Roomel Reese remembers putting on his Waynesburg University football uniform and stepping out onto the field for the first time during his sophomore year. But, as a Division III athlete, he didn’t play in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans — instead, a few hundred were in the stands.
Not that it mattered to Reese.
“It felt great to play so early in my career,” said Reese, now in his junior year at the Waynesburg, Pa., school. “I worked hard that off season and earned my spot. I felt so blessed — there I was playing in front of hundreds of people.”
Reese is one of more than 180,000 NCAA Division III athletes in the U.S. But while NCAA DIII has the largest number of participating athletes and schools, its athletes get the least amount of perks for playing.
DI schools heavily invest in their athletic programs primarily because they bring in large revenue. The NCAA reported that in 2013 — the last year numbers were available — DI schools with football spent an average of $33,333 per athlete, and DII schools around $14,400 per athlete. These figures are a stark contrast to DIII schools, which spent an average of $5,750 per athlete in 2013.
But not all Division III athletes go without compensation altogether. Instead of athletic scholarships, many are offered offered eitheracademic- or accomplishment-based scholarships, according to the NCAA.
Despite the lack of perks, though, DIII athletics can be highly competitive. And they offer unique experiences for students as they can focus primarily on academics while still allowing for high-level sports.
Plus, some DIII athletes go on to make it big in professional sports, like Ken Anderson, a four-time Pro Bowl NFL former quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals who graduated from Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. More recently, they include baseball outfielder Chris Heisey, currently a MLB free agent, who graduated from Messiah College in Grantham, Pa.