11 NCAA Div. III national team championships
PELLA — Dr. Kenneth J. Weller, president emeritus at Central College and author of the original NCAA Division III philosophy, is featured in a video interview produced by Iowa Conference Commissioner Chuck Yrigoyen.
Weller, who served as Central’s president from 1969-90, was a vice president for the NCAA during his tenure at Central and also served on the inaugural NCAA Presidents’ Commission. He was also involved in the integration of women’s athletics into the NCAA in 1981. In the interview, he talks about the origins of the Division III philosophy, as well as his views on Division III today.
It is a mistake to describe Division III as simply the NCAA division that does not allow athletics scholarships. Instead, Weller emphasizes, Division III should be known as having something more.
“Division III has the advantages of good athletics, but it has something in addition,” Weller said. “That whole emphasis on academics.”
The perception that Division III is simply a division for athletes not talented enough for Division I is also flawed, he said.
“Rather than think Division III is lower than Division I, I’d say that Division III has a plus,” he said. “It has something that Division I does not have to the same degree.”
Weller said the focus in Division III is on the student-athletes, not the spectators.
“I really believe—and my experience has tended to reinforce this—that the person who has emphasized both academics and athletics tends to rise to higher heights, higher citizenship and higher accomplishments than those who simply emphasize athletics,” he said.
Weller and his wife, Shirely, still live in Pella and remain avid fans of the Dutch, attending numerous home games and meets and making frequent appearances on the road as well, even traveling by train to Arizona to follow the
Central softball team during spring break trips to the Tucson Invitational Games. Weller has witnessed in person 10 of Central’s 11 NCAA Division III national championships, starting with the 1974 football championship game in Phenix City, Ala., when he was interviewed at halftime on ABC’s national telecast. He was also in Kenosha, Wis. in 1981, when Central won the first title ever offered by the NCAA in any division, the women’s cross country crown.
Weller and Shirely traveled to the NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis last August, where he addressed select NCAA staff members, some Division III college presidents and other athletics leaders.
(NCAA photo courtesy of Jack Copeland)