Trinity makes its all-around mark as a Division III university

There are many things that set Trinity apart from other schools. Our academic caliber, student-to-teacher ratio and the community feel we have ““ just to name a few. But, for athletics, the main component that sets Trinity apart is its status as a Division III school.

The NCAA currently lists 444 Division III schools that represent over 170,000 athletes. This number represents 40 percent of athletes in the NCAA, the largest amount, making Division III the biggest division.

“In my opinion, Division III goes back to the Olympics, where amateurs competed and didn’t make any money off of their sport. Division III is the closest thing we have to this,” said President Dennnis Ahlburg. “It is also about the balance of academics and athletics Division III programs pride themselves on.”

Not only does Trinity stand out being a Division III school, but it stands out among them, as well. In Texas, there are just 15 Division III schools compared to the 23 Division I schools and 13 Division II schools. Trinity is consistently ranked as a top Texas school and the top Division III school in the state.

“For us, the notion of a student athlete is very important. Universities are not sport franchises, they are schools. Therefore, we choose our athletes on their ability to thrive in our academic environment,” Ahlburg said. “We pride ourselves on competing in sports at a high level, as well. To suggest that Division III athletics is inferior to the other divisions is clearly not always the case.”

Even though Division III is the most widely represented division, Division I schools are regarded as the most popular because many of their games are televised. Beyond this obvious distinction, many things separate the divisions, including number of teams for each gender and the biggest distinction ““ financial aid.

“We cannot offer scholarships or any kind of financial aid based on athletics. Therefore, recruiting for Division III is one of the hardest things to do in college athletics,” said athletic director Bob King. “However, it’s remarkable how far Division III has come. The main attraction for athletes to come here is they have the opportunity to keep playing and get a great education.”

Trinity, along with other Division III schools, markets itself as an institution where academics are the priority against athletics.

“I’ve become a big believer of Division III athletics because they do things right,” said assistant athletic director and head volleyball coach Julie Jenkins. “Athletes come here because they are bright academically but they can still contend for a national championship while being able to take advantage of everything the university has to offer. They are not slighted because they are athletes.

According to the Division III mission statement on the NCAA website,   “Academics are the primary focus for Division III student-athletes. Student-athletes are integrated on campus and treated like all other members of the general student-body, keeping them focused on being a student first.”

“Athletes don’t feel like they are missing out on anything the school has to offer because they have the time to do it,” Jenkins said. “It can get pretty hectic when we are in season, but in the off season they have a lot of time to take advantage of things such as internships, studying abroad, etc.”

Senior and women’s basketball player Libby Kruse agrees. Kruse was recruited to play softball at the University of Minnesota, a Division I school, but chose to come to Trinity.

“Academics are important because if you are not going to go pro you have to be able to do something else with your life. Here, there is a really good balance of that. Sports are still really important here, but academics are more important. At Division I schools, sports are all you do; it’s a job that’s more important than school,” Kruse said.

Most athletes at Division I schools have multiple practices, study game film and have mandatory study hall with peer tutors all in a day. Their days are filled with activities that are scheduled almost entirely by the athletic department. This is unlike Division III schools, where athletes are expected to manage their own time.

Cameron Hill, head women’s basketball coach and Trinity alumus, coached at a Division I basketball program before coming to Trinity in 2012. He believes the biggest difference between DI and DIII players are their ability to make decisions for themselves.

“Here, players have the opportunity to have three aspects of their college life ““ academics, athletics and social. They have a better opportunity to manage those,” Hill said. “DI athletes are expected to spend their spare time fine-tuning their skills because they are generating so much money for the school. Athletes at Trinity have the freedom to make their own decisions. They have time to themselves without meddling from coaches and the school.”

Coaches at Trinity have also noticed the distinct passion players have for the game.

“It is rewarding to work with players because they want to play not because they are on a scholarship and feel owned by coaches,” Jenkins said. “The difference is clearly the passion. 100 percent of the players don’t lose it, so it makes it a fun environment to be in.”

Players agree with coaches’ assessments of the passion Trinity athletes have.

“I came to Trinity because not only was it a great school, but they had a great soccer program, too. I have always wanted to play soccer as long as possible,” said senior Alex Saadi, forward for the men’s soccer team. “Soccer is life for me; my life has revolved around soccer since I was six years old and I’ve loved every minute. To have been lucky enough to get the chance to play in college is an experience I’ll never forget.” (Check back in soon for the third installment.)