Sports

Division I vs. NAIA: Is Money and Reputation Everything?

Several of Huntington University’s athletes transferred here from Division I schools and are making their mark in the NAIA. By Ryan Walker, Staff Writer

Several of Huntington University’s athletes transferred here from Division I schools and are making their mark in the NAIA.

By Ryan Walker, Staff Writer

The ultimate goal for many young athletes across the country is to play at the Division I level, the highest level of collegiate athletics. This achievement has always been where athletes want to be, but a low percentage of them make it to that level. The hard work and dedication sometimes isn’t even enough.

Four athletes at Huntington University have had that experience at Division I schools. Langston Ginder (baseball), Lu Hsiang Wang (basketball), Hannah Stoffel (cross country/track), and Owen Young (baseball) share their first-hand look at life at Division I schools and why they decided to give that up.

Each of these four had their own personal reason for leaving their respective schools. Coaching changes, closer to home, or it wasn’t exactly what they thought.

Ginder, who transferred from Ball State University, goes deeper into his decision.

It was such a hard process for me,” Ginder said, “just because I knew deep inside I wanted to do something where I could get a degree in ministry, and Ball State wasn’t going to be there to provide that.”

SECOND BASEMAN: Langston Ginder (in a Ball State uniform last season) transferred to Huntington University. (Photo provided by Langston Ginder)

Ginder went to Ball State as “undecided” last year in terms of academics but has always wanted to go into the ministry field. HU was a better fit for him, as well as keeping a relationship with the coaching staff, specifically assistant coach Thad Frame. He mentioned that Frame had a connection with him right from the start, but ultimately choosing Ball State, and Frame was okay with that.

“There are some situations where it doesn’t work out,” Frame said, “so I always say, ‘Hey, if there is something that changes your mind and you want to change …  give me a call and we’ll stay in contact.'”

And that’s exactly what Ginder did. He was able to transfer in right away after the 2019 season ended at Ball State without any problems. The coaching staff wished him the best of luck at HU, and that was that.

HU athletics has some disadvantages considering the revenue they are able to pull in compared to a Division I school. One of those is that most of the facilities can be used by other students that are not involved in athletics.

“There will be times where I’ll try and get a workout in, and I look over and people are playing volleyball or pick up games,” Lu Hsiang Wang said, who played basketball at The University of Maine. “We have our own gym (at Maine) separated from our other students. The gym was 24/7, and as long as you were an athlete, you could get your shots up or get a lift in anytime you want.”

THEN AND NOW: Roster headshots, taken from Wang’s 2019 season at The University of Maine, and 2020 at Huntington University. (Photos retrieved from goblackbears.com and Huntington University)

If the weight room, basketball court, and fieldhouse are not scheduled for team practices, any student can freely use them to go in and have fun. This makes it a little more difficult for the athletes at HU because the facility opens on certain hours throughout the entire week, and they never know when the equipment or gyms are being used.

Hannah Stoffel, who ran at Indiana University, misses the extensive athletic services at IU.

“If you got injured, there were all types of equipment you could use to help you bounce back,” Stoffel said in an email interview.

At IU, they had lots of neat technology to help recover from their workout, according to Stoffel. Some of those included underwater treadmills, multiple ice bath pools, a small lap pool, an anti-gravity treadmill, and an eating center strictly for athletes to help keep their nutritional diets on track.

THE FUTURE: Ball State University’s $15 million indoor facility project, slated for April 2020. (Photo retrieved from ballstatesports.com

Even smaller Division I programs have a significant amount of money to spend. Blake Beemer, Ball State University’s baseball recruiting coordinator, said in an email interview that they will be adding a new $15 million indoor practice facility. The baseball field just added turf.

“Basketball, volleyball, golf, football, baseball, softball will all have had recent upgrades in practice or game facilities,” Beemer said.

He added: “It’s honestly a great time to be a Ball State Cardinal.”

Of course, there are going to be more benefits with the more money a school will have. However, money isn’t everything, and in some cases, it isn’t anything at all. There are many advantages at Huntington University over any favorite Division I school.

NATIONAL CHAMP: Hannah Stoffel, formerly from Indiana University, running for Huntington University. Stoffel won the 2019 NAIA Women’s cross country national championship in the 5K individual race. (Photo from J. Kramer)

“I like the smaller class sizes,” Stoffel said. “I feel like I can connect to the professor better, and my learning is improved in the smaller classes. The professors at HU are pretty awesome. They seem to care about their student’s academic success as well as their success athletically, and I really appreciate that.”

Ginder and Wang said similar things, including with their coaches at their previous schools. There is a more personal level with professors and their students here at HU. Ginder describes Ball State’s professors as treating you more as a grade, rather than having a relationship that goes beyond that.

YELLOW TO GREEN: Owen Young, playing baseball for Arkansas-Pine Bluff (left) and playing for Huntington (right), has one of the highest batting averages on the team. (Photo provided by Owen Young and J. Kramer)

Young says his grandparents and mom have lived in Huntington, and his grandfather always told him growing up about how good the baseball team was. So Young said he has always had respect for the program.

All of the athletes who have transferred from Division I programs have had a major impact since coming on to campus. Wang has seen time with the basketball program. Ginder and Young have started in most of the games. (See their statistics on the graphic below). Stoffel won the 2019 women’s cross country national championship, along with a track and field championship as a team, first in the 800m, second for the mile, and third in the 600m nationally.

The advantages and disadvantages of each school are ultimately determined by the student. The athletes mentioned are striving and succeeding at the highest level on and off the playing field. The best fit school isn’t always the place with the most flash or money, although it may be a nice addition to their education.

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