11 NCAA Div. III national team championships
PELLA — Central College is helping recognize “Division III Week” April 7-13.
The annual recognition is part of the NCAA Division III identity initiative which seeks to raise the public profile of Division III institutions as places where student-athletes can “follow your passions and develop your potential.”
But it takes on special meaning this year as Division III is celebrating its 40th anniversary with the theme of “Blood, Sweat and 40 Years.”
“Division III has 40 percent of the NCAA’s student-athletes, and 40 percent of its member schools, so the number ‘40’ is significant for us in many ways this year – and we hope the membership can take advantage of Division III Week as an opportunity to celebrate 40 years of a unique student-athlete experience,” said Jack Copeland, Division III identity initiative consultant.
School supplies drive—To commemorate the week, Central’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) is sponsoring a school supplies drive for the Children and Families Urban Movement. Donated items will be accepted at the check-in desk of the Schipper Fitness Center throughout the week and will also be collected at Central’s home baseball and softball games Saturday, April 12. Items needed include wide-lined loose-leaf paper, wide-lined spiral notebooks, pocket folders, reams of copy paper, facial tissue, bandages for classroom first-aid kits.
“Attending a Division III institution provides so many opportunities for student-athletes,” said senior Chelsea Greiner (Agency, Cardinal HS), a member of the Central softball team who is assisting SAAC with the project. “This is a great way for all of us to give back and represent Division III proudly.”
The SAAC leadership council includes athletic-training student Paden Kleinhesselink (senior, Sioux Center), women’s cross country/track and field team member Mallory Welk (junior, De Pere, Wis.), men’s track and field team member Mason Zimmerman (junior, Urbandale) and softball team member Jordan Overland (senior, Boone).
An ideal balance--Central junior Brie Haycraft (Eldridge, North Scott HS), a pitcher for the nationally ranked Dutch softball team, values her Division III experience.
“Division III achieves the perfect balance of academics and athletics,” she said. “I feel privileged to be able to pursue my dreams and dedicate myself to the sport I love.
“Division III athletes are driven by their passion for the competition--we devote our time and efforts expecting no more reward than our own self-satisfaction. I value competing at this level because it provides me with an opportunity to improve myself as an athlete without sacrificing my education and my future.”
Central a Division III pioneer--Central’s Division III ties are vast. Retired Central president Kenneth J. Weller authored the first Division III philosophy statement , which advocated that the focus of intercollegiate athletics should be on benefits for the participant rather than the spectator, and that student-athletes be treated no differently than students involved in other cocurricular activities. He was called a “founding father” of Division III by The Intercollegiate Athletic Forum in 1996.
Weller was instrumental in the incorporation of women into the NCAA in the early 1980s and Central won the first women’s national championship ever staged by the NCAA, taking the Division III women’s cross country title in 1981. The Dutch have captured 11 NCAA national team championships overall, winning titles in six sports, starting with the 1974 Division III football title.
“Central is deeply rooted in Division III,” said president Mark Putnam. “The college has provided leadership within Division III throughout its history, starting with Ken Weller, who was an integral part of Division III’s formation, to hall of fame football coach Ron Schipper. Our former dean of students, Marjorie Giles, who was the first female president of the Iowa Conference, also served on the NCAA Council, and many others have led as well.
“We join hundreds of other institutions in celebrating Division III as a place where students truly can follow their passions, participating in nationally competitive athletics programs without sacrificing opportunities to immerse themselves in rigorous academic pursuits, participate in transformative study abroad experiences or pursue any number of other cocurricular activities which offer potential for growth and development.”
Division III is the NCAA’s largest division, with 448 members representing 43 conferences. More than 80 percent are private institutions and the schools are diverse, with enrollment ranging from 335 to 20,674. The average Division III school enrolls 2,620 students. Central’s 2013-14 enrollment in is 1,400. Division III stages championships in 28 sports. Central offers 19.
More than 183,000 student-athletes compete in Division III, about 40 percent of all those in the NCAA.