Written by Jurnee Sheriff
Junior Kalvin Spikes didn’t know what to expect when he decided to come to Millsaps College to play basketball.
What he knew about college athletics was what he’d seen on TV: March
Madness, bowl games, other postseason honors, nice meals and all-expenses paid trips to away games. For college athletes in Division I programs that collect millions in annual revenue, those things are very real.
But here at Millsaps, a Division III school, these things can feel more like
distant dreams for athletes.
“You really have to love the sport to play at a Division III because like we’re not even getting paid (a scholarship) to do this,” Spikes said. “Like we’re literally paying to sacrifice our bodies and energy for the sport that we love.”
The National College Athletic Association, commonly referred to as the NCAA, divides colleges into categories of Division I, Division II and Division III by the school’s resources. By dividing college teams into three divisions, the NCAA allows for all schools to have a fair chance at winning championships.
From bowl games to March Madness, the most common sporting events shown on television are between Division I colleges, such as in-state schools like Jackson State, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. But here at Millsaps, a Division III school because of its smaller size and lack of resources compared to the larger schools around the state and nation, athletes are not offered athletic scholarships.
While they play the same sports, the students competing at the Division I and Division III levels experiences as college athletes are much different. While athletes at Division I schools enjoy the glamorous lifestyle often portrayed on television, athletes at smaller schools like Millsaps don’t get that luxury.
“While you’re fostering your athletic passion – because that is what it has to
be at D-III, a passion, because you’re not getting a scholarship from it – you also get to really harness academic pursuits,” said Dia Fortenberry, a junior on the women’s basketball team.
Though the lifestyles may differ, Fortenberry argues that there are perks
to being a Division III athlete. This division allows students to focus more
on their grades and making connections and experiences on campus, allowing students to excel on and off the field.
Through shorter practices and seasons, there is less conflict between academics and athletics for athletes. Athletes are treated like all other students, helping them to remain focused on being a student first and an athlete second.
“(Millsaps professors) are very involved in what we have to go through, and
they’re very supportive at the same time,” Fortenberry said. “I think that’s very unique to D-III.”