For the love of the game

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HEAVY PASSION: Alec Peterson, basketball player and senior, shoots a free-throw during Sectional play. Peterson has signed to play at Huntington University, which is a Division II program located in northeastern Indiana. Peterson said he has a good relationship with the coaching staff and the other players. MARY BROOKE JOHNSON / PHOTO

sports

Some competitive athletes choose private schools over state universities

Golfer and senior Michael Schaefer decided to take the path less followed and has signed to play golf at Saint Joseph’s of Indiana. Saint Joseph’s  of Indiana has Division III athletic programs. Schaefer is among a growing crowd of high school students who are passing over state schools for academics and choosing to attend smaller colleges so they can compete at the next level athletically.

According to an article on collegeathleticscholarships.net, from 1982 to 2007 the number of Division III athletes increased from 85,521 to 158,621 and was growing at a rate of 85 percent. The article also states that those schools are admitting 8,000 athletes a year.

Schaefer said he not until this year did he decide this was the route for him, especially after he played on the golf team last season. “I am a decent student, and until then I was just looking at the big state schools, IU and Purdue,” Schaefer said. “But upon visiting the (Division III) schools and seeing the campuses and meeting with professors, I realized that playing golf at a small school was the route for me.”
Schaefer is not the only student athlete thinking about making the move to play at a smaller school.
Basketball player and senior Alec Peterson, who originally planned on attending Purdue, decided that playing at the next level meant more to him than going to a big school.

“When these schools started calling and I started taking visits, I realized that this was a good financial and athletic opportunity for me,” Peterson said. “I am not really a major player and I’ll probably miss the big school feel, but it will be worth it.”

Athletics director Jim Inskeep said this is a trend he has noticed among athletes over the course of the last couple years here at our school. “I believe Carmel students have found Division III to be a good match for them athletically and academically,” he said.

“It depends on the size of the college and the level of play for many student-athletes,” he continued. “There are some top-notch Division III schools that are similar to the experience they enjoyed at CHS.”

HEAVY PASSION: Alec Peterson, basketball player and senior, shoots a free-throw during Sectional play. Peterson has signed to play at Huntington University, which is a Division II program located in northeastern Indiana. Peterson said he has a good relationship with the coaching staff and the other players. MARY BROOKE JOHNSON / PHOTO

Schaefer, who considered playing at either Robert Morris, DePauw, or Saint Joseph’s of Indiana, said though he was originally not very keen about the thought of missing out on going to a bigger state school, he would be getting the chance to be a college athlete.

“Money isn’t a problem and has very little to do with my decision,” Schaefer said. “My main motive is to play golf and maybe get some scholarships.”

“The schools I looked at all have great educational programs,” he continued. “That helped make my decision even easier to choose the small school route. So I guess I feel like even though it might be fun, I won’t really miss the large college experience.”

Peterson said that financial aid was part of the reason why he decided to play at the next level. He considered  playing at Ball State, Evansville, IUPUI and Valparaiso.

“All of the schools offered me athletic scholarships,” he said. “So I figured why not go to college for a smaller expense and play the sport I love.”

Inskeep said he thinks a mix of competitiveness and financial aspects influence athletes’ decision to go to smaller schools.

“For some students it’s playing time related while others like the match academically with the bonus of continuing to play sports,” Inskeep said. “Economics also plays a role in the selection process for most students regardless of their participation in athletics.”

“The ability to get some extra scholarship money to continue playing athletics is attractive to many parents and students,” he continued.

“Smaller schools can often match academic and athletic scholarship money to offset the difference in cost between an in-state public school and the smaller private college.”

Schaefer said he’s extremely happy and excited about the decision he has made, and doesn’t plan on changing his mind. “I’ve made my decision and I’m sticking to it,” he said. “I just didn’t want to look back and wish that I had played at the next level. Now I’ll have no regrets.”

Similarly, Conor Cunningham, tennis player and senior, realized high school could be the last time he played tennis competitively.

Cunningham decided to continue his career at Grinell University, which has a Division III athletic program in Iowa.

Cunningham said, “Grinell allows me to continue my tennis career while receiving a good education.”

Tennis is something that I love to do and play. However, in college Division III is perfect for me. It allows me to keep tennis in my life but not take it as seriously as if I was going to a Division I  program.” He continued,
“Even if I could, I would not choose to go to a Division I program.”

He cited the intensity of the practices and games as the reason why he would not choose to go Division I.

Cunningham said, “My parents  support my decision because in college they feel that a university’s academics are more important than its athletics.”

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