Athletics is sometimes referred to as the “front porch” to a college or university, since the institution’s athletics programs and events often are what the surrounding community interacts with most.
That philosophy has become a hallmark of Division II, especially since many Division II schools are located in smaller, tightly knit communities in rural and urban areas. Division II athletics programs actively engage with their communities, which not only helps drive attendance at athletics contests but also fosters relationships between student-athletes and community members and develops more of a shared civic experience.
For Division II, community engagement is much more than just community service. That sense of engagement is achieved when the athletics program truly interacts with both its campus and regional communities.
The Division II membership has successfully integrated community-engagement initiatives into game days, championships events and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee meetings.
Community engagement is so important that the division established an annual Award of Excellence given to the Division II program that best exhibits the community engagement philosophy.
An important prong of Division II community engagement is the division’s game environment initiative, in which members commit to conducting home events in the true spirit of athletics competition – encouraging the crowd to cheer more for the home team than against the visitors. Division II is the only NCAA division that emphasizes sportsmanship in this manner.
Two resource guides are available to help institutions stage successful community engagement events on their campuses and at conference championships.
One is called “Your Time To Shine,” which is based on an effort the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference staged around its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments in 2014. The guide is filled with tips on planning and implementing engaging activities on campuses or at neutral sites.
The other emphasizes engagement with military groups, which can be great partners. More than half of Division II colleges and universities are located within 50 miles of a military installation or base. This resource offers suggestions from the experts and plenty of tips on building win-win relationships.