Yes, Division I athletics would attract students and attention
When the university announced its AU: Vision 2030 plan, many students spoke out against the move from Division II to Division I athletics.
I think most of the initial backlash came from the nature of the announcement.
The notification gave less than 24 hours notice of the “informal gathering” for students to ask questions and planned it the day after finals ended when most students were heading back home for break.
Given time and a chance to voice concerns, I think all students will come to see the benefits of transitioning to Division I athletics.
Many student-athletes have said that they choose to go to a DII school rather than a DI school, and now they feel that their choice is being taken away from them. Students need to keep in mind Augustana’s core values, specifically community and excellence.
If athletes and coaches are committed to having tight-knit teams, then it shouldn’t matter what division we are. The family aspect of teams is a matter of choice, not a by-product of the Division II system.
Perhaps the most important aspect of this decision is the money involved.
The process to become DI is expensive and Augustana is much smaller than other DI schools like South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota. However, we have something they don’t: Sioux Falls.
We live in one of the fastest growing cities in the country with a robust economy. We have top-notch athletic and training facilities, thanks to Sanford and many donors who want to see Augustana compete at the top level.
Being a DI school would also be a useful recruiting tool.
Augustana would have the unique ability to offer the level of involvement and athletics bigger schools do while providing close student-professor relationships, superior academics and sense of community that may be lost at other DI schools.
Attracting students to your school has to be a priority for universities that wish to maintain the level of excellence that Augustana has.
Of course, there are legitimate student concerns that need to be addressed before the process is finalized.
What must be kept in mind is that there will be plenty of time to work through these problems.
The transition period is a years-long process. Will it be difficult at points? Yes. Will there be bumps in the road? Of course. When SDSU and USD shifted to DI many of the same concerns were raised. Augustana has the time, ability and resources to adapt to whatever problems arise.
Augustana’s Men’s Basketball Coach, Tom Billeter, said it nicely in an interview with KELOLAND News on Dec. 14, 2018.
“I believe in 10, 15, 20 years, I think people are going to look back and say this was an outstanding move just like they have with our neighbors,” said Billeter. “Not very many people are doubting that move anymore and I think people are going to say Augie did the right thing.”
No, the move would alienate student-athletes, change the Augustana environment
As part of the new AU Vision: 2030 plan Augustana announced that it would be going Division I. Although the plan is made to benefit the school, it might do the opposite to the students who will attend Augustana in the next decade.
The Board of Trustees forgot about a whole decade of students who look to pursue an education and athletic career here. Or on a smaller scale, the students that attend now. The DI plan disregards current student-athletes that already chose Augustana.
With a multi-year transition period, athletes are put in an awkward will they or won’t they on what competition will look like in the next couple years.
Many students at Augustana chose to play DII. I know many students athletes that had offers to play DI and DIII, yet found that Augustana suits them best.
Whether it pushed them to better themselves athletically or just build a community amongst their team members, DII has done a service here at Augustana. Why must we remove it?
Alana Sesow, a distance runner for track and field, wrote a series on her blog stating, “I Chose Division II.” She, along with other athletes, spoke out on how the switch is a conflicting and frustrating process.
However, I am not an athlete and lose my breath going up the second flight of stairs of Humanities, so why should I care? Because I also chose DII.
Being from Wyoming, my choices were slim on where I could attend college. I either had to go to the large state school or find somewhere out of state.
I wanted an intimate and personalized education that the University of Wyoming was too big to house.
I think going D1 will cause the school to become too large. As a first-generation college student, I feel that the smaller school established my love for education. I wasn’t going to find that at a large state school.
Let the students who want that type of education be housed by schools like South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota. While you’re at it, go ahead and compare the state schools graduations rates compared to Augustana’s. Bigger doesn’t always mean better when it comes to education.
My fear is bigger sports and competition might over glorify the reason we are all here, to get an education.
I don’t completely hate this new plan for 2030 which includes making, “dramatic improvements to the physical campus and IT infrastructure.” I would do anything to have chairs that aren’t from the 70s and bats that don’t attack me in the Humanities.
I am not saying Augustana should not try to improve, it should. The school should never stop trying to better its standards, but the leading goal should be to better the outcome for its students.
The board ignored an already good thing, our DII ranking. Having small tight-knit teams allows for movements like See Us to gain so much support, allows teams to establish community and equally balances education alongside athletics.