NCAA votes to allow union hockey to offer scholarships
Indianapolis, Indiana (NEWS10) – NCAA Division III members voted Saturday to allow all multidivisional institutions to apply Division I rules to their Division I programs, including financial aid. This change will allow Union to offer athletic scholarships to its men’s and women’s Division I ice hockey teams for the first time.
The members’ long-awaited decision came at the NCAA’s annual meeting in Indianapolis. The vote was 388 to 18, with 39 abstentions.
The scholarship opportunity is arguably the most pivotal moment in Union ice hockey history since the 1991 decision for the men’s team to move from Division III to Division I. The women’s program has followed in 2003.
“We are pleased that NCAA members have approved this measure, which places Union College and similar institutions on an equal footing with their Division I colleagues,” said President David R. Harris. “For Union, being able to provide scholarships will greatly enhance our ability to compete at the highest level in men’s and women’s hockey and build on our proud history on the ice.
“Most importantly, it provides another powerful tool that we can use to attract exceptional people to Union who are also exceptional students and athletes.”
Union and the Rochester Institute of Technology were the only schools of the 59 female Division I hockey participants that were not allowed to offer scholarships under ancient legislation. Both schools have applied to the NCAA for a waiver that would allow them to offer scholarships.
For years, multidivisional schools (which play men’s and women’s Division I ice hockey but compete in Division III in all other sports) have been able to compete without scholarships. However, the changing dynamics of college sports have upended the competitive landscape.
One of the biggest changes came last spring, when the NCAA relaxed its transfer rules, allowing all varsity athletes to transfer once without having to sit out a season. The exception to transfer from one Division I school to another had been available to athletes from other varsity sports for years, but the change meant it now applied to soccer, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s ice hockey and baseball.
The policy instantly put Union at a distinct disadvantage. Union Hockey programs pride themselves on being able to fill their rosters with strong players who are also outstanding students in their four years. Under the new transfer rules, however, student-athletes can start their careers at Union, gain valuable playing experience before entering the transfer portal, and become eligible to play the following season for a school that offers scholarships.
The petition has received support from all NCAA Division I member conferences that sponsor men’s and women’s ice hockey, as well as the American Hockey Coaches Association, the Hockey Commissioners Association and the Liberty League. The groups argued that the waiver protects the competitive spirit of the sport and upholds one of the fundamental principles of the association outlined in the NCAA Principle of Competitive Fairness.
Supporters also pointed to the recent Supreme Court decision in Alston v. NCAA, which unanimously ruled that the NCAA could not restrict education-related benefits, including athletic scholarships and participation fees.
“We’re just looking to provide opportunities for our student-athletes and programs that are compatible with the Division I hockey landscape,” the athletic director said. Jim McLaughlin ’93.
Currently, 10 NCAA schools compete primarily in Division III, but also offer sports at the Division I level. Of these, five offer scholarships, four with hockey programs: Clarkson University, Colorado College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and St. Lawrence University. The other multidivisional institution that offers scholarships is Johns Hopkins University, for men’s and women’s lacrosse.
Saturday’s vote means the five banned from offering scholarships at the Division I level can now join the other schools if they choose. Besides Union and RIT for hockey, the other schools are Franklin and Marshall (men’s wrestling), Hobart and William Smith College (men’s lacrosse), and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (women’s team).
College officials emphasize that awarding scholarships will not reduce other campus priorities. To offset scholarship costs, a campaign to create an endowment from the Union’s vibrant hockey donor base will provide the additional funding needed in perpetuity for the increased costs of the current aid-based allocation. needs available to all students.