Albion College against Eastern Michigan University. Division III against division I. The men’s basketball game today counts towards Eastern’s record, but for Albion, it’s just an exhibition. It may seem quite ridiculous initially, but in reality, this is a fantastic move by our athletic department.
The game tipped-off at 12 p.m. today making it the first official division I basketball game of the 2013-2014 season in the entire country. Albion College is playing in the first division I game this year. Think about that.
Head Coach Jody May was able to take part in radio interviews on local sports talk stations in the Ypsilanti/Ann Arbor area throughout the week. How often does the college get free publicity on the airwaves? Now, many of the people listening to those interviews might have known little about Albion, but I’m sure Coach May helped give them a piece of our identity and the pride this school has started to redevelop.
It’s no secret our school has been struggling recently with enrollment, but because of well thought-out marketing strategies, the college will definitely get some free national publicity along with some local buzz. One of the most intriguing aspects of the game, though, is the college is actually making a profit.
According to Albion Athletic Director, Matt Arend, division I schools pay anywhere from $3,000-$5,000 to division III schools when hosting them for an in-state basketball game. That’s a good chunk of change for any division III athletic department that runs a tight budget.
If Eastern had chosen to host another division I program today, they would have to pay anywhere from $40,000-$50,000.
So, from an administrative point of view, both Albion and Eastern are doing themselves some favors financially.
But what about our players? What about the guys who actually lace ‘em up and step out onto the hardwood? How does a game against a division I opponent benefit the Albion men’s basketball team?
Recruiting-wise, this game can be a good selling point. All recruits aspire to be the best they can be, but sometimes division I just isn’t in the cards.
This game gives our athletes an opportunity to compete at a higher level and compare their skills to some of the better talent in the country. For some guys, it might give them a chance to prove some doubters and college coaches wrong. Either way, consistently having a division I opponent on a division III schedule brings an extra level of excitement to the Albion program, and it can give our school a small recruiting advantage.
Recruiting aside, this game could be even more beneficial for the men’s basketball team. They could win. The odds may not be in their favor, but what if our team went into the Convocation Center and pulled out the upset. Carter Elliot, Franklin junior, is definitely confident.
“We’re going in there, and I expect to win.”
The first game of the year. Division III beats division I. That sounds like the best publicity Albion College can get.
Photo courtesy of Lowell McGinnis, via Albion College Sports Information