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Life in the Balance

The phrase “Life in the Balance” shows up frequently in Division II materials. It’s not just a mantra, but a way of life for Division II members who believe that a balanced approach is the best for the student-athlete college experience.

The motto emerged in the mid-2000s when the division – as a way to encourage membership growth – sought to better define itself among the menu of intercollegiate options for prospective student-athletes, as well as for current student-athletes and the thousands of administrators, coaches and staff at DII schools.

In 2006, Division II adopted a “strategic-positioning platform” after surveying stakeholders to determine the division’s unique qualities and characteristics. Institutional and conference administrators, student-athletes, and a sample of the general public recognized as college sports fans all were asked to respond to the question: “What makes Division II unique?”

Six key attributes emerged from that analysis and now define the unique nature of Division II: Learning, Service, Passion, Sportsmanship, Resourcefulness and Balance. And because of its six-sided shape, the hexagon was adopted to graphically represent the collection of attributes.

“Life in the Balance” defines the philosophical foundation that represents the Division II story. It captures multiple facets of the Division II student-athlete experience: comprehensive learning and academic development, high-level athletics competition, and community engagement.

Now more than a decade into the positioning effort, Division II’s current strategic plan (2015-21) outlines the key initiatives to help sustain the platform as a critical element to its long-term success. A set of action goals tracks Division II performance in five areas: Academic and Life Skills, Athletics Operations and Compliance, Game Day and Conference and National Championships, Membership and Positioning Initiatives, and Diversity and Inclusion.

Just as the platform development process in 2005-06 was driven by quantitative research, the ability of an institution to achieve these action goals is guided by standards of performance and metrics. The strategic plan provides Division
II institutions with the tools to measure their progress in achieving budget and planning initiatives.

A membership census in the fall of 2013 revealed that “Life in the Balance” had staying power within Division II, as an overwhelming majority of respondents continue to believe that it is the right philosophy for intercollegiate athletics. Support was highest from presidents/chancellors (95 percent), followed by faculty athletics representatives (93 percent), compliance staff (87 percent), conference staff (87 percent), athletics directors (83 percent), athletics staff (82 percent) and coaches (64 percent).

Life in the Balance:

Division II supports the educational mission of college athletics by fostering a balanced and inclusive approach in which student-athletes learn and develop through their desired academic pursuits, in civic engagement with their communities and in athletics competition. The Division II experience not only provides student-athletes the opportunity to earn scholarships based on their academic, athletic and leadership abilities, but it also offers the best championships-participant ratio among the NCAA’s three divisions, and it prioritizes preparation for life beyond graduation. Division II gives student-athletes the unique opportunity to compete in the classroom, on the field, in their career, for their causes, and on their terms.