Yale will no longer offer the Yale Figure Skating Club discounted pricing to use Ingalls Rink, following the decision to adhere to a more stringent interpretation of NCAA rules regarding institutional sponsorship of local sports clubs.
According to NCAA Rule 126.96.36.199.3, University staff members are prevented from coaching prospective student-athletes. While YFSC has members from ages 4 to 77, including pre-college athletes, University administrators and club members diverged on whether the group is exempt from the regulation. Yale maintains that the rules prohibit the University from offering the club subsidized rates for ice time, and YFSC members argue that the club’s wide age range and the organization’s ties to the University warrant discounted fees.
“The Yale Figure Skating Club is a diverse community united by the love of figure skating,” computer science professor and YFSC vice president Michael Fischer told the News. “Clubs like ours are some of the ways of bringing the community together and making people really feel that they ‘belong at Yale.’”
The club currently boasts 153 members, ranging from young children to Yale professors. Around 80 percent of club members — or 122 skaters — are affiliated with the University. The others come from the greater New Haven community.
Last June, staff from the Yale Athletic Department — including Deputy Athletics Director of Internal Operations Wayne Dean, Associate Athletic Director of Compliance Jason Strong and Director of Rentals & Events Greg Zullo — met with YFSC’s board members and notified them of the change in fees. The three administrators said the club would have to pay market rates to use Ingalls Rink, a 23 percent increase from the current price.
The YFSC board and Yale Athletics Department traded emails for the rest of the summer, before ultimately agreeing that the club would continue paying the lower rates for another year. Still, the agreement left the price uncertain for future years.
Board members told the News that the negotiations took a toll on the club. The disputes forestalled the start of the club’s 2019–20 season and resulted in a significant drop in membership.
Fischer added that the club seems to have lost its priority for ice time. YFSC is forced to have a shorter season than it previously had, with only two 10-week terms this year. In the recent past, the club had four more weeks in its season, and in the distant past it had a 28-week season.
“We value our relationship with the club and always look forward to hosting its events in Ingalls Rink,” Strong and Vice Provost for Academic Resources J. Lloyd Suttle wrote in emails to the News. “Unfortunately, NCAA rules prohibit Yale to offer the club and certain other groups subsidized rates for ice time.”
Rashu Seth, who is an associate research scientist in immunobiology and YFSC board member, said that the University is interpreting the NCAA rules in the strictest possible way.
Seth added that Yale is not the most convenient option for figure skating because it is expensive compared to other rinks in the area and only offers practice time one to two days per week. Her nine-year-old daughter, an avid figure skater, has to have additional practices at other rinks, Seth explained. Still, the family continues to participate in the YFSC despite the cost and limited availability, she emphasized, because of the top-notch facilities and sense of community the club offers its members.
“We almost felt like we were representing Yale when we went out for competitions because my daughter has Yale FSC sweatshirts and we’re all part of the Yale community,” Seth said. “It just feels like home.”
Seth argued that while the club currently falls under the purview of the Yale Athletics Department and NCAA, competitive sports teams and recreational organizations should be categorized separately.
Yale’s expansive interpretation of the NCAA rule has also affected other organizations. An NCAA rule prohibits players of “High School Age” — 14-U and older — from playing under a university name. As such, the Yale Youth Hockey Association’s 14-U through 18-U teams now use the name Junior Bulldogs. The association developed a new logo to represent the team, according to the organization’s website.
The YSFC is already looking toward next year’s season. The club’s future, however, remains on thin ice. The increased rate comes to 400 dollars per hour for the club. According to Fischer, many club members will be unable to accomodate the price hike, and the organization may not be able to afford to run sessions next year under the proposed price increase.
“I can’t afford that, and I’m going to leave,” Seth said of the higher rates.
She remains confident, however, that the University and club can negotiate a compromise. She affirmed that the club wants to continue its connection to the University and Yale’s facilities.
“We hope Yale will see the value of continuing to provide affordable recreational figure skating opportunities to the Yale and greater New Haven communities,” Fischer said. “To the extent that NCAA rules prohibit the Club from continuing as it has in the past, we hope that Yale will work with the Club to find avenues of financial support to allow the Club to exist in the future. This will require the serious cooperation of several campus offices.”
The Yale Figure Skating Club began operating 45 years ago.
Rose Horowitch | rose.horowitch.@yale.edu