North Central offers the ability for athletes to balance school and sports
Many athletes would agree, once an athlete, always an athlete. NCAA Division III athletics provides the opportunity for many to continue their sports endeavors after high school. No other division among the NCAA has more athletes, with more than 190,000 student-athletes spread across 450 colleges and universities throughout the country according to the NCAA’s website.
Two of North Central’s freshman athletes, Dennis Morales of the men’s soccer team and Annabel Morrisroe of the women’s basketball team, relish the opportunity to continue playing the sports they love.
“I’m playing soccer because I love the sport and I can actually enjoy it versus if I went to a bigger school that had a higher level program I might not have as much free time to do other things,” Morales explained. “If I went to a bigger school that had a higher level program, my main focus would be soccer, then everything else.”
For Morrisroe, the possibility of playing basketball in college was not on her radar. But head coach Paul Brunner’s recruiting and the school-first mentality his team adheres to, helped her make the decision to play.
“I thought I was just going to play intramurals but then coach Paul found me and met with my mom and me,” Morrisroe said. “I could see his heart behind the program. Honestly, if I didn’t play basketball my grades would not be what they are because as a team we are held to certain standards in the classroom.”
For Division III, academics come first. Among all the NCAA Division III athletes, there is an 87 percent graduation rate compared to 71 percent in Division II and 83 percent in Division I, according to the NCAA. North Central continues to exemplify academic excellence with a record number of North Central fall athletes that made the UMAC All-Academic team this year.
Even though students cannot receive money for athletics, 82 percent of all student-athletes still receive some form of academic grant or need-based scholarship. Perhaps this is the biggest reason Division III is unlike other college athletic experiences, yet the recruitment process is much the same between Division I, II and III. More than 90 percent of college coaches email and call prospective students every year with 80 percent reviewing game footage sent by recruitment sources according to the NCAA website.
Not very many athletes receive athletic scholarships in general, and according to the NCAA, about 2 percent of high school athletes are awarded some form of athletics scholarship to compete in college in either Division I or II. As a result, this leaves many high school athletes to pursue their sport at the Division III level to earn a degree and compete for the love of their sport.