September 25, 2014

O-Issue 2014: Division III Sports

The University of Chicago is a better school for sports than any Division I program in the country.

Yes, you read that right.

Now understand, Chicago does not have the best teams or athletes in the nation. The football team would not last one down against Florida State, and the basketball team would not stay within 30 points of Connecticut.

But here’s the kicker for the Maroons: Every student who attends the University of Chicago has the ability to truly know who he’s rooting for.

This O-Week, first-years will undoubtedly enter Ratner Athletics Center to get in a quick run, lift some weights, or even check out the first Heisman Trophy won by Jay Berwanger in 1935. Swiping those students through the turnstile will likely be third-year Michael Bennett. Bennett won the NCAA Division III Indoor National Title in the pole vault last year. The only thing he does better than pole vaulting is talking, and he will be ecstatic to meet new people. As you take your first Sosc class, you might even find second-year Abby Erdmann sitting next to you, discussing Aquinas’s definition of law. Erdmann won the NCAA DIII title in the 200-yard butterfly as a first-year. As a Maroon, you may very well meet both of them by the end of your first quarter.

Chicago has a tight-knit community, and when you know the people you are rooting for in any sport, the sport doesn’t matter; the relationship does. Chicago provides Maroons with an opportunity to really get to know Maroon athletes. That’s what separates the 1,000-seat stadiums of Chicago from the 100,000-seat stadiums at large state schools.

Now don’t get me wrong—the University’s sports feature more than just friendly faces. They display dominance in their own right. Maroons strive for excellence in everything they do: on the field, in the classroom, and in the community. Last year Chicago took 16th in the DIII Directors Cup, which ranks athletic departments by the success of their teams. The Maroons featured a handful of conference champions, a slew of All-Americans, and a boatload of winning programs.

Both cross country teams made the NCAA postseason at the same time for the first time in history. The women took fourth nationally. Women’s volleyball broke into the second round of the Final Four tournament. Both men’s and women’s swimming finished the season ranked 10th in the nation. Track and field featured numerous athletes at both the indoor and outdoor national meets. Chicago wrestling featured a fourth-place finisher, second-year Charlie Banaszak, at the NCAA championship. Softball hosted and competed in the first round of the NCAA postseason. Finally, women’s tennis ranked ninth in the nation. And that’s the condensed version.

As you meet your new housemates and go to your first classes, take a second to appreciate the company. Chicago gathers young men and women who are unique and different but share a passion to achieve excellence, whether in the classroom, on the athletic field, or both.

Editor’s Note: Isaac Stern is a member of the varsity football team.