Sunday's Q and A article with Cal Lutheran president Chris Kimball focused primarily on CLU-specific athletic issues. But we also discussed some bigger-picture issues. Here is that part of the conversation.
In general, what do you think is maybe is the biggest issue Division III athletics faces right now?
Let me answer that in two parts.
From the perspective of the NCAA, the biggest issue they're facing is this combination of size and identity, or philosophy, if you will. And there have been conversations about dividing it, and so on. That's really got people's attention. But with the prospect, and I'm not sure how immediate, but the expectation is eventually NAIA schools will come into the NCAA, that you're just going to have an enormous number of schools that makes doing postseason very complicated. And the range of schools -- big, small, public, private -- it's difficult to say that we have a single approach to policies, rules, philosophy and so on. And the NCAA has really asked the presidents to get involved in a kind of identity reflection process over the next couple of years.
So I think from the NCAA perspective, that is the official big challenge.
Now I would add, I think the other big challenge is the one that goes beyond athletics and affects all public education -- maybe particularly private -- and that is how many high school students and their families will be able to go to college, whether they play sports or not.
I think that's a national challenge. We're facing it here in California and probably to a lesser extent around here. That's the real big game, but that's kind of a macro level answer.
Is the NCAA really the best organization for Division III schools? There are such disparate elements within that organization.
I have to say, I've been pretty impressed with how the NCAA is able to compartmentalize Division III, and I mean that in a good way. So you've got your own rule book, essentially your own meetings, and so on. You can read about the D-I and D-2 stuff, you go to the same receptiosn, but it doesn't have much of an impact on your day-to-day business, other than, frankly, to be able to go to Linfield and have the NCAA pay for that is due to the March Madness TV contract for D-I. So we benefit that way from it.
But I think they do a good job of identifying the interests of the members at each classification. It means it's an emormous bureaucracy, but it's broken into those three chunks. Division II, I think, is still struggling where it fits between I and III. But I'm comfortable in the NCAA, and think actually it's a reasonably good vehicle for talking about these identity and philosophy questions.
There have been, at times, kind of separatist movements.
Well, one of the SCIAC presidents has been a leader in maybe staying in the NCAA but creating a new Division IV. That may get revived again.
Well if the NAIA comes in, I can see there really being some structural changes because they don't fit Division II or Division III.
That's right. You could see some comfortably going into II, but others might come this way, and then what do they do with their scholarship athletes?
You know, NAIA's a real opportunity here because there's so many in Southern California relative to the NCAA schools, where again, the Midwest, Northeast, you've got so many NCAA schools that a few more don't make much difference. But for us, if you suddenly say you've got Westmont, Azusa, Point Loma, Cal Baptist in your mix, that changes things pretty dramatically. So I think that's going to be an important issue for us out here.
But as you say, it's going to raise that issue of how important are athletics in Division III, and does everybody play off the same book or not.
And back in Minnesota, one of the great complaints from the Minnesota conference, the MIAC, generally private liberal-arts colleges and universities, was that across the river in Wisconsin, you had a conference of the Whitewater, Stevens Point, all of which were 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 students, and almost like D-1 schools in terms of the resources and so forth. So where's the level playing field there? That's less pronounced out here, I think.
But it does become an issue when you go into the playoffs. I remember going to a Division III World Series one of the years Cal Lutheran went, and they were one of the smallest schools there, but there was a real disparity between -- about half the field was schools of 5,000 or less, and about half was 10,000 or more.
Well, you look at the football playoffs this last year. Linfield, which is about our size, was in the final four. Then you've got Wisconsin-Whitewater, a big state school. Mount Union, they're a special case. And I forget who the fourth one was. [Wesley, Del., which has 2,100 students, plus 400 on a satellite campus. Mount Union has 2,204 students; Wisconsin-Whitewater has an enrollment of 10,700.]
But there's a world of difference, just as an institution, from a Whitewater to a Linfield, or a Whitewater to a CLU. Linfield and CLU, you'd say, OK -- roughly the same size school and so on. That I get. That makes a lot of sense. When you add such different kinds of institutions, that's when you start saying, well, do we really have the same philosophy?
And looking at the Division III football championship, five years in a row now it's been Mount Union versus Whitewater in the final. Does that say there's a structural problem with Division III playoffs, that you're getting the same schools every year?
I'll say it's not desirable. Let's put it that way. And in both of those cases, there are some special things going on.
I could point to my old school, Augsburg, in wrestling, a much smaller sport. It was Augsburg and Wartburg one-two every year until this last year for at least a decade. You can say the same kind of thing there, that the haves continue to be the haves. And I think in football, there's such a buildup of resources that once a team is entrenched, it can be hard to dislodge them. I think that, for Whitewater and certainly Mount Union, people know, and they have an appeal to them.
So, desireable? No. Structural problem? I'm, not going to go that far. Certainly [we] would like to find a way to give them a year off or two years off by substituting for them in that championship.
But the question you ask is exactly the kind of thing being asked at the NCAA level. There are some schools, like a Williams or a Calvin College, outstanding liberal-arts colleges, that are good at a whole number of sports. They may not win every year, but they're going to be in that top 10, and that is seen probably as a better model than a school that just dominates in one thing.