In early August the NCAA Division III President’s Council passed a measure that could strip eight Division III schools that field Division I teams of their athletic scholarships.
The proposal, which is part of a package of sweeping reforms of Division III athletics, would eliminate hockey scholarships at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Clarkson University and St. Lawrence University, jeopardizing their ability to compete alongside Yale in the Division I ECAC.
These schools, along with the five other Division III schools affected — Colorado College, Hartwick College, Johns Hopkins University, State University of New York at Oneonta, and Rutgers University at Newark — are fighting the proposal, which would take effect if approved by a majority of the schools at a Division III conference in January.
Most Division III schools are not allowed to give out athletic scholarships even if some of their sports programs play Division I opponents.The eight schools and the 12 Division I teams among them have been able to give athletic scholarships under a 1983 NCAA Division III exemption.
However, In the first week of September, seven of the eight schools’ athletics directors came out with a joint plan to oppose the measure.
“We are committed to working together to ensure that all parties understand what is at stake here, and to develop alternatives to proposals now on the table,” RPI Athletics Director Ken Ralph said in a statement.
Johns Hopkins’ men’s and women’s lacrosse teams play in Division I and would lose their scholarship funding under the new proposal, jeopardizing their ability to remain competitive in the Division. The men have won seven NCAA Division I titles.
Yale ice hockey coach Tim Taylor said he also opposes the proposal.
“A majority of the [Division III] schools are unfamiliar with the impact this legislation would have on the cultures of these schools,” Taylor said. “These schools are such an important part of the college hockey tradition. It is unfair to these schools, and it would be a shame to all hockey schools.”
John McCardell, president of Middlebury College and chairman of the Division III President’s Council, said the 424-school Division III membership has pushed for this reform.
“If there is a single, core principle that binds Division III institutions together, it is not giving athletic scholarships,” McCardell said in an interview with USA Today. “This is part of an attempt to bring our practices into harmony with our philosophy. We think the time has come to lift the exception, but we want the membership to decide and to allow the institutions involved to be able to state their case.”
The proposal would not affect Union College, another Division III school playing Division I hockey in the ECAC, because it does not offer athletic scholarships.
Hobart College, whose lacrosse program has been in Division I since 1995, does not award athletic scholarships. Athletics Director Mike Hanna opposes the proposed reform even though his program would not be affected, but he does see a conflict with Division III schools giving out athletic scholarships.
The President’s Council will have one more meeting in October before the Division III conference in January, when the entire Division membership will vote on the proposal.
At the meeting, the eight schools will bring their arguments before the Council in attempt to convince McCardell and others to amend the proposed reform package before it goes to a membership-wide vote.