NCAA Division III

NCAA Division III Positioning Statement

Follow your passions and discover your potential. The college experience is a time of learning and growth – a chance to follow passions and develop potential. For student-athletes in Division III, this happens most importantly in the classroom and through earning an academic degree. The Division III experience provides for passionate participation in a competitive athletic environment, where student-athletes push themselves to excellence and build upon their academic success with new challenges and life skills. And student-athletes are encouraged to pursue the full spectrum of opportunities available during their time in college. In this way, Division III provides an integrated environment for student-athletes to take responsibility for their own paths, follow their passions and find their potential through a comprehensive educational experience. 

NCAA Division III Philosophy Statement

Colleges and universities in NCAA Division III place highest priority on the overall quality of the educational experience and on the successful completion of all students' academic programs. They seek to establish and maintain an environment in which a student-athlete's athletics activities are conducted as an integral part of the student-athlete's educational experience, and in which coaches play a significant role as educators. They also seek to establish and maintain an environment that values cultural diversity and gender equity among their student-athletes and athletics staff. To achieve this end, Division III institutions:

  • Place special importance on the impact of athletics on the participants rather than on the spectators and place greater emphasis on the internal constituency (e.g., students, alumni, institutional personnel) than on the general public and its entertainment needs;
  • Shall not award financial aid to any student on the basis of athletics leadership, ablility, participation or performance;
  • Encourage the development of sportsmanship and positive societal attitudes in all constituents, including student-athletes, coaches, administrative personnel and spectators;
  • Encourage participation by maximizing the number and variety of athletics opportunities for their students;
  • Assure that the actions of coaches and administrators exhibit fairness, openness and honesty in their relationships with student-athletes;
  • Assure that athletics participants are not treated differently from other members of the student body;
  • Assure that athletics programs support the institution's educational mission by financing, staffing and controlling the programs through the same general procedures as other departments of the institution. Further, the administration of an institution's athletics program (e.g., hiring, compensation, professional development, certification of coaches) should be integrated into the campus culture and educational mission;
  • Assure that athletics recruitment complies with established institutional policies and procedures applicable to the admission process;
  • Assure that academic performance of student-athletes is, at a minimum, consistent with that of the general student body;
  • Assure that admission policies for student-athletes comply with policies and procedures applicable to the general student body;
  • Provide equitable athletics opportunities for males and females and give equal emphasis to men's and women's sports;
  • Support ethnic and gender diversity for all constituents;
  • Give primary emphasis to regional in-season competition and conference championships; and
  • Support student-athletes in their efforts to reach high levels of athletics performance, which may include opportunities for participation in national championships, by providing all teams with adequate facilities, competent coaching and appropriate competitive opportunities.

The purpose of the NCAA is to assist its members in developing the basis for consistent, equitable competition while minimizing infringement on the freedom of individual institutions to determine their own special objectives and programs. The above statement articulates principles that represent a commitment to Division III membership and shall serve as a guide for the preparation of legislation by the division and for planning and implementation of programs by institutions and conferences.

What is Division III?
(taken from

NCAA Division III is where the true student-athlete studies and competes. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is the main governing body of collegiate sports, dividing levels of classification into three divisions. D3 institutions are largely regarded as leading academic institutions and do not offer athletic scholarships. Still, athletics in D3 is highly competitive. There are over 136,000 athletes at over 430 D3 colleges and universities and each one is studying to earn a valuable degree in preparation for the workplace while playing the sport that he or she loves.

For D3 athletes, sports have been an integral part of our lives since our youth. From elementary school through high school, sports have complemented our educational experience.

And as college looms, we want to continue playing the sport we love while receiving an education from a first-rate college. A D3 school is that fit.

How D3 is Distinct...

  • Athletes at D3 colleges and universities receive no financial aid on the basis of athletic merit, although substantial financial aid and academic merit scholarships are available at most D3 institutions.
  • D3 schools place highest priority on the overall educational experience; athletics is a complement to academics and overall residential experience.
  • D3 student-athletes are well rounded and take advantage of extracurricular activities in college. At the D1 and D2 levels, athletics are a student's life and they have limited availability to college life outside of their respective sport.

Why Division III Athletics?
(taken from

Competing at a quality academic Division III institution that cares equally for it's academics and athletics is the purest example of being a college student-athlete. The idea of playing a sport because you want to, instead of because you have to, is much more invigorating to an athlete whether the success is great or in moderation. At a Division III institution the choice to compete is at the digestion of each individual. The management of time is important to all college students, and the sooner it is learned the easier it is to survive in a competitive environment.

The biggest myth about Division III athletics is that it is just an extension of High School. This is farthest from the truth. Competition at the D-III level can rival many of the other divisions in quality and competitiveness. Division III allows an athlete to grow, mature and gain confidence so that the athlete can reach his/her potential. There are many athletes, male or female, that are competing at the D III level that after a year or two in college can play at any level but chose to stay at D III to enjoy the full experience of a college education.

It has been said many times that only part of a college education stems from the classroom experience. The part, and arguably the most important part of a college education, that comes from the out of classroom experiences is extremely valuable. If you are competing at a Division I institution you are bound to that sport during the entire year. Hence, leaving little time for extracurricular activities that may enhance a college education. Learning comes in all forms, and should be investigated by all students during their college experience.

Division III athletics are an integral part of our educational system and should be considered by all student-athletes that seek to get a quality education while competing in the sport that they enjoy. Take time to investigate all options and make an educated decision on what best fits you. 

Why we play Division III Athletics
(by Sean Sornsin - Cornell College)

It's not about getting a scholarship, getting drafted, or making SportsCenter. It's a deep need in us that comes from the heart.

We need to practice, to play, to lift, to hustle, to sweat. We do it all for our teammates and for the student in our calculus class that we don't even know.

We don't practice with a future major league first baseman; we practice with a future sports agent.

We don't lift weights with a future Olympic wrestler; we lift with a future doctor.

We don't run with a future Wimbledon champion; we run with a future CEO.

It's a bigger part of us than our friends and family can understand.

Sometimes we play for 2,000 fans; sometimes 25. But we still play hard. You cheer for us because you know us.

You know more than just our names. Like all of you, we are students first.

We don't sign autographs. But we do sign graduate school applications, MCAT exams, and student body petitions.

When we miss a kick or strike out, we don't let down an entire state. We only let down our teammates, coaches, and fans. But the hurt is still the same.

We train hard, lift, throw, run, kick, tackle, shoot, dribble, and lift some more, and in the morning we go to class. And in that class we are nothing more than students.

It's about pride-in ourselves, in our school.

It's about our love and passion for the game. And when it's over, when we walk off that court or field for the last time, our hearts crumble. Those tears are real. But deep down inside, we are very proud of ourselves.

We will forever be what few can athletes.

(This article first appeared in the Dec. 3, 1999 edition of The Cornellian, the student newspaper at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.)