-II level, talented Division-III athletes usually can see the field and mature early in their careers.
2) There is a lot of financial aid available for athletes.
Do NCAA Division III programs offer athletic scholarships? No, they don't. And once parents and recruits hear that, the interest in committing to a great D3 school can disappear fast.
But, these schools still offer tons of financial aid to there student-athletes. While there are no scholarships for "athletics", Division-III schools reserve plenty of academic, leadership, and various special needs scholarships to athletes.
If you are a good athlete with good grades and above average SAT/ACT scores, you could earn near full-tuition scholarships while you play sports.
3) Students-athletes have an intimate and focused academic environment.
While Division III is the NCAA's largest division by a wide margin, with over 450 member schools around the U.S. A majority of D3 colleges are private liberal-arts schools - or an institution that offers programs with an emphasis on the arts and sciences. The median enrollment at an NCAA Division-III college is 2,750 students - which is about three times larger than the average American high school.
Typically with private colleges and liberal arts colleges, there is a huge emphasis on having more collaborative classroom environments and excellent student-to-faculty ratios. Division-III schools are no exception and the smaller class sizes foster better grades and more accountability for student-athletes. In fact, the NCAA reported in 2019 that student-athletes at Division-III colleges graduated at a higher rate than the rest of the student body.
Coming from a large high school in a big city to a small college may not seem like the college experience you see on TV. But, being a part of a Division-III sports program plugs you into a network of hundreds of thousands of student athletes and alumni. In any given year, D3 student athletes represent well over a third of all college athletes.
4) You play regional schedules and some of the best postseason tournaments.
One of the most underrated parts of Division-III sports is the conferences are based on smaller regions. So, rivalries are a big deal.
The Presidents Athletic Conference for example, includes teams that have been facing off for decades in the Northeast, And the WIAC (Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference), has 92 NCAA championships in 15 different sports among its eight Wisconsin-based programs.
On top of the many historic games between in-state rivals, Division-III has some of the most exciting postseason tournaments and national championships. Unlike the widely criticized four-team playoff in Division-I FBS, the NCAA's Division III ends their football season with a 27-team playoff with games on five consecutive Saturdays in November and December, starting on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
5) You can still sign NIL deals and build your career.
Just because you play in a smaller community or at a smaller school doesn't mean you can't make a name for yourself - or some money along the way. The cities that Division-III colleges are located in love their teams and they support their athletes through every season.
Even in suburbs of Los Angeles, Division-III athletes are seeing some of the first Name, Image, and Likeness benefits. We expect that the more accomplished programs in smaller towns across the southeast, midwest and northeast are going to see a ton of NIL deals for their local athletes in the future.
Besides monetary benefits, playing Division-III sports also can be a jumping off point for other athletic opportunities. With more and more Virtual Visits and the accessibility to new programs through the transfer portal, the best athletes can always move up after finding success at the D3 level.