D-III eyes on D-I, but there is little concern

Photos: Division III success on campus

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is going to change. That has become apparent.

What hasn’t is how and when it will happen. Or, how the decisions of less than 1 percent of those schools will affect the other member institutions.

But, something, anything, is likely to happen.

“If it doesn’t, then we’re in trouble,” Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke told reporters at the Big Ten Conference’s annual meetings in Chicago last week.

Burke was mainly referring to offering players stipends that provides the complete cost of college attendance.

Now, Division I scholarships don’t account for the total cost of attendance, often leaving student-athletes to pay anywhere from $1,000-$4,000 out of pocket.

Would Division III be affected?

Ninety percent of the funds the NCAA uses in its budget annually come from the T.V. contract for the Division I men’s basketball tournament.

Just over 3 percent, or $26 million, of that budget is allocated to Division III.

Dan Dutcher, the NCAA Vice President for Division III, says while it’s important to keep up with decisions made at Division I, it’s not a main priority for D-III administrators.

“You’ve got to pay attention because, ultimately, that revenue is for the entire association, including Division III,” Dutcher said.

But, he added, “There’s nothing that’s being discussed within Division I right now regarding possible governance changes that would directly affect (Division III).”

Dutcher said the ultimate focus for the Power 5 conferences—the well-known ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC—is creating autonomy within Division I.

A split from the NCAA by those conferences to maintain more of the revenue it creates, once a possible solution tossed out by media members, is likely not forseeable.

Even if something radical like that were to happen, Iowa Conference commissioner Chuck Yrigoyen believes Division III could continue to operate.

But, things like the T.V. package the conference pays KCRG to broadcast select games probably wouldn’t exist.

“If (the money from Division I) went away, would we raise dues and get by? Sure,” Yrigoyen said. “But would we have a television package that we’ve got to pay for? Probably not. Would we have a student-athlete leadership conference? I don’t know.”

Wartburg athletic director Rick Willis says the NCAA is trying to uphold its status as governing body for all 1,000 of its member institutions.

“There’s a lot of disparity between the divisions right now. Different sets of rules, different financial models,” Willis said. “Exactly what that’s gonna look like in the future is still probably an open question. There’s going to have to be some sort of overriding organizational authority for all.”

Yrigoyen, like Dutcher, has paid attention to what’s happening at the Division I level.

Conversations with NCAA administrators has him confident that Power 5 autonomy wouldn’t threaten the money given to Division III.

“We’ve been given every indication that as all this Division I stuff is happening, that the (NCAA) staff in Indianapolis doesn’t see that money going away,” Yrigoyen said.

“I really do think that they would be shooting straight with us if they thought things were in trouble from a financial standpoint. We’ve got to go along thinking, OK, we wait and see how this all shakes out at Division I, but that Division III’s funding is going to remain intact.”

D-III faces its own issues

At times it’s hard for Division III administrators to be too concerned with Division I changes. That’s because of the struggles it faces alone.

The travel budget for Division III championships has been overspent in recent years.

Changes like a frozen per diem for teams at championship events have happened, but, in the midst of a comprehensive review of its entire budget, the division will likely see more change.

“We just completed a membership survey. What it told us is folks are much more interested in, first, looking at administrative issues,” Dutcher said. “Are there ways in which we can change how we administrate our championships that help to cut costs and save money without undermining the overall quality of the student-athlete experience?”

If changes can be made in that area, solutions like reduced tournament sizes that would hamper the student-athlete experience at Division III wouldn’t change.

Lost in the conversation

Talk at the national level will always center on Division I athletics, especially football and men’s basketball.

Division III administrators are aware of that as they await the decisions at that level that could shape the future of collegiate athletics.

“We know our place,” Yrigoyen said. “The third-string quarterback at Iowa is always going to get more publicity than a national championship at Wartburg. They just are.”

Talk of NCAA change continues to swirl, notably at the Big Ten meetings in Chicago.

Yet, for the NCAA’s largest division with 444 member institutions, those associated with Division III are comfortable.

“We’re happy where we are,” Yrigoyen said. “We still are primarily in the business of putting together quality athletic programs and not having to worry about all of the noise.”

Purdue’s Burke is still right about change, but, at least in the near future, the majority of the NCAA appears rather steady.

“We really don’t expect there to be anything that changes in the way we go about things,” Willis said.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is going to change. That has become apparent.

What hasn’t is how and when it will happen. Or, how the decisions of less than 1 percent of those schools will affect the other member institutions.

But, something, anything, is likely to happen.

“If it doesn’t, then we’re in trouble,” Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke told reporters at the Big Ten Conference’s annual meetings in Chicago last week.

Burke was mainly referring to offering players stipends that provides the complete cost of college attendance.

Now, Division I scholarships don’t account for the total cost of attendance, often leaving student-athletes to pay anywhere from $1,000-$4,000 out of pocket.

Would Division III be affected?

Ninety percent of the funds the NCAA uses in its budget annually come from the T.V. contract for the Division I men’s basketball tournament.

Just over 3 percent, or $26 million, of that budget is allocated to Division III.

Dan Dutcher, the NCAA Vice President for Division III, says while it’s important to keep up with decisions made at Division I, it’s not a main priority for D-III administrators.

“You’ve got to pay attention because, ultimately, that revenue is for the entire association, including Division III,” Dutcher said.

But, he added, “There’s nothing that’s being discussed within Division I right now regarding possible governance changes that would directly affect (Division III).”

Dutcher said the ultimate focus for the Power 5 conferences—the well-known ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC—is creating autonomy within Division I.

A split from the NCAA by those conferences to maintain more of the revenue it creates, once a possible solution tossed out by media members, is likely not forseeable.

Even if something radical like that were to happen, Iowa Conference commissioner Chuck Yrigoyen believes Division III could continue to operate.

But, things like the T.V. package the conference pays KCRG to broadcast select games probably wouldn’t exist.

“If (the money from Division I) went away, would we raise dues and get by? Sure,” Yrigoyen said. “But would we have a television package that we’ve got to pay for? Probably not. Would we have a student-athlete leadership conference? I don’t know.”

Wartburg athletic director Rick Willis says the NCAA is trying to uphold its status as governing body for all 1,000 of its member institutions.

“There’s a lot of disparity between the divisions right now. Different sets of rules, different financial models,” Willis said. “Exactly what that’s gonna look like in the future is still probably an open question. There’s going to have to be some sort of overriding organizational authority for all.”

Yrigoyen, like Dutcher, has paid attention to what’s happening at the Division I level.

Conversations with NCAA administrators has him confident that Power 5 autonomy wouldn’t threaten the money given to Division III.

“We’ve been given every indication that as all this Division I stuff is happening, that the (NCAA) staff in Indianapolis doesn’t see that money going away,” Yrigoyen said.

“I really do think that they would be shooting straight with us if they thought things were in trouble from a financial standpoint. We’ve got to go along thinking, OK, we wait and see how this all shakes out at Division I, but that Division III’s funding is going to remain intact.”

D-III faces its own issues

At times it’s hard for Division III administrators to be too concerned with Division I changes. That’s because of the struggles it faces alone.

The travel budget for Division III championships has been overspent in recent years.

Changes like a frozen per diem for teams at championship events have happened, but, in the midst of a comprehensive review of its entire budget, the division will likely see more change.

“We just completed a membership survey. What it told us is folks are much more interested in, first, looking at administrative issues,” Dutcher said. “Are there ways in which we can change how we administrate our championships that help to cut costs and save money without undermining the overall quality of the student-athlete experience?”

If changes can be made in that area, solutions like reduced tournament sizes that would hamper the student-athlete experience at Division III wouldn’t change.

Lost in the conversation

Talk at the national level will always center on Division I athletics, especially football and men’s basketball.

Division III administrators are aware of that as they await the decisions at that level that could shape the future of collegiate athletics.

“We know our place,” Yrigoyen said. “The third-string quarterback at Iowa is always going to get more publicity than a national championship at Wartburg. They just are.”

Talk of NCAA change continues to swirl, notably at the Big Ten meetings in Chicago.

Yet, for the NCAA’s largest division with 444 member institutions, those associated with Division III are comfortable.

“We’re happy where we are,” Yrigoyen said. “We still are primarily in the business of putting together quality athletic programs and not having to worry about all of the noise.”

Purdue’s Burke is still right about change, but, at least in the near future, the majority of the NCAA appears rather steady.

“We really don’t expect there to be anything that changes in the way we go about things,” Willis said.

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