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VOL. 133 | NO. 172 | Thursday, August 30, 2018




10 Reasons You Should Watch Division III Football

Michael Nelson and Evan Tucker

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Here’s who you will find in the stands at a Division III college football game: parents, the players’ girlfriends, a couple fraternity pledge classes, a few student fans, and one or two professors.

Here’s who you won’t find: high school athletes — even when, as is often the case, their own games don’t conflict with the college game. They’re more likely to be watching SEC teams play on television.

And here are 10 reasons why those high school athletes are watching the wrong games, and why their parents and coaches should be telling them that.

They can start by watching Rhodes play Illinois College this Saturday at 7 p.m. — or Hendrix play Lyon in Conway, Arkansas, at the same time, or Millsaps play Belhaven in Jackson, Mississippi, for that matter.

1.Watching a Division III game is cheap and accessible. You almost certainly won’t need to buy a ticket. Or pay to park. Or fork over $8 for a Coke. You can bring as many friends and family members as you want without having to dig deep into your pocket.

2.Division III games aren’t hard to find. There are 442 Division III colleges. As the note above indicates, you live close to at least one of them.

3.Players will be able to do the things on the field that they see at a Division III game. Most of the players in Division III are excellent athletes but not superhuman. The moves and plays you see executed on the field are ones you can actually adopt based on athletic IQ rather than Thor- and Spiderman-like athleticism.

4.You don’t have to be 6’8” and 230 pounds to play for a Division III team. Most rosters have plenty of shorter, lighter players who make up what they lack in height and weight with speed, skill, and football intelligence. For the vast majority of high school players who are not super-sized, there may be room for you in Division III.

5.Division III athletics is sports at its purest. No, the stands aren’t filled with pro scouts. Boosters aren’t slipping players car keys or fat envelopes. Good. Players know that realistically this is their last chance to play the sport. Result: everyone on the team is there to win rather than to reap any sort of long- or short-term financial benefit.

6.You can actually meet the coaches. Just call and make an appointment. It will be an especially productive conversation if you actually see their team play a time or two.

7.The success of a Division III coach is measured by the players who graduate, not just by the won-loss record. You won’t find any Les Miles stuff. “Academics first,” Miles would tell his players when he was coaching at Oklahoma State, then hold up two fingers. “Football second,” he’d add, winking and holding up one.

8.Because the players on a Division III team are bound for careers after graduation, the bonds they form can constitute a great network. They’re headed where you’re headed: not to a pro team, but into business, education, law, medicine, or some other profession.

9. As a spectator at a Division III game, you’ll get content you can’t get at any other level of college sports. Sit close enough to the field you’ll be able to hear some of what the coaches are saying on the sideline (especially if they’re angry.) Fans have even been known to applaud a coach for an especially apoplectic and profane tirade.

10. Because the skill level of Division III players varies so much more than at the FBS level, you never know what to expect at a game. Maybe the final score will be 59-0, maybe 17-16 –anything can happen.

Oh, one more thing: Never a line at the bathroom!

Michael Nelson is Fulmer professor of political science at Rhodes College. Evan Tucker is a former football player at Rhodes and recently taught science at KIPP Memphis Academy Middle.

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