On September 5, Cinderella, dressed in purple and yellow, went to Butler University to play the Bulldogs of the Division I Horizon League. Unfortunately, the Albion College football team fell 39 points shy of finding their fairytale ending.
It may be the heartbreak, the triumph or the sheer disbelief of a Cinderella team that captures the interest of sports fans and headlines. But what’s hidden behind the smoke and mirrors of the sport media is the truth that “Cinderella” usually falls a pumpkin carriage short of making it to the ball on time.
With college sports being so motivated on winning, one of the key goals set by the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) was to “maintain the integrity and standards of fair play.” But when Division I teams are playing regular season games against Division III teams, it hardly seems like a fair playing field, especially considering the extra funding and recruiting foundation sports programs receive at the Division I level.
Ultimately, it is the choice of the university or college as to whom they wish to schedule. But it appears senseless on the part of the college to schedule teams ranked well above their own stature. George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, once said, “What American people like is to think the underdog still has a chance.” There is no denying the motivation to upset a team of a higher rank, but at the college level there are other reasons as to why schools play teams at higher divisions.
The Britons have posted a 36-57-2 record against teams who are currently playing at the Division I level. Though they fail to post a winning record, what they gained was the experience of playing against a team that is superior to any competition they will face in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA), better preparing them for conference play.
Playing against a higher level of competition can also serve as a step towards advancing to a higher division. Michigan State University, for example, was once in the MIAA and has since grown into a Big 10 powerhouse who posted a top 25 ranking in the Bowl Championship Series preseason standings. Aside from preparation for the MIAA, Albion has shown improvement in play versus higher ranked competition. Though their overall record may not be too impressive, in the past ten years during their match-ups against Butler University, the Britons have a record of 5-5, proving that they have the ability to compete against Division 1 schools.
Though every sport has its Davids and Goliaths, history has shown that a ranking does not determine the outcome of a game, or even a season. So keep the dream alive, Cinderella. There is no telling when the glass slipper will show up.