Students leave sports behind at small schools


Every February on National Signing Day, high school athletes sign letters of intent to continue their athletic careers at the collegiate level, but not all will play all four years while in college.
There are several levels in intercollegiate athletics. Division I, Division I-AA and Division II are considered “big schools,” and Division III and NAIA are considered “small schools.”
A large percentage of small-school athletes do not play for four years, for reasons including: financial issues, grades, lack of social life and coaching.

According to Sam Flynn, former Marian University starting linebacker and Chase Law School student, small-school athletes put in the same time and effort as big-school athletes and rarely get the same recognition.

“We started with early morning workouts, then went straight to class,” said Ben Schneider, former Union College golfer and current Northern Kentucky University senior communications major. “After class I had to drive a half hour to and from golf practice. A lot of times I would miss dinner because we would get back so late.”

Small schools tend to have higher tuition rates, and in Division III, athletic scholarships are not awarded. This causes many athletes to withdraw from college sports prematurely.
“I was paying $14,000 a semester at Division III Thomas More, and I am paying way less than that here,” said Steve Weatherby, a senior criminal justice major who played football for a season. “I loved football, but it was a better move financially for me to switch to NKU.”

Sam Diehl, senior marketing major, is a former starting running back and quarterback at Georgetown College agrees that tuition can be steep.
“I had a $1,000 football scholarship and a $10,000 academic scholarship, but I was still paying seventeen grand a year,” Diehl said. “It was the best experience of my life though; I don’t regret a single day of it.”

Flynn paid more in tuition while on athletic scholarship at Marian than at NKU.
“When you get to the point where the cons outweigh the pros, it becomes not even worth playing anymore,” he said.

As small-school athletics are the little brother of bigger college athletics, coaches use them as stepping stones to get more prestigious coaching jobs.
“The coach’s job relies on what you do on the field. If you don’t perform, you’re done,” Flynn said.
For athletes, little time is left for academics and social interaction with others.

“Looking back on it, I don’t regret my decision to quit,” Schneider said. “I’m glad I came to NKU.”