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Switching Divisions

Officials of NCAA Division II college programs were recently worried about having too many members. Now they are worried that too many are leaving D2. Here is an article from NCAA.org describing the problem.

From 1994 to 1999, the division netted 51 members (compared to 7 for D1 and 70 for D3). But, from 2000 to 2004, D2 membership fell by 5 schools while D1 and D3 membership increased by 16 and 11 respectively. My school's conference, the North Central Conference, was hit especially hard when South Dakota State, North Dakota State, and Northern Colorado left D2 to join D1 and my alma mater, Morningside College, left D2 to join (appropriately) the NAIA.

To become D1, each school must sponsor at least 14 sports (either 7 for men and 7 for women or 6 for men and 8 for women). To be in D2, each school must sponsor 8 sports (4 for each gender). There is also a larger maximum number of grants in aid that can be awarded in D1 schools in football. All else equal, it costs more to be in D1.

But the revenues are higher as well. There is the D1 men's and women's basketball tournaments. D1AA schools (the division in which many of the D2 programs are playing football) can schedule football games against D1 counterparts and get their sacrificial lamb payments. Since there are no subdivisions within any of the other D1 sports, these programs can schedule several basketball games against big-name programs in women's and men's basketball as well. One can also see a handful of other D1AA football contests on television. Don't forget donations to the athletic department and to the school's general fund. That's an important source of revenue from collegiate sports.

But the exposure of D2 sports is much more limited. Outside of the D2 football championship game, it's hard to find much on the television. Consequently, the revenue potential in D2 is also limited.

To combat this, D2 officials are now looking to get more television exposure of D2 programs (which will also mean more television revenue). According to David Brunk, the chair of the NCAA D2 Membership Committee:

"Through an ESPN, an ESPN U or a CSTV (Phil - College Sports TV, a new cable/satellite channel in the US), we can show what we have, which is an outstanding product," he said. "Our charge as a subcommittee is to get these broadcast entities to see the value of televising our events and telling the stories about our outstanding student-athletes."

To that end, the subcommittee has been exploring what can be done to get more television exposure for Division II, both through the coverage of championships and through posting more Division II football and basketball scores on the update "scroll" at the bottom of the screen.

Brunk said he also is pleased with recent changes that have encouraged competition between Divisions I and II basketball teams.

It will be interesting to see how this shakes out. Schools have left D2 because their opportunity cost of staying in got too large. Now the powers that be in the Division want to try to alter the incentives to keep members in.