Leaving the big time: A case study of two universities that moved their athletics programs to Division III

Thomas Carroll, University of Pennsylvania


In the last 20 years nine colleges and universities have revamped their intercollegiate athletics programs by moving their teams to Division III of the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA). In most cases, these schools had participated previously in Division I, or had some combination of teams in Division I and Division II. Moving from Division I to III is the exception rather than the rule. During the same time period that these schools made the switch, at least four times that amount moved from Division III or II to Division I. Division I is oftentimes referred to as 'big time' college athletics. Many Division I programs are characterized by huge football stadiums, big budgets, and head football and basketball coaches that are paid several multiples of what the presidents of their institutions earn. In addition, these are the programs that are better known by the general public and are responsible for providing the majority of professional basketball and football players to the National Basketball Association, the Women's National Basketball Association and the National Football League. On the other hand, Division III schools usually have smaller stadiums and budgets, and pay their coaches much less than their presidents. Schools that participate in Division III are usually smaller than their Division I counterparts and are often private. Division I includes many large state flagship universities such as Ohio State plus nationally known private universities like Notre Dame and Stanford. On the other hand, there are nationally known universities that do compete in Division III including the University of Chicago and New York University. This study will review the change in sports programs at two institutions which moved their athletics teams to Division III. It will attempt to discover and describe the motivations for the change in athletics program and the decision making process by which those changes were made. It will also describe any long-term effects and determine whether the athletics switch was an isolated move or was part of a larger strategy at each institution. Knowledge gained from this study could be used by other institutions to help inform a decision to switch athletics programs from Division I to Division III.

Subject Area

School administration|Recreation

Recommended Citation

Carroll, Thomas, "Leaving the big time: A case study of two universities that moved their athletics programs to Division III" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3210004.