The National Collegiate Athletic Association was founded over a hundred years ago to protect student-athletes. Division III, or DIII as it is commonly known, has over 400 member institutions and unlike the DI and DII, athletic events at the DIII-level are non-revenue making. Because athletics do not generate profit at DIII institutions, an athletic director at a DIII institution will receive a substantially smaller salary than an athletic director at a top DI school.
The Athletic Director as Administrator
A successful athletic director is a good manager and administrator. Those dreaming of becoming an athletic director must realize that the requirements for being successful do not involve abilities on a field. A love for sports may be helpful for motivation, but the main task of an athletic director is managing. An athletic director must deal with a budget, multiple sports, coaches, and of course, student-athletes; a comparison to running a corporation can be made here.
The Athletic Director as Business Manager
Since an athletic director is basically running a business -- the business of sports at the college or university level -- his salary is usually commensurate with the size of the business. At a DI institution, where an athletic director deals with budgets that are in the tens of millions of dollars, salaries can be as high as one million dollars per year, similar to what many top managers of Fortune 500 companies receive. As the athletic program shrinks, so too does the average salary for an athletic director.
DIII Athletic Directors Are Not Millionaires
Athletic directors at DIII schools are not going to be making anywhere near a million dollars per year because the so-called athletic businesses at DIII schools are relatively small in comparison to those at DI institutions. This does not mean that athletic directors at DIII institutions cannot make a decent living, because they can, but salary expectations for anyone interested in becoming an athletic director at a DIII school should be relatively modest.
DIII Can Be a Step to DI or the Final Destination
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average salary of an administrator at a college or university is approximately 101,000 dollars. A DIII athletic director could possibly earn near that level, but, on average, his salary would be lower. An athletic director that is able to turn around an athletic program in disarray and make into an enterprise to be proud of will surely be able to demand a higher salary or move up in the ranks to a higher division if that is what he wants from life. A DIII athletic director can see the position as a stepping stone to bigger challenges on larger stages, or be content where he is.