During basketball season, I alternated working at the scorers table and behind the live feed camera. At the start of every game, everybody would stand for the national anthem. Turning to my right, I always noticed the same thing – a simple blue and white NCAA banner with the phrase “I chose Division II.”

I’ve wondered for a while what goes into the decision-making process for athletes that choose to attend a D-II school like Gannon University. Due to a combination of reasons, my knees weren’t up to snuff in terms of playing competitive sports in college, so the matter didn’t severely affect my college choice. For potential student athletes, however, D-II status is one of multiple factors that can weigh on their minds.

So, who better to ask about the decision than some of the student athletes that chose D-II?

For seniors Julie Kleber and Peter Grouios, a lot of it came down to education.

“[Gannon] gave me the opportunity to pursue a nursing degree,” said Suffern, N.Y. native Kleber. “It can be a lot harder to do it at a D-I school, with all the extensive traveling and scheduling. D-II also gives me a chance to still be competitive.”

Grouios, a pitcher for the school’s baseball team and Toronto native, also said that he took the reasonable schedule as a huge bonus.

“It’s a good balance between academics and athletics,” Grouios said. “You actually get a chance to graduate in four years, which is big for me. I always wanted to go to school and play ball, but so that I could also graduate in time. Education is No. 1 for me.”

While schooling is a huge factor in choosing the right school for potential newcomers, Kleber and Grouios also pointed out that athletics in D-II aren’t lacking in content. Kleber is a starting guard for the women’s basketball team this season and  was a key member during the Knights’ 37-1 2009-10 season that culminated in a trip to the Final Four in the NCAA Division-II National Championship. She said that the school’s pride in athletics really appealed to her. Grouios said that the level of play in D-II is much better than some people give it credit for.

“It’s pretty good,” Grouios said. “A lot of D-II teams can compete against D-I teams.”

While the impact of potentially playing sports at Gannon didn’t factor in my decision, both Kleber and Grouios did mention something that registered in my choice – the people.

“When I came in, I loved the team, I loved coach [Cleve] Wright,” Kleber said. “The small class size really worked. I love getting to know people and having everybody know my name.”

Grouios loved that he could get involved in organizations such as the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee so that he could give back to a community that he appreciates so much.

“When I met with the program heads, it was very personal,” Grouios said. “That appealed to me. Our coach took me on a tour of the campus.”

Both Grouios and Kleber mentioned how fast the past four years passed by. As a fellow senior, I understand how it much the time seems to have sped by. But for all the potential Gannon students, it seems clear to me that the best thing to do is to find a community that fits for you. Whether you’re an athlete or not, people can make all the difference.

For Grouios, Kleber and I, that community was Gannon. Now the question remains…

Will you choose D-II?

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