The Transylvania Times -

By Jeremiah Reed
Sports Editor 

Brevard College Reaping Benefits Of Transition To Division III

 

November 23, 2017



Don’t look now, but the Brevard College athletic program is quietly in the early stages of what looks like a new era of success.

The Tornados recently wrapped up their fall sports calendar and, virtually across the board, all the teams saw some of their most successful seasons in many years.

This year is the first for BC since transitioning to the NCAA Division III ranks as part of the USA South Atlantic Conference.

Technically, the Tornados are a provisional member of the conference and thus their record, including the record of their opponents, does not officially recognize their contests as “conference games.”

The reclassification process takes four years, so under the best-case scenario it would be 2020 before Brevard College is granted full membership and be eligible for postseason awards or conference playoffs.

However, a rose by any other name is still as sweet, and while the Tornados won’t be considered a true conference team for three more years, they are already making a mark in the USA South Atlantic.

The proof can be seen in the seasons of the four main fall sports teams.

Football, which finished the year 4-6, had its best record since 2009 and won more games this year than the past three combined.

Among conference opponents, BC was 3-4 and narrowly missed flipping that to 4-3 thanks to a three-point loss to Ferrum.

If all of the Tornados’ games were officially true “conference games,” Brevard College would have finished the year tied for fourth with Maryville, a team they didn’t play and finished with a regular season record of 5-5.

The Tornado volleyball team finished the year 13-7, their best record since 2009.

They went 11-5 against conference opponents, and 8-3 in their division – the South Atlantic West.

That would have been enough for a third place finish if they were recognized as full members.

The women’s soccer team was equally successful, posting a record of 11-6-1, their best since joining the NCAA ranks in 2008.

They went 8-6 in the conference, 6-3 in the division, and likely would have finished in the top four in the West.

The men’s soccer team went 7-8 after going 8-8-2 in 2016.

But in conference play, the true barometer of a team’s success, they went from 4-7 to 6-5 and won five of their last seven matches, with four of those wins coming in conference matches.

That would have probably been enough to finish in the top three in the West division.

Add that to the success of the cycling, cross country and golf teams and it clearly shows Brevard College is trending up after moving to DIII.

That trend could continue into the winter sports season and got off to a good start last Wednesday thanks to the women’s basketball team winning their season opener against Berry, 71-52.

When Brevard College announced its move from DII to DIII in the spring of 2015, there were some in the community that questioned the decision.

Most of the criticism stemmed from the belief that the college was moving backwards in terms of its athletic mission.

However, the inescapable truth is that the Tornados simply weren’t competitive as a DII school.

In 2015, a report issued by the Echols Athletic Excellence Award Standings, which measures overall athletic success, showed how Brevard College fared among its DII peers in the South Atlantic Conference.

Wingate led the pack with an overall score of 192 points. The next 10 schools in the conference scored between 152 and 92 points.

The Tornados scored 52 points.

Objectively, there is no way to look at those numbers and come away with any other conclusion than Brevard College was outmatched in nearly every sport.

Leveling the playing field and giving teams a greater chance to compete and succeed was one component of the school’s decision to move to the DIII ranks.

In a 2015 interview, Brevard College President Dr. David Joyce said the transition would give the Tornados, “the opportunity to compete against peer institutions that are similar in terms of size and resources.”

The college administration also believed the move would benefit the school academically by removing athletic scholarships and giving student-athletes more opportunities in the classroom.

Along with the elimination of scholarships, student-athletes are restricted in the amount of time they can practice, thus offering up more time to explore academic options, which fits with the college’s mission and emphasis on experiential education.

“Academically, we expect to give our student-athletes a more well-rounded college experience by providing them the time to participate in academic programs and intensive learning opportunities that they wouldn't otherwise have,” Joyce said in the 2015 interview.

The academic portion of the decision is beyond the purview of this article, but in regards to balancing the scale and increasing the Tornados’ competitiveness, that seems to be happening already.

True, it’s still early in the transition and one challenge of the transition – effectively recruiting athletes without the benefit of scholarship dollars – is something that will take years to measure.

That being said, if the fall sports season is any indication of things to come, there are plenty of reasons for optimism regarding the Tornados’ future at the DIII level.

And while there will be some who argue otherwise, if a move that enables a school the opportunity to win more games while still maintaining a certain level of academic standards is viewed as a “step back,” then perhaps the NCAA system is even more nefarious than most that follow college sports already recognize it to be.

 
 

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