Division III athletics is pointedly different than Division I and II athletics. Athletes in DIII are not awarded athletic scholarships, and DIII schools generally attract lower levels of talent. Another clear difference between the divisions, as NCAA website reports, is that the median undergraduate enrollment at DIII schools is 1,740, while DII is 2, 428, and DI is 8,960. And speaking from experience on Dickinson’s Track & Field team, DIII is a more low-key environment where student athletes can have fun without much pressure. These differences should point to a functional system, but the organization of divisions isn’t perfect. One of the most glaring issues with DIII athletics, at least in Centennial Conference Track & Field, is the dominance of Johns Hopkins University.
The Centennial Track & Field Conference comprises Dickinson, Bryn Mawr, Franklin & Marshall, Gettysburg, Haverford, McDaniel, Muhlenberg, Swarthmore, Ursinus, and Johns Hopkins. All of these colleges and universities have an undergraduate student body of less than 3,000 except Hopkins, which has over 6,000 students. This alone seems unfair. With over twice as many students, Hopkins has twice as many potential athletes.
Larger schools also have more money to put toward sports than smaller schools, another advantage the mid-sized Hopkins has over smaller schools in the conference. Because of their funding, Hopkins’ track program is on another level compared to the other Centennial Conference schools. Their athletic training center boasts two anti-gravity treadmills, machines which cost tens of thousands of dollars apiece. Other conference schools are simply unable to spend that much money, especially for the benefit of a sport like track, which draws no revenue from spectators.
The school size and funding for Johns Hopkins’ Track & Field team feed into their domination in competitions. For 11 consecutive years, Hopkins women have won both the Indoor and Outdoor Conference Championships. During this year’s indoor championship, they won with a final score being 343 compared to second-place Swarthmore’s 87 (a 256-point difference). Hopkins men have won the last 9 indoor championships and the last 7 outdoor championships. At most of these championship-winning meets, the men and women score over 100 more points than the second-place finishers. If that’s not dominance I don’t know what is.
To top off their championship wins this year, all but one of the Centennial Conference awards for Outstanding Track, Field, and Rookie Performers went to Hopkins athletes. As a result, athletes from other schools didn’t get the chance to be recognized for their individual accomplishments, even if their performances were comparatively outstanding. For example, one Dickinson runner placed second in both the 200 meter run and as a part of the 4 by 400 team (which broke the Dickinson College record) at the conference meet, but wasn’t given the Outstanding Track Performer award.
Teams go into these championship meets knowing they’re not going to win. My teammates and I talked about how we were competing for second place. Even our coaches joined in the second-place conversation, acknowledging that we had no chance of placing first. It’s almost as if the conference meet isn’t necessary at this point. Or at least maybe it’s not even necessary for Hopkins to compete: they could just accept the first-place trophy before the start of the meet, and then the remaining 9 teams could compete for second.
Johns Hopkins has set itself apart as the top competitor in Centennial Conference Track & Field. It would only be fair to properly acknowledge their superior abilities by moving Hopkins Track & Field up to a Division I or II conference. There, they would face actual competition instead of sweeping up all of the awards from a DIII conference. Is that even possible, though, to transfer to a different division? Yes, switching divisions is possible. In fact, at least one Hopkins team has a history of moving to a different division. According to the NCAA, Hopkins lacrosse became DI instead of DIII in 1999. It’s a sensible option with precedent; I see no reason why Hopkins should want to stay in the DIII Centennial Conference. Unless they simply can’t deal with the prospect of not winning everything anymore.