In the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), there are three main divisions: division one, which is generally filled with larger universities and more of a national stage; division three, which is primarily filled with smaller universities and a lower stage of competition; then right in the middle of these is division two, which has a mixture of both other divisions in it. Division two is the level of play that West Chester University athletics competes in; though it was not always like that.
For a while, West Chester had a few teams that competed in the division one level instead, the two most recent teams being field hockey (who moved to division two in 2011) and baseball (who made the switch back in 1995). But why did they change divisions, and what about division two does West Chester like so much?
First, we can look at some of the qualifications for division one. The most important qualification is to have at least seven sports for men and seven for women, or having six for men and eight for women. Similarly, both of those options must have two team sports for each gender. West Chester meets this qualification easy, as there are nine sports for men and 14 sports for women, including four team sports for men and eight team sports for women. All of these sports make West Chester one of the largest athletic programs in division two.
The other major qualification that is relevant to West Chester is the minimum and maximum financial aid requirements. West Chester would have a hard time at completing with the amount of sports offered here. The financial aspect was a big reason why the field hockey and baseball teams moved to DII, and that can be seen in the words of former athletic director Edward Matejkovic back in 2010 who said, “West Chester University would like to maintain its commitment to a broad-based intercollegiate athletic program and remain the largest Division two program in the nation. Attempting to achieve greater success with field hockey at the Division one level would require the university to drop several sports in order to divert funding support to the field hockey program. This would be in direct contrast to our philosophy of athletics.”
This is a difficult choice for many institutions to make as performing in division one is the highest level of collegiate competition for student athletes to compete in. By cutting sports to stay at that level, you eliminate competition for many student athletes all together (excluding club sports). Now, to compare a school that took a different approach would be Temple University, who in 2014 finalized a cut for a whopping seven intercollegiate sports in order to keep their program division one.
West Chester’s move is one that is very pro-student athlete. When speaking with current AD Terry Beattie, he made the point of how balanced division two is and how it gives the student athlete more freedom then most of division one. West Chester Athletics is also partnered with several different departments on campus to ensure that student athletes’ mind and body are made balanced so that they can most importantly excel off the field. When you’re doing good, then you’ll most likely do great on the field.
Sean Laughlin is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies and minoring in media and culture. SL918690@wcupa.edu