Clarkson, Hopkins among D-III schools dabbling in D-I
Originally Published: August 9, 2007By Chris Preston | Special to ESPN.com
What does it take to be successful at the Division II and III levels? In this four-part series, ESPN.com looks at the role of money, recruiting and fan Web sites at the lower levels.Every college and university strives for cultural diversity, opening its doors to the best and brightest students from around the world. At Clarkson University, the Division I men's and women's ice hockey programs virtually double as mini foreign exchange programs. Exactly half the players listed on the Golden Knights' 2006-07 men's and women's ice hockey rosters hailed from countries other than the United States.
OK, so Clarkson is located just 26 miles south of the Canadian border in Potsdam, N.Y., and 23 of those 24 players were from Canada (the other was from Turku, Finland). But many of those players didn't simply ride their bikes across the border from nearby Ontario and Quebec; several players matriculated to Clarkson from western provinces like Alberta and British Columbia. Furthermore, the American players came from all over the country, from as far as California, Colorado and Illinois. In other words, Clarkson's only two Division I sports programs recruit from near and far. Because both the men's and women's ice hockey teams are allowed 18 full scholarships under the NCAA's Division I rules, their recruiting budgets enable them to recruit globally and compete with much bigger schools like Boston College, Michigan and Minnesota. That is why, despite an enrollment that hovers around 3,000 students, Clarkson boasts one of the fastest-rising women's ice hockey programs in Division I and a men's hockey team that earned a top seed in last year's NCAA East Regional. All other Clarkson sports, however, are Division III programs. Unable to offer scholarships and armed with recruiting budgets that pale in comparison to those of the hockey squads, teams like men's basketball and women's volleyball maintain more of a local flavor. Only two players apiece on those teams' 2006-07 rosters were from out of state. "Our Division III coaches basically recruit key pockets of the [New York State] Thruway," says Clarkson athletic director Steve Yianoukos. "Most of the travel is right down [Interstate] 87. Our Division III student-athlete population more closely follows the population of our student body. In hockey, half the players are from Canada or Europe." Even for Division III athletes who are offered financial aid packages, those students do not receive more financial help than any other student at Clarkson simply because they play a sport. Most athletes who participate in one (or more) of Clarkson's Division III sports are local and, therefore, would likely have attended the school regardless of whether they played a sport. On the other hand, many of Clarkson's hockey players were once blue-chip, hot-shot recruits who were highly sought after from all corners of the country. Clarkson is a national and international brand name in men's and women's hockey; for all other sports, it's more of an upstate New York brand name. There are other schools like Clarkson that are predominantly Division III schools but which house one or two Division I programs, including Colorado College, Hartwick, Johns Hopkins, Oneonta State, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Rutgers-Newark and St. Lawrence University. Athletic administrators and coaches at those schools understand the differences between recruiting in the hypercompetitive, scholarship-driven recruiting world of Division I sports and the non-scholarship, locally competitive Division III landscape. (Division II schools, which offer limited scholarships, recruit regionally, branching out more than Division III schools thanks to larger recruiting budgets, but on much less of a national scale than Division I programs.) But Johns Hopkins athletic director Tom Calder says that some lower-division schools garner so much national recognition for their academics that it gives the sports programs a boost. "Because of how strong we are academically, kids [from all over] want to come to Hopkins," Calder insists. "That makes it easier for our Division III coaches."
AP Photo/Tim RoskeClarkson hockey has had success at the Division I level at hockey, while participating at the Division III level in other sports.
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