-Mary Beth Hughes, Contributing Writer
When Mississippi College moved from a Division III program to Division II program this past year, many things changed. Better athletes have come in. More scholarships are offered. New coaches have been hired. The recruiting process has dramatically changed. As a Division III organization, MC was limited on areas to recruit from, the quality of athlete they brought in, and also persuading them to come to MC. The main difference in the recruiting process? Scholarships.
Since making the move to Division II, coaches have had to learn how to adjust to recruiting in a different way. Instead of asking student athletes to pay to come play for the Choctaws, they now have the opportunity to give the player an athletic scholarship. At the Division III level, this was a big challenge in getting student athletes to come to school and play ball at MC. Coaches and staff had to be able to sell the school on every angle, not just from and athletic standpoint. This has changed while transitioning to Division II.
Head Coach Peter Cosmiano of the women’s volleyball team said, “With the availability of scholarships, you get a phone call back from the athletes that you never would have had a chance with at the Division III level.”
This means that the athletes that come in are there to play. Not only are they bigger, faster, and stronger, they are in a different mental state than a Division III athlete. The reason they are at MC is because they are on an athletic scholarship. Cosmiano also says its more like a job. Players can lose their money, keep their money, or increase their money based on their performance. This adds pressure in a sense that was not there for the athlete at Division III.
When talking about the biggest difference in Division III athletes and Division II athletes Cosmiano said, “The kids were bringing in, I wouldn’t say they are tougher or can handle division 2 athletics better mentality, but in a sense they are. This is what they’ve been working for. They can hang onto the rope a little bit longer than the other kids.” The offseason is tougher, workouts are more strenuous, and in order to succeed as an athlete at this level you have to want it. However, if you are on an athletic scholarship, that is what you have been working for.
Another aspect that has changed in the recruiting process is the areas in which coaches recruit players from. Not only has the recruiting area increased nationally, but MC now recruits on a global level.
Men’s soccer coach Kevin Johns says, “Our pool of players has increased tremendously. Now were looking at players from Australia, England, Brazil, all over the world.”
In fact, now that MC has made this transition, Johns has been able to find Division I caliber athletes that want to come play for the Choctaws. Scholarships have allowed this to happen. Johns says Texas has been a hot spot for finding these athletes, as well as Brazil and Latin America. Although the funds are not available to travel out of the country to watch these players in person, Johns and his staff receive video footage of the athlete and decide from there if they want to pursue the player. As a Division III program this would not have been possible. The recruiting scale for players had increased astronomically since the move from divisions, as well as the areas in which coaches recruit from.
According to Cosmiano, “We now have a much bigger net to cast into a much larger pond.”