Coaching Management, 12.9, October 2004, http://www.momentummedia.com/articles/cm/cm1209/bbd-II.htm
During the second week in May, nearly 600 NCAA Division II athletes—including eight softball teams—converged on Orlando, Fla. The reason? To take part in the inaugural Division II Spring Sports Festival, a new idea in NCAA championships. After six days of competition, teams were crowned national champions in six sports: men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s lacrosse, and softball.
The national championship for softball was won by the Angelo State University Rambelles, led by first-year Head Coach Travis Scott. "It was a dream ending for a dream season," says Scott. "It was exciting for the kids to have other athletes around and know that we were all competing for a national title."
Scott says his players also enjoyed the opening ceremonies, which were held at the Hard Rock Café and featured Dot Richardson as one of the speakers. "When you can get big-name people to be a part of a Division II championship, it’s a special opportunity," he says. "It really gave our players a taste of what DI athletes are around all the time."
Another taste of the Division I experience came from having the softball championship games televised nationally—a first for Division II softball. With the games televised on the Sunshine Network, Rambelle fans who couldn’t make the trip were able to watch the games on a pay-per-view basis. "And that probably wouldn’t have happened had our sport not been a part of the Spring Sports Festival," says Scott.
According to organizers, the festival succeeded in achieving its two main goals: enhancing the student-athlete experience and creating more exposure for Division II sports. "Overall, we felt the festival was a huge success," says Joan McDermott, Chair of the Division II Championships Committee and Athletic Director at Metropolitan State College of Denver. "There are some issues that need to be dealt with to make it better in the future, but all in all, it went very well and we want to do it again."
There were some first-year difficulties in keeping all the festival’s events close to campus, and some conflicts with scheduling—including the softball championship game, which was held at the same time as the festival’s closing ceremonies. But McDermott says that the post-event student-athlete surveys were very positive.
"Our hope is that four years from now, we’ll do another spring festival," says McDermott. "And we want to have it every four years after that."