NCAA passes legislation that will allow Union hockey programs to award athletic scholarships

Union's Michael Hodge takes a shot as Brown's Jackson Munro defends during Friday's ECAC Hockey game at Messa Rink.
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Union's Michael Hodge takes a shot as Brown's Jackson Munro defends during Friday's ECAC Hockey game at Messa Rink.

The Union men’s and women’s hockey teams will not only be able to compete with their opponents on the ice, they will also be able to do it off the ice.

Proposal 4, which grants multi-divisional programs the ability to apply all Division I legislation to its Division I programs, including financial aid, was passed by the NCAA Division III membership on Saturday at the NCAA convention in Indianapolis.

The vote was 388 in favor, 18 opposed and 39 abstained.

Each team will have 18 scholarships. The programs can begin awarding them beginning with the incoming 2022-23 class.

“We are gratified that the NCAA membership approved this measure, which puts Union College and institutions in similar situations on a level playing field with their Division I colleagues,” Union College President David Harris said in a press release. “For Union, being able to offer scholarships will greatly enhance our ability to compete at the highest level in men’s and women’s hockey, and to build on our proud history on the ice.

“Even more importantly, it provides another powerful tool that we can use to attract exceptional people to Union who are also outstanding students and athletes.”

In a telephone interview from Indianapolis, Union athletic director Jim McLaughlin was pleased with the outcome.

“This is a great day for Union hockey and for Union College,” McLaughlin said. “I’m happy for the programs, our college, our alumni, our fans and most importantly, our student-athletes and how this will benefit them in the future. This was a really long process that went about 18 months, and there were many, may contributors to this, which is how we do things at Union. It was a team effort, most notably the leadership of President David Harris and Vice President Fran’Cee Brown-McClure.

“Both President Harris and Vice-President McClure realized [hockey] is an integral part of the student experience. While the primary focus is academics at our institution, there’s a big piece of life outside the classroom that is really important to our students, and athletics is certainly a big piece of that.”

Union co-sponsored the legislation with RIT, another Division III institution that plays Division I men’s and women’s hockey. Union and RIT were the only two of the 59 Division I men’s hockey teams and 41 women’s hockey teams not offering scholarships. Other Division III schools like RPI, Clarkson and St. Lawrence have been able to award athletic scholarships for their hockey programs.

Union elevated its men’s hockey program from Division III to Division I in 1991 when it replaced Army in ECAC Hockey. The women’s program went from Division III to Division I in 2003. Despite not having the ability to award athletic scholarships, the Dutchmen had great success last decade, winning four ECACH regular season titles, three straight ECACH tournament championships and making five NCAA tournament appearances. They reached the Frozen Four in 2012 and 2014, winning the national championship in 2014.

The women’s program will especially benefit. Since joining the Division I ranks, the Dutchwomen have never had a winning record, nor have they ever made the ECACH tournament.

“It’s a great day for all of the programs,” Union women’s head coach Josh Sciba said in a text message. “There has been so much time and effort that has gone into making this a reality for our program and we want to thank everyone that has been involved. The best part about this new legislation is that not only do we give our programs an opportunity to get better, but men’s/women’s hockey get better as well. Our staff is extremely grateful to be part of this special day and we’re looking forward to the future.”

The relaxing of students transferring schools and not having to sit out a year has also affected college sports. That was a factor in why Union co-sponsored the legislation with RIT. Both schools compete in the Division III Liberty League.

“With the major change in the transfer portal and what we have seen in the past year, that was a key piece to pushing this forward,” McLaughlin said. 

In its press release, the school said providing scholarships will not curtail other campus priorities. To offset the costs of the scholarships, a campaign to establish an endowment from Union’s energized base of hockey donors will provide the additional funding needed in perpetuity for the increased costs from the current need-based aid allocation available to all students.

Three other Division III schools with a Division I program were also affected by the vote: Franklin & Marshall (wrestling), Hobart (men’s lacrosse) and MIT (women’s crew).

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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