Rock Valley College has become the model Division III Junior College college in the nation when it comes to athletics.
Golden Eagles teams have been racking up national championships left and right. So has the time come for RVC to move up to Division II or even Division I?
The championship banners that hang in the Physical Education Center at RVC are everywhere. Evidence of the school’s excellence in athletics.
“We’ve had several other athletic directors say, ‘Hey do you know how uncommon this is?’ And I don’t know that we do know how uncommon it is,” says RVC Director of Athletics and women’s basketball coach Misty Opat.
Collectively RVC sports teams have won 16 national championships in the last 20 years. In the last five years alone the women’s basketball team has won three championships, the men’s basketball team has won two and the softball team has won two. These teams have proven they can play with and beat Division I and Division II teams consistently.
So why not a move up? It boils down to money. Division I and Division II programs offer scholarships and tuition waivers. Division III school’s don’t. Right now RVC doesn’t have the money to offer those things with the current economic climate at the school and with the State withholding funding.
“In light of the state budgets and things it’s nothing that’s going to happen in the near future for sure,” says Opat.
Athletes at RVC don’t receive compensation that athletes receive at the higher levels.
“When it comes to athletes students are welcome to apply for foundation scholarships and things that are available to every general student, but we’re not able to provide them with any assistance,” says Opat.
“Would we like to go Division I or Division II? Absolutely! But we wouldn’t do it unless we were able to be fully funded so we could compete at a national level,” says men’s basketball coach Craig Doty.
There are other reasons why moving up to a higher level might not be the right way to go.
“For me on the softball side of things it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to move up because we’re a northern team competing against other northern teams where we have to develop our kids inside of a gym,” says softball coach Darrin Moore. If we move up to D-II or Division I junior college now we’re having to compete against teams that get to be outside all year long.”
Still it’s intriguing to imagine what RVC teams might accomplish on a higher level.
“As a coach you want to play at the highest level possible, but at the same time understand what your situation is,” says Doty. “Right now our best situation is to be a Division III junior college.”