Wilson/Barton Partnership Sets Example for NCAA DII Program

(WILSON, N.C.) The support that the Wilson community continually offers Barton College athletics has not only gained regional but national attention.

Wilson has not only benefited from a recent NCAA DII media blitz, but the Wilson/Barton College partnership is being highlighted as a prime example of a family-friendly community supportive of high level athletic competition. And, this is an important message that DII is spending upwardly of a million dollars to share – the importance of college-community partnerships across the nation and how that raises the level of support and encouragement for educating student-athletes in a healthy and balanced environment.

The recent meeting of the NCAA Division II Editorial Board in Charlotte emphasized Division II Athletics’ thriving sense of mission and purpose and focused on the distinguishing characteristics and attributes related to the program.

Norval Kneten, president of Barton College and vice president of Conference Carolinas, was invited to be a spokesperson at this most recent of several editorial board tours scheduled across the country including Denver and Charlotte, among others.

“I was pleased with the media’s receptivity to understanding the new ways in which Division II Athletics is being defined,” said Dr. Kneten. “I am excited to represent both Barton and Wilson in these discussions, and I want to express my gratitude to the Wilson community for making it possible for us to be a part of this major NCAA initiative. I think it’s absolutely terrific that Wilson, along with us, is being recognized in national forums as a result of how this community has embraced its partnership with Barton. Wilson certainly deserves the recognition.

“I am participating in this initiative because the sports media needs to know that DII is not a second choice but is, increasingly, a first choice for some of our best and brightest student-athletes,” continued Dr. Kneten. “This effort is national in scope and one that will become increasingly visible in the coming months. During this media conference, we met with executives and staff at the Charlotte Observer, the Sports Business Journal, and ESPN-U, to help them understand the reality of DII competition, regionally and nationally.”

Division II athletics has changed significantly in recent years, and there are plenty of reasons for the public to take notice.

Student athletes, who are highly competitive, are changing DII Athletics, and here is the reason: in DII athletics, students have the opportunity to participate in extremely challenging athletic competition and, because of the balance they experience with their academic pursuits, they also have the opportunity to support volunteer efforts that include community service projects and mentoring programs, just to name a few.

Dr. Kneten also shared that student-athletes involved in DII programs not only have the opportunity to participate in high-level athletic competition at DII institutions, but they are able to pursue degree programs, like biology and athletic training, that would be inaccessible to them in other more restrictive athletic environments. “We are focused on the overall development of the student-athlete, as we are for all of our students,” he said. “As a result, many highly qualified student-athletes are now choosing to attend DII schools like Barton College. In fact, the brand platform for DII is ‘I chose DII.’

Almost 75,000 student-athletes compete at Division II schools each year. They are part of a burgeoning athletics division that emphasizes six defining traits: balance, learning passion, resourcefulness, service and sportsmanship. The emphasis on these traits is an attempt to carry out the Division II student-athlete credo, which emphasizes a comprehensive program of learning and development in a personal setting. This approach provides growth opportunities through academic achievement, learning in high-level athletic competition and development of positive societal attitudes in service to community. Balance and integration are key components of this philosophy of preparing students for their futures.

Fiscal responsibility in DII Athletics is another reason to take notice. A 2005 study by Jonathan and Peter Orszag demonstrated that the average net cost incurred by a school moving from Division II to Division I is approximately $3.2 million each year. This study has been confirmed by subsequent financial studies, including one by researchers at Purdue University in 2006. More recent work indicates that schools moving to Division I status experience average annual net losses in their athletic programs of about $2.5M. Division II schools, in keeping with the overall Division II philosophy, maintain that the real value in higher education is provided through fiscally responsible decisions. Keeping athletics expenses manageable and ensuring that the program is fully integrated into the overall collegiate culture are key components.

The platform of Division II is not based on size. (DII schools vary in size from those with an enrollment of a few hundred to some with nearly 30,000.) Rather, Division II athletics emphasizes the student-athlete experience that provides a comprehensive program of learning and development in a personal setting — goals which Barton College proudly affirms. Additionally, because Division II is committed to regional competition, student athletes spend more time on campus and in classes. This commitment to regional competition combined with the DII philosophy of academic achievement and community service is likely the reason that Division II student-athlete graduation rate is consistently 10 to 15 percentage points higher than that of the total student body.

What happened at Barton College and in the Wilson community this past year is an excellent example of what the Editorial Board is highlighting. Barton’s men’s basketball national championship brought excitement and pride to this growing community.

The Editorial Board is seeking to advance the message of the changes to Division II athletics. The Board believes that the athletic programs of Division II schools can be a boost to their communities because they provide high-level, passionate athletic competition in an intimate, affordable, family friendly environment.


Questions? Please contact Kathy Daughety, director of public relations, at 252-399-6529 or email: kdaughety@barton.edu.