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Expansion Means Change For Division III

June 10, 1996

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (AP) _ Faced with a 38-percent increase in schools in the last 20 years, NCAA Division III is looking for common ground in athletic philosophy as it faces continued expansion.

A Division III task force is meeting now in Marco Island, Fla., mulling six possible subdivision plans. It hopes to recommend one of the models for a January vote by Division III presidents.

Obviously, it will be difficult to come up with a plan that pleases everyone from Albertus Magnus in Connecticut, with an enrollment of 315, and the University of California at San Diego, enrollment 14,479. Also to be appeased are the state-aided public schools in Wisconsin and smaller and more expensive colleges elsewhere.

``We’re as diverse a division as there is in the organization,″ said Division III Vice President Bridget Belgiovine, the athletic director at Wisconsin-Lacrosse. ``With diversity comes issues. The reality is, no longer are all of us the same.″

In 1975-76, there were 291 schools in Division III. Today there are 401. That number would be even higher if not for a membership moratorium imposed last year and continued recently through Aug. 1, 1997.

The division began 23 years ago guided by little legislation, unlike Division I _ which requires an enforcement division to oversee potential violations in recruiting and other areas.

According to figures compiled by the Springfield News-Sun, almost 200 National Intercollegiate Athletic Association members have switched to Division III in the last 20 years.

Most have done so to save money. Division III membership costs $900 a year, which includes catastrophic medical coverage and the costs of participating in NCAA-run championships. An NAIA member such as Malone College in Canton, which plays football, spends as much as $50,000 on insurance alone. Urbana University had to pay more than $3,000 when it played in the 1993 NAIA Division I national basketball tournament.

Membership in the NAIA has slowly diminished. It had 558 members in 1973-74, but is now down to 364. More defections are expected.

``We wanted to get out of town before the lights go off,″ said Jim Arnzen, athletics director at Shawnee State University in Portsmouth. Shawnee State has appled for admission to Division III, pending a rollback of the moratorium.

``Image is the biggest thing the NCAA offers,″ said Urbana athletics director Bob Ronai. ``Instant credibility.″

The six models for Division III restructuring all involve subdividing: by geographical region, by enrollment, by number of sports offered or by whether the institution is public or private.

``Do I think there will be change?″ repeated Wisconsin-Whitewater athletics director Willie Myers. ``Yes. Do I favor it? No. I’ll vote against it, but I’ll be in the minority.″

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