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Why You Shouldn’t Say No to Division III

On Saturday legendary football Coach John Gagliardi coached a record breaking 600th game.  Never heard of John Gagliardi?  That is because he coaches at tiny Division III St. John’s University 70 miles northwest of Minneapolis.  However, in many circles Coach Gagliardi is revered as a coaching genius.  He sports a .782 winning percentage and has won 4 national championships over an incredible 61 seasons.

Even more impressive and unique than his record, is the manner in which he won so mcoachB500any games.  Coach Gagliardi is famous for his winning with no’s philosophy.  Tackling is not allowed in practice. He has no playback. Yelling and whistles are both banned from practice.  Player’s are not required to participate in off-season conditioning.  His quarterback calls most of the plays.

“We don’t have no mission statement’s, no big  philosophy,” Gagliardi said.  “We just do it.”

He developed his unique philosophy when he was handed his first coaching job at the age of 16.  He simply cut out the parts of practice that he disliked.

Many more well-known coaches, like Joe Paterno, have the utmost respect for what he has accomplished.

“John is what the coaching profession is all about,” Paterno said in a telephone interview. “He’s loyal to his institution. He’s loyal to his players. He’s had a tremendous influence on not only the people that have played for him, but the people who have played against him. He’s been a wonderful example.”

There are unique stories about college programs like St. John’s all over the country. Unfortunately, many recruits don’t take the time to discover the opportunities that are available.  The reality is that these opportunities are real and the education offered at many of these schools tops their better known competition.  If recruits are truly serious about finding the right fit for them, they need to find out about schools like St. John’s.

About the author
Aaron Sorenson


  • Coach G is a great example of the D3 experience. I played a sport at D3 Ferrum College years ago and our coach taught us much more than how to play tennis. He took time to ensure we grew as young men, not just athletes and always put the sport in perspective. Even so, we won our conference both years I played. I later attended a very large state school and have many more great memories from my time at the D3 school.

  • Hello, I have a son who is a good basketball player, but wishes to play in small school setting, how can I recruit his skills out to various colleges coaches in Tenn.

    Sonja Giles

  • my son is a senior in high school he had some d2 schools looking at him this summer. the first surrimage we had he tore his acl now one d2 school said nice recuriting you but a d3 school said come to signing day . will the d2 schools still look at him after rehab? mitch

  • Hi Sonja: Go here and get started:

  • D3 schools generally offer better education and smaller classes and greater rates of graduation. Many schools have JV programs offering kids the chance to mature physically and to play at a competitive level. Athletic departments are genearlly driven by the schools attitudes about creating an all around student. Teams and coaches want to win but do not have the pressure of programs offering scholarships. Most kids in scholarship programs are just cannon fodder for the starters during practices. D3 is a good option since over 90% kids out there will never start on for a BCS or FCS school.

  • Mitch – I’m sorry for your son’s knee injury. Your son should ask that question of the D2 coach. Every coach is different and it depends on what that coach saw in your son prior to his injury. So encourage your son to call that coach and ask if he’s still interested.

  • D-3 schools in Wisconsin produce great basketball, after all UW- Stevens Point won the National Championship two years in a row.

  • Shelby – D3 college DO NOT offer athletic scholarships. They do offer financial aid. Those financial aid packages are different at every college. They’re based on academics, leadership, merit, etc. It’s not unheard of for a D3 athlete to receive a financial aid package that is higher than that available at a public school in D2 or D1. It depends on the school, the sport, the student, and other factors.

  • What are some of the D3 schools in Minnesota and North Dakota.
    Send back a message on email to this address


  • Alicen – Go here:

    If you still want to play in college, go here:

    Good luck!

  • My son is in his junior year of college. His first year was in a D1 and now he is attending a community college. He is a great soccer player with strong interest in continueing his talent. He played in high school and received many awards for his greatness. Since then he participates in any drop in or competitive tournments in the area. We are now looking for a D2 or D3 college to complete his bachelors degree. With that, he would like to play for a college level team. Is he a viable option for a college level team? How can he get them to give him a shot?

  • Janet – Your son has one soccer season of eligibilty left, next fall. He will have to communicate with college coaches at D2 and D3 colleges to see if he can persuade that coach for a tryout. He’ll have to call at least 20-30 of them to get 2-3 tryouts. Is he willing to hear “no” that many times? If so, he should start working the phones. Good luck!

  • My son is in his first year of a junior college. He is on the college baseball team. My question is this. Other students have a athletic scholarship were as he ended up paying for his tution and is doing very well in academics and is not really being seen by the coach as a potential player. He has done a great job when he has had the opportunity to play. some of the athletes our failing don’t attend class but yet get to play why is this????

  • My son is in his first year of a junior college. He is on the college baseball team. My question is this. Other students have a athletic scholarship were as he ended up paying for his tution and is doing very well in academics and is not really being seen by the coach as a potential player. He has done a great job when he has had the opportunity to play. some of the athletes our failing don’t attend class but yet get to play why is this???? I would like to know how to Keep him from getting discouraged and keep playing the game he loves. Can we still get recruited to athletic sclolarships?

  • Sherry – Your son can only control what he can control. In other words, he can’t worry about what’s happening to other players on his team. I’d encourage your son to keep working hard on his grades and to be the first one at practice and the last to leave. He can also meet with his coaches, one-on-one, to determine where he fits in their plans. If he doesn’t like the answers he’s hearing, he can start looking to transfer. Can he receive an athletic scholarship? That depends on a number of factors. Among those are, what level of Juco is he playing at now (D1, D2, or D3)? You can determine that by finding out what 4-year colleges other graduates of his institution have transferred to. Only D1, D2, and NAIA programs offer athletic scholarships. D3 offers financial aid, but it’s not called an “athletic scholarship”. If your son is a D3 caliber player, he can receive scholarship money based on his good grades, but it’s not labeled an athletic scholarship. It’s not too late for him to begin looking for a great place to transfer to; he just needs to begin working on that right away. If I’ve raised more questions that you need answers to, you can get those answers here:

    Good luck!

  • d3 widener univ is offering a nice package to play for them in 10-11, but my son still has aspirations of playing d2 and definitely d1! has some tepid interest from d1 and d2’s , but he’s been getting a lot of love from d3’s! what do you think!!

  • Joe – What sport? Does Widener have your son’s major? Has he visited the campus? Does he like the coaches? Does he have other offers? Can you afford your out-of-pocket expense? Can Widener offer more? Do you have that offer in writing? There are many more questions. As a recruiting expert, I don’t have enough information from your post to comment. I take it from your post that you, like most parents, need advice on how to find the best fit for their child. But that expert would need a lot more information to offer substantive, quality advice. I wish you all the best!

  • I wrote before, found out that 3 athletes that have a scholarship have decided to quite. is it possiable for a walk on to pick up that schoolarship. for next semester? and if so, How do we go about asking the coach or the athletic director about this?
    What happens to that scholarship that was set up for that athlete?

  • Sher – Have your son ask the head coach. That’s the only way that he’ll be able to find out the answers to your questions.

  • If you qualify for academic scholarship due to high grade point, high ACT and classes, should you get something for baseball, too? This is for a Junior College
    What would it mean if I have a place on roster but no baseball money? Should I worry?.

  • Jacob – If you know the head coach well enough, then you can ask him your question yourself. Every school’s financial aid policy is different and every coach has a unique view. He’ll let you know where you are in his plans. He’ll also let you know what you need to do if you don’t like his answers. Take notes and do what he asks. If you and him are on the same page, you should have nothing to worry about.

  • Hi Keith, this may seem like a dumb question but i really don’t have an answer and was wondering if you can help. Im a junior at a private high school and play football. I don’t like to brag or judge myself but im a pretty good offensive lineman. My probelm is that im not starting this year because there are 5 really good seniors and im only a junior. My coach said i have a starting spot next year as a senior but im wondering if colleges still look at 1 year starters in high school.

  • Hi Greg – The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask. You’ve asked a great question. There are plenty of college football coaches who recruit kids off of their senior year performance. The main thing is you have to target the right schools and make yourself known to them. Start building relationships with those college coaches now and get film to them after your first 3 games next year. Work very hard in the weight room between now and next season to get as big, strong, and fast as you can. You can play college football if you work hard and target the right schools. Good luck!

  • Sir,

    I have an 8th grade son who, though young, is already a very accomplished 3-sport athlete (outstanding football accomplishments, All-American wrestler, and state placer in track and field.) I live in Texas and the local 5A head coaches are very interested in him for all three sports. As a family, we have chosen to send our children to a small private christian school. He will start on Varsity in all three sports as a freshman. My question is this: These coaches are telling me I am absolutely destroying his chances of playing football at the next level because, generally speaking, small private schools are not looked at by recruiters because of the lesser competition and typically lesser coaching.
    He really wants to play at the next level and, though we realize that anything can happen in the next 4 years, early indications and metrics are that he might be a D1 prospect. My questions: Are we making a mistake in sending him to the small school? Are there camps at these colleges that would allow them to see him in person? Do small school guys get invited to combines? If his film looks incredible, but the opposing team talent isn’t top notch, are you taken seriously?

    He doesn’t care right now if he plays D1, D2, or D3, he just wants to play. That may change as he gets older. In fact, we kinda like Wheaton college on the whole, but they don’t offer scholarships athletically.

    Thanks for your help!

  • Rodney – Any 5A HS coach who tells you that you are, “absolutely destroying his chances of playing football at the next level…” is being selfish and doesn’t understand college recruiting. You ask a lot of questions and the answers all depend on what’s important to you and his mother and your son. I know plenty of D1 college football players who never played at a 5A Texas HS. The flip side is that Katy HS has won the state championship 2 years running and the Houston Chronicle ran an article in February documenting that no seniors from last year’s championship squad signed a D1 NLI on signing day. Wrestling and track have their own recruiting dynamics, also. The most important thing is your son’s academics and the values he is raised with. That seems to be the reason you chose to send your son to a small Christian school. If you wish to discuss recruiting further, go here: