Reason 263 Why We Love Division III Athletics: Sportsmanship and Class

In his commentary on NPR today, Frank Deford tells a touching story of a basketball game between two D3 schools, Washington College (Chestertown, MD) and Gettysburg (PA). We know the story is about two schools that aren’t even in our conference (let alone our time zone), but it’s worth repeating. From the original article posted at NPR:

When last we left the NCAA, it was February madness, colleges were jumping conferences, suing each other, coaches were claiming rivals had cheated in recruiting — the usual nobility of college sports.

And then, in the midst of all this, the men’s basketball team at Washington College of Chestertown, Md., journeyed to Pennsylvania to play Gettysburg College in a Division III Centennial Conference game.

It was senior night, and the loudest cheers went to Cory Weissman, No. 3, 5 feet 11 inches, a team captain — especially when he walked out onto the court as one of Gettysburg’s starting five.

Yes, he was a captain, but it was, you see, the first start of his college career. Cory had played a few minutes on the varsity as a freshman, never even scoring. But then, after that season, although he was only 18 years old, he suffered a major stroke. He was unable to walk for two weeks. His whole left side was paralyzed. He lost his memory, had seizures.

But by strenuously devoting himself to his rehabilitation, Cory slowly began to improve. He was able to return to college, and by this year, he could walk without a limp and even participated in the pre-game lay-up drills.

So for senior night, against Washington, his coach, George Petrie, made the decision to start Cory. Yes, he would only play a token few seconds, but it meant a great deal to Cory and to Gettysburg. All the more touching, the Washington players stood and cheered him.

That was supposed to be the end of it, but with Gettysburg ahead by a large margin and less than a minute left in the game, Coach Petrie sent Cory back in.

Nobody could understand, though, what happened next, why the Washington coach, Rob Nugent, bothered to call time out. The fans didn’t know what he told his players there in the huddle: that as quickly as they could, foul No. 3. And one of them did. And with 17 seconds left, Cory Weissman strode to the free-throw line. He had two shots.

Suddenly, the crowd understood what Coach Nugent had sought to do. There was not a sound in the gym. Cory took the ball and shot. It drifted to the left, missing disastrously. The crowd stirred. The referee gave Cory the ball back. He eyed the rim. He dipped and shot. The ball left his hand and flew true. Swish. All net.

The crowd cried as much as it cheered.

The assistant vice president for athletics at Gettysburg, David Wright, wrote to Washington College: “Your coach, Rob Nugent, along with his … staff and student-athletes, displayed a measure of compassion that I have never witnessed in over 30 years of involvement in intercollegiate athletics.”

Cory Weissman had made a point.

Washington College had made an even larger one.

Does this kind of thing only happen at Division III schools? Most certainly not.  But it illustrates the value (and values) that can mark an athletic environment unsullied by big money—one of true amateurism, where student-athletes, who are no less dedicated to their sports than those at schools we see on TV every day of the week, compete for love of the sport and, in the process, can create great human moments that remind us that, while it may be just a game, it’s more than just a game.

Need proof? Just look at Weissman’s face in the photo, and that of his teammate in the background, as he releases his free throw.

Just when we thought it would never happen in our admissions office…

…it does.

We occasionally read stories of other colleges inadvertently sending letters of admission to students who had, in fact, been denied admission. College admissions folks like us feel the sympathetic shiver down our spines that accompanies these extremely awkward, even painful moments, and, wiping our collective brow, whisper to ourselves, “Thank goodness we haven’t done something like that.”

And then we do.

We did not inadvertently send letters of admission to students who had, in fact, been denied admission—our official decision letters go through the kind of intense pre-flight scrutiny that accompanies rocket launches. (In other words, if you have received an admission decision letter from us, rest assured that your letter is correct.)

However, we did send a “congratulations on your admission to Lawrence” letter on behalf of one of our alumni to a small handful of students who had, on the contrary, not been offered admission to Lawrence University. We are embarrassed by it, and are reaching out to those students to clear up the confusion.

Now our admissions colleagues at other colleges get to feel that sympathetic shiver down their spines, and whisper to themselves, “Thank goodness we haven’t done that.”

May it ever be so.

Where do PhD’s get their start? (You know where this is headed…)

Lynn O’Shaughnessy, college expert, higher-ed journalist, and best-selling author of The College Solution, posed and answered that question in her blog today. Her post caught our attention, as most things do when they start like this. (Not that most things start like this.)

What schools produce the most undergraduates who end up heading off to graduate school?

The subject came up yesterday because a friend of mine was telling me about a brilliant teenager who wants to eventually get a PhD in physics. The student lives in California, but the mom wants him to apply to schools in the Midwest where she grew up.

I asked my friend if the teenager had checked out Lawrence University. [Editor’s note: Hooray!]


I realize that might be your reaction, but here’s the thing – many of the schools that are feeder institutions for the nation’s PhD programs are liberal arts colleges. While most liberal arts colleges are not well-known among families with teenagers, these institutions — and their reputations — are very well known to graduate schools. Lawrence University, a liberal arts college Appleton, WI, for instance, happens to be 10th on the list among all four-year colleges and universities that produce, per capita, the most physics PhDs.

For obvious reasons, we encourage you to read more of Lynn’s post here.

Our friends at Colleges That Change Lives [@CTCLColleges] retweeted the post with an apt summary: “Worrying about college outcomes? Start at PhD and work backward to the start.”

Good suggestion.