LOUDONVILLE — After doing so for 40 seasons, Siena College will no longer support a field hockey team.
The school announced Monday night it had discontinued the program because of funding and facility issues. Siena athletic director John D’Argenio said he met with the program’s players early Monday evening to deliver that news to them.
“As you can imagine, there was a lot of women that were upset,” D’Argenio said of how that meeting went.
The team had 16 players with eligibility remaining, and D’Argenio said any athletic-related aid previously promised to those players will continue if they remain at Siena. The school will also honor the three National Letters of Intent that had been signed by incoming freshman.
“It’s not their fault,” D’Argenio said of the team’s players in relation to the program’s demise. “It’s on us that we’re not able to support it.”
D’Argenio said the decision to end the field hockey program came after the athletic department finished its piece of a campus-wide review that’s part of the college’s strategic plan.
“Every department is going through program reviews,” D’Argenio said, “and one of the goals and objectives was how do we better invest in our strategic plan . . . and part of that is making decisions and divesting so we can reinvest.”
D’Argenio said money saved from ending the field hockey program will remain with funding women’s sports. Not including field hockey, Siena’s athletic department now supports 21 programs, a dozen of which are women’s teams.
“Our proportionality is very good,” D’Argenio said in response to a question about how ending the field hockey program affects the school’s position relative to Title IX. “Our student body on campus is 52 percent [female] and now, without field hockey, our [percentage of] female athletes is just over 51 percent.”
Kara Zappone had been Siena’s head coach for the last six seasons. D’Argenio said she had resigned after last season and that the school had not replaced her.
“One of the things we’re doing on campus [is] when positions become open, they’re not filled immediately,” D’Argenio said. “We have to take a look at them, see if we have anybody that can supply that support in the interim until we fill the position.”
In its 40 seasons playing field hockey as a varsity sport, Siena compiled a 134-419-9 record. The program was 50-324 in its 25 years competing at the Division I level.
D’Argenio said the program’s lack of competitive success “wasn’t a factor” in the program’s cancellation. Instead, he cited field hockey’s status as an associate sport within the MAAC and the school’s continued inability to adequately fund the program in comparison to other MAAC schools as primary reasons for ending the program.
“We were at the bottom of just about every category in terms of scholarships, operating funds and coaching support,” D’Argenio said.
The school’s field turf artificial playing surface, D’Argenio said, was another factor driving up costs of continuing the field hockey program. Siena was one of six Division I programs not playing home games on an AstroTurf field, which made scheduling non-conference home games a challenge; in the last five seasons, Siena played 35 of 50 non-conference games off campus.
Siena has not scrapped a sport since football in 2004. D’Argenio said the athletic department’s review is complete and no other sport will be removed.
“What I can say is we did this strategically and it wasn’t just done haphazardly — and we did it so not only can we save money, but so we can also reinvest,” D’Argenio said.