Speaking to an audience at Rensselaer’s Russell Sage Laboratory building last week, NCAA president Myles Brand, a graduate of RPI, sounded a hopeful tone that the scholarship issue hanging over some Division I hockey schools could be worked out.
A January vote is pending that would strip Division III schools that “play up” into a Division I sport of the ability to award athletic scholarships. The proposal is part of a sweeping Division III athletics reform package.
Most directly affected are D-I hockey schools Colorado College, St. Lawrence, Clarkson and RPI, and longtime lacrosse powerhouse Johns Hopkins.
“There is a hurricane of reforms out there, and I think institutions like RPI and Johns Hopkins have been caught up in the waves,” said Brand, in a lecture entitled “The Ethical and Academic Challenges of College Sports.”
“I think there is a better than 50 percent chance that [scholarship reform] won’t pass,” Brand said.
The philosophy behind all of the proposals is to get Division III athletics back in line with its goals. Proponents of the scholarship reform portion claim that Division III schools that play up into a Division I sport, get unfair advantages in other sports because of the prestige gained by playing in Division I, though no evidence has been offered to support that position.
Brand said that the school that play Division I hockey are models of academic integrity.
“At RPI, the hockey athletes graduate at a rate of 77 percent, compared to 74 percent for the general student body,” he said. “Based on the last federal graduation rate, in 1997-98, all Division I athletes graduated at a rate of 59 percent, compared to 62 percent for other students.”