Do you only have eyes only for Division I programs?

Division One Athletics, Football Recruiting, Basketball RecruitingWhile this happens more in basketball, there are many times when athletes dream of playing sports at the Division I level.  This really is the something that I do not support and never will.  And while you can dream of playing at Duke as a kid and then going to the NBA, the chances of that happening are very, very slim.  Because those odds are small, it puts an even bigger focus on the education that you are about to get at the college level.

It is obvious that every athlete wants to get a full ride scholarship through college because it would be great to leave the program after four or five years and have zero student loan debt.  I wish I could have done that in college but it didn’t work that way and I went to a Division III college.  So when I hear athletes telling me that they only want to go Division I, will spurn Division II offers, I just don’t understand it.

I really believe that these athletes are making a mistake when they only look at Division I schools.  The first thing to note is that there are some very good athletes at the Division I-AA and II levels.  Also, in some of the Division II cities, the fans do an outstanding job supporting the team because in a lot of cases it is the big show in town.  In schools like Northwest Missouri State and Nebraska-Kearney, two successful Midwestern Division II schools, the fans are rabid and love sports.  If you don’t keep your options open to all schools, you may never get a chance to see either school.

When an athlete does limit the search to Division I schools, chances are that he or she may end up at a small school at that level.  When that happens, there is normally a lack of support by the town as well as financially.  No one in town wants to see a losing program, even if it Division I.  Most normal people want to be able to see a good program in action that is close to home.  And if they live in a city with a Division II program, I am willing to bet that most of them check them out in football, basketball, or other sports.

In the end, I think it is important to point out that student athletes are going to college to get an education.  If you find a small Division I school hundreds of miles away that doesn’t offer your major, is living that dream really worth it?  In most cases, there are a lot of good Division II programs with strong academics and the desire to win.  Take a look at another Midwestern school, Truman State.  They may not be the greatest sports school ever but their school is very strong in academics.  While it may not be the Ivy League, leaving Truman State with a degree is something that will help you in life.

Overall, I have always recommended and always will that high school athletes need to keep all of your options open.  If you have the time, call back all of the coaches because you really never know what can happen in the game of recruiting.  You could have scholarship money at a school hundreds of miles away but have a small college within an hour driving that offers your major, a full ride, and a potential for a great experience.

So even if you have dreamt your whole life of playing Division I basketball, you really have to be realistic about the future.  While I was in college, I put a lot of focus on athletics even at the Division III level.  The problem is, once college finished, my athletic days were over and I rarely play now.  But if I would have focused more on my academics, that would have stayed with me throughout my entire life.  It is tough to realize as an athlete at the time but something that is a reality.

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