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Who Benefits from Division I vs. Division III Games? Plus Exclusive Interviews

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

The new college basketball season is upon us.  The excitement is in the air. Opening night provided some of the best match up’s of the season and then…  

For the rest of November we get to witness a record number of DI vs. DIII games. To be fair the number of DI vs. non DI games is down this year from 458 last year to 439 this year, but the number of DI vs. DIII games is increasing.  The NCAA’s new selection metrics for this year’s tournament (more on this in an upcoming column) may give us a clue to the reason why. All DI vs. non DI games are excluded from any metrics pertaining to the tournament. So if you are a DI team that needs to fill the schedule, a DII, NAIA, or DIII school are treated all the same in the selection committee’s eyes.

Who benefits from these matchups?  I had the opportunity to sit down with both a DI and DIII coach to get the pros and cons from their perspective.  

Last Thursday, DI Purdue Fort Wayne hosted DIII Earlham College.  In interviews I asked Earlham coach Jason Polykoff (before the game) and  PFW coach Jon Coffman (after the game) the same questions and answers may surprise you.

Like all of these matchups, the game counts toward the regular season record for PFW but not for Earlham College.  Leave it to the NCAA to create an environment for an athletic competition in which the result only counts for one team, but as Coach Polykoff said, “We would only do it if it was an exhibition game on our side. We don’t want it to count against our record.”

BracketBluster:  What are the advantages of scheduling a game like this?

Jason Polykoff:  The big one is they’ll pay us.  So it’s a fundraiser for us. Number two, it’s exciting for the guys. It’s a neat experience to go play a DI team in their arena. And number three, it’s cool to see where stack up against a really good team.  The hope is that the next game which is usually a regular season game where the competition is not as strong, the game becomes easier like when you practice parallel parking in a tighter space before the actual [driving] test.

Jon Coffman:  You have to try to find balance in your schedule.  I didn’t do a very good job of that when I scheduled UCLA, Ohio St. and Dayton (all on the road) in the first nine days of the season and I tried to squeeze in a couple of other games.  We try to simulate what we’re going to get in the Summit League. It is not out of the ordinary to have a split weekend, at Denver on Thursday and back home on Saturday, and we need to deal with one day of preparation.  (Note: PFW has two such weeks on their schedule this year at Oral Roberts (Tulsa, OK) and at South Dakota (Vermillion, SD)) Also, hopefully we can get to the bench, get some separation and get some guys in. Earlham showed some resistance. They showed some fight and made some plays. There were two four minute periods where they beat us. That was good for us, and we were be able to play the entire roster.

BB:  What are your fears?

JP:  It’s funny. There is way less expectation on our side than their side. According to the numbers, we’re supposed to lose. There is not a lot, I guess.  Just like all games, I fear someone getting injured. Everyone on our side understands this is different and not a regular season that affects our overall record.  

JC:  The biggest fear is getting someone injured, but that is part of the game, too.

For the record, Purdue Fort Wayne won the game 112 – 51 and a since the game does not count on Earlham’s regular season record, we can honestly say and the coaches agree, there were no losers.