Lower Divisions Receive Spotlight at Final Four

Photo courtesy of Bill Pollock/www.missourinet.com Posted by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Tommy Parrill (@DearTommy)

This last month of basketball may have been some of the best I have ever seen. Between the conference and NCAA tournaments, there were upsets and buzzer beaters that would bring excitement to any college basketball fan. As Michigan and Louisville were preparing for last night’s national title game, the NCAA brought something different to the table for the first time on that Sunday of the Final Four. On that Sunday in Atlanta, the Division II and Division III National Championship games were being played on the same court that one-day later crowned the Louisville Cardinals National Champs.

In the Division III game, Amherst College defeated the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor 87 to 70 for the 2013 title, and the Division II crown was awarded to the Drury University Panthers, who squeaked by the Metro State Roadrunners, 74-73. Most of you may have never heard of Amherst College or even Drury University (pretty sure the Muffin Man went there..you know, Drury Lane...whatever), but the fact that these teams were able to win their division’s highest honor in the same building as the big boys, that is something special. Allowing the lower divisions to feel and know that they are just as important and some just as good as any Louisville or Michigan club, was a game changer by the NCAA. The big thing that this move did was put the spotlight on schools that have never had it before. Giving schools like Mary Hardin-Baylor and Metro State major television coverage, is something that small schools like that have never received before and will never forget.

From 2008-2012, Division III athletics was a large part of my life. Being involved with sports radio, television and journalism, I covered my fair share of Division III athletics, especially at my alma mater, Otterbein University. In those four years, I had the opportunity to travel all across the country covering Otterbein Athletics and because of that, I was able to witness athletes that can compete with many high profile competitors. I understand that Division III to Division I is you a HUGE leap and it is a totally different game, but being the only coverage that these teams and players get, you get to see what these players have is special. For this change, I give the NCAA mad props. In the past, I may have not seen eye to eye with the NCAA on some things, but this idea was one of their best. Giving small schools the chance to play in the same building as potential lottery picks is not only good for those teams, but the NCAA as well. Making the game-site change is a statement from the NCAA that Division II and Division III athletics are just as important as Division I. The revenue may not be as high, and the talent may not be as strong, but the lower divisions still have something special to bring to the big scene.

So as I congratulate Louisville on defeating Michigan last night (thank god), and receiving the highest honor in college basketball, the same love goes to the Panthers of Drury University and the Lord Jeffery’s of Amherst College. Big or small, NBA bound or not, you are all champions. Thank you NCAA, keep up the good work. Except for that whole Miami University thing...really dropped the ball there.

Damn I wish this blog had a booster like they did.