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Inaugural Division III Week set for April 9-15

By Jack Copeland
NCAA.org

The first observance of Division III Week – a celebration by member schools of the division’s unique philosophy that equally values academics, athletics and student-athletes’ involvement in a full and rich campus life – is set for April 9-15.

The purpose of the celebration, announced during the recent NCAA Convention by Division III Presidents Council chair James Bultman of Hope College, is “to call due attention to the activities and accomplishments of student-athletes” by scheduling public events during the week on every Division III campus.

“Our specific goal for that week is that each of you will conduct and promote at least one public activity on your campus during this observance, to illustrate at least one of the three focal points of our identity – academics, or athletics, or co-curricular or extra-curricular engagement,” Bultman told Convention delegates. “And then, we ask that you would let the national office know about your plans, so that they can promote the variety of these activities on a broader scale.”

The early-spring dates were selected to give member institutions and conferences an opportunity before the end of the academic year to showcase athletics programs and student-athletes. The event follows the observance of National STUDENT-Athlete Day April 6. Although Division III Week begins as Easter weekend (April 7-9) ends, the week’s organizers also are encouraging any member institutions that will be hosting athletics-related events during the holiday weekend to make those part of the Division III Week celebration, as well as any competition scheduled through the weekend of April 13-15.

A kit including signage and other promotionally oriented materials will be shipped to schools’ sports information directors approximately March 1, to support the observance.

Every member institution and conference is being urged to schedule at least one activity explicitly linked to the Division III Week observance, celebrating an aspect of the Division III student-athlete experience from these three categories of activities:

  • Academic accomplishment, including activities such as taking time during a game to acknowledge student-athlete academic achievement, or asking teams to select a faculty member to serve as a guest coach for a practice or competition.
  • Athletics activity, including conducting events such as a youth sports clinic or competition, or scheduling recognition of school teams’ or individuals’ athletics accomplishments during a game.
  • Community or campus outreach, such as scheduling a community-service activity during the week, or participating in an event involving a local chapter of Special Olympics as part of Division III’s developing partnership with that organization.

“In essence, we’re asking you to do what you already are doing, but to schedule one or more of these activities some time during that week, and permit our national office staff to help promote the observance nationally and to provide you with tools to help call attention to the effort locally,” Bultman told Division III delegates.

The event is part of Division III’s identity initiative, which was introduced in 2010 to provide an assortment of tools and programs for use in sharpening the division’s identity, and to enable schools and conferences to consistently explain to constituencies ranging from prospective student-athletes to the local community why they prefer to compete in Division III.

The initiative has been guided by a strategic-positioning platform describing Division III as a place where student-athletes can “follow your passions and develop your potential,” within an approach to intercollegiate athletics that combines rigorous academics, competitive sports and an opportunity to pursue other interests.

Activation of the initiative has taken many forms, ranging from creating tools such as promotional signage and videos to incorporating messages into a variety of programs – including the scheduling of educational or celebratory events such as Division III Week.

“In many ways,” Bultman said, “a major thrust of our division-wide identity campaign has been to put Division III’s story into writing and into imagery, but we also should be eager for opportunities to do more than just tell our story. As educators, we know it is important not just to tell, but to show; not just to talk the talk, but walk the walk.

“Showing what we do – and doing this as part of a concentrated nationwide effort to walk that walk – gives us an opportunity to call due attention to the activities and accomplishments of student-athletes. It provides an opportunity to create a critical mass, if you will, of activity that can further help Division III unite in the effort we’ve begun during the past two years to show off the combination of attributes that makes us unique in intercollegiate athletics.”

Division III plans to support the celebration in various ways, including providing a promotional kit for use on campuses.

The kit will include signs that can be inserted into a portable frame that was shipped last fall to all Division III campuses as part of a packet of materials related to the identity initiative. It also will include posters for use in publicizing local Division III Week observances; suggestions for promoting events scheduled during the week; other useful items such as model press releases and scripts for public-service announcements; and instructions for reporting events to the national office staff for its effort to promote Division III Week nationally.

Among promotional ideas that will be suggested in the kit is the use of locally customizable videos – samples of which were introduced during the Convention and that soon will be available for membership use – in promotional efforts.

Bultman asked Convention delegates to begin thinking of ways of observing Division III Week before the kit arrives on campuses.

“This is what the Division III identity campaign is all about,” he said. “While those of us on the inside know what it means to offer sports at the Division III level, we need to spread that message outward, and we should feel no hesitation to do so publicly and with pride.”

Jack Copeland is a consultant for the Division III identity initiative. Questions about Division III Week or any other identity initiative programs and resources may be directed to jcopeland@ncaa.org