Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts has dropped its men’s hockey program, effective immediately. Athletic director Scott Nichols said that the decision came in response to a significant budget reduction that the Division III NCAA institution will face this fiscal year.
MCLA, formerly North Adams State College, has had a varsity program since 1971 and was a member of the ECAC East. The team finished at or near the top of the ECAC East several times in the early 1980’s but has had just one winning season since 1986.
Current head coach Kevin McGonagle was 14-11-3 in 2001-2002, his first season behind the MCLA bench. The team advanced to the ECAC East finals that year, but fell to 5-15-3 last season and finished eighth. Forward Nick Cote, a junior last season, was a first-team ECAC East All-Star with 49 points and is expected to transfer to another school for his senior year.
The loss of MCLA leaves Skidmore short its travel partner in the combined ECAC East/NESCAC schedule. Nine schools remain in the ECAC East.
Hockey was MCLA’s most expensive athletic program to operate. A state budget cut and nearly $2 million dollars in repairs needed at the college’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink forced the decision, according to Nichols.
“We take great pride in our athletic programs and will maintain membership in the NCAA,” said Nichols, who said that he is working to establish new sports, such as men’s and women’s cross country, to maintain the five men’s and women’s sports required for NCAA membership.
Hockey is the only sport being cut at MCLA.
Nichols said that officials will work with students to explore the possibility of retaining hockey as club or intramural activity. According to Nichols, depending on the level of support hockey attracts on that level, MCLA may allow it to again become an NCAA intercollegiate program.
MCLA officials say they have informed current players of the decision regarding hockey and are working to ensure those who wish to play at other schools maintain their NCAA eligibility.
When asked about the future of McGonagle, Nichols said, “I really don’t have any answers for you. Kevin is still employed by the college at this time.”