D-III Proposal Threatens D-I Future of 4 Hockey Schools

The Division I future of four of the nation’s most storied programs has been threatened by a proposal that has swept through Division III.

As part of a sweeping reform package, the Division III President’s Council has recommended a proposal that would eliminate the ability for Division III schools that “play up” in one sport to award scholarships.

NCAA rules allow for a Division III school to “play up” to Division I in one men’s and one women’s sport. Currently, five such schools play up in men’s hockey: Colorado College, St. Lawrence, Clarkson, Rensselaer and Union. Of the five, all but Union awards athletic scholarships. In addition to men’s hockey, schools in a number of other sports are also affected, such as lacrosse powerhouse Johns Hopkins.

Schools in such a situation already face many restrictions imposed upon them by the Division I membership, including the inability to be represented on NCAA committees, and a restriction on the money earned from participation in NCAA tournaments.

There is currently a moratorium on non-D-I schools moving a program to the D-I ranks.

The proposal faces just one more step for passage, the vote of the full membership of Division III at the next NCAA Convention in January. If passed, it would take effect beginning in the 2008-09 academic year. In the interim, schools will have a chance to comment and recommend amendments.

The proposal is actually part of a sweeping reform package intended to re-evaluate Division III practices compared to its stated philosophies. The other major portions of the package can be found in the accompanying box.

Of all the proposals, the only one not passed unanimously was the one that eliminates scholarships for D-I programs from D-III schools.

“The reform package voted today is the result of a serious and sustained effort involving a broad consultation within the membership,” said John McCardell, chair of the Division III Presidents Council and president of Middlebury College. “There has been some doubt voiced in some quarters about the ability of a division as large and as diverse as ours to do anything more than tinker around the edges of reform. This package suggests not only a willingness but an ability to do more — and to do it in a holistic manner.

The gist of the legislation has been the feeling that many schools were straying from the Division III philosophy. There has even been talk of splitting in half, with some schools forming a Division IV, where athletics are not as emphasized.

“Throughout this process we have been guided by not only the belief but the necessity that we need to bring our practices in line with our philosophy. This process has required us to examine our philosophy, and through this package of proposals, to reaffirm it. Our focus has been and remains not on ‘current problems’ but on our future direction.”

Should the legislation pass, the options for the four schools would be to continue playing in Division I without scholarships, move to Division III, or move the entire athletic program to Division II or I.