With the concern over athletic scholarships now passed, Rensselaer officially announced its intention to elevate the level of its women’s hockey program to the Division I level.
A Division III proposal that would have eliminated the ability of schools that “play up” in one sport to give athletic scholarships, was amended at the NCAA Convention in Nashville. Instead, the eight schools that already have that distinction were grandfathered, and will be allowed to continue offering scholarships for one sport in each gender.
The legislation also allows schools to add one Division I scholarship in the other gender. Since RPI already has a men’s program, with the amendment passed, it can now procede with upgrading its women’s program.
“We have been evaluating our options for moving a women’s varsity sport to Division I for some time,” said RPI president Shirley Ann Jackson. “We have a great tradition in ice hockey, making it an appropriate choice as a Division I sport at Rensselaer.
Jackson noted that the school is developing a timeline, and will eventually apply for inclusion in the ECAC women’s league.
“I am thrilled and the members of the women’s team are thrilled,” said Burke, who took over the women’s program after the sudden death of Bill Cahill in October. “We have an opportunity to carry out one of Bill’s goals, which was to compete successfully at the highest level, and we are elated.”
Rensselaer elevated its women’s hockey program from a club team to varsity beginning in the 1995-96 season. After only two seasons of sub-.500 records, the Engineers have posted winning marks every year since.
“It’s an exciting time at Rensselaer,” said school AD Ken Ralph. “With outstanding student-athletes, a top young head coach in John Burke, and our winning tradition, I believe we can make an impact at the Division I level in the not-too-distant future.”
Last season, RPI was 20-7 overall, 17-3 in the ECAC East, and advanced to the finals of the ECAC
East tournament. Individually, Cahill was named the league’s Coach of the Year, Julie Vallarelli was the Goaltender of the Year, and Julie Welte was honored as the Rookie of the Year.
This season, RPI is 10-2-2 overall and 6-1-0 in the ECAC East.