Are Collegiate Athletic Programs Broken?

Everyone is talking about what's wrong with college athletics, from cover-up scandals to outlandish salaries, but nobody is talking about what's right. And what's right is mostly in Division III. 

Division I has become a big business - with coaches being paid in the millions instead of the thousands, arenas and stadiums receiving upgrades and luxury boxes, and the question of whether or not the student-athletes should be paid.  

Division III is not a stand-alone big business barely connected to a college or university, but instead a core part of an institution's mission of developing students. Division III is the last true bastion of amateur athletics after the interscholastic level. Student-athletes in Division III play for the love of the game and they attend the institution not looking for a professional sports contract, but instead a degree that will lead them into their professional life. This is the experience for some 163,200 student-athletes annually who participate in Division III. 

Part of the problem at Penn State, Ohio State, and Syracuse is that individuals became bigger than the institution. At Gettysburg College, we focus on the development of every individual - student-athletes, coaches, and staff. For our student-athletes, we don't make a choice between athletic achievement and academic excellence. We choose both. Our list of Academic All-Americans totals 23 selections and in fact, historically, the GPA of athletes has been equal to and sometimes higher than the GPA of the overall student body.

At Gettysburg College, we don't turn our student-athletes into commodities; but rather into principled and broadly educated leaders. To lead our athletic department, we don't bring in CEOS and corporate executives who have dedicated their lives to maximizing the bottom line. We hire mentors who have dedicated their lives to maximizing the opportunities for student-athletes.

Division I programs live in a bubble; Division III lives as an integrated and core part of the institution. And athletics is a critical part of the co-curricular program at Gettysburg College.

It is disappointing that scandals and rules infractions are encircling Division I athletic programs. The win-at-all-cost mentality is a result of the pressure that these programs are under from the institutions that are paying their salaries. The more pressure to win, the more the integrity of the process is compromised.

Division III coaches are under pressure as well - usually self-imposed because they want to be successful. The coaches I work with, however, know that integrity in collegiate athletics and building character in their student-athletes are paramount.

Dave Wright is the athletic director at Gettysburg College, a four-year college of liberal arts and sciences that competes in the NCAA Division III Centennial Conference. He is also the former head men's soccer coach at Gettysburg, and was a first-team All-America soccer player at SUNY Cortland.

Posted: Tue, 27 Dec 2011

Read more news