University of Hartford student-athletes aren’t ready to drop out of Division I.
According to the Hartford Courant, more than 100 students marched on the West Hartford, Conn., campus Monday to protest the athletic department potentially moving down from NCAA Division I to Division III.
The topic stems from a report saying moving to Division III would save Hartford about $10 million each year. WTNH reported last week that the university partnered with Carr Sports Consulting over the winter to conduct a feasibility study on Division I athletics. The study found that the school loses roughly $13 million annually on its athletics program.
The Hartford men’s basketball team competed in the NCAA tournament for the first time ever last month, suffering a 79-55 first-round loss to eventual champion Baylor.
“Everyone thinks you make the tournament you hit the jackpot. We didn’t get a cent from the tournament and congratulations to our great kids but we are losing money doing this,” Hartford president Gregory Woodward said. “I don’t think what the world understands is that everyone who plays Division-I sports loses money, except for about 22 schools. There are about 350 schools in Division-I, only 23 make money the rest of us lose.”
Related content: After Making First D-I Tourney, Hartford Considers D-III
The athletes protesting Monday feel like there’s more at stake. The Courant reported that Megan Anderson, a senior volleyball player and co-president of Hartford’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, helped organize the march.
“My teammates are my family, so I don’t want them to have to go through this or deal with this, and I want them to have the great college experience that I have been so fortunate to have the last four years,” Anderson said, noting she chose Hartford for its Division I status and downgrading to Division III would decrease the college experience.
Monday’s protest fits with a Change.org petition that has more than 5,000 signatures asking Hartford to remain in Division I.
“We are passionate contributors to a great university. We are especially proud of our successful Division I athletic department! We work hard to either compete in, or to support our 19 Division I sports, in many cases, doing both. We are members of many races and religions. We come from all 50 states and an equal amount of countries. We are both a neighborhood and a nation. We back each other emotionally, spiritually, and financially,” the petition reads. “We are proud of our many Division I athletic successes: our NCAA Tournament appearances, our league championships, our individual achievements, and our lifelong relationships. We give extensive and positive regional, national, and international visibility to the University of Hartford. Our student-athletes not only succeed on the field but in the classroom as well. We are all dedicated to lifting up members of our community, especially the members who lean on us for strength. Many of the undersigned either pay tuition or donate significantly to our institution.
“We are proud of the legacy set forth by Hartford student-athletes and supporters who have come before us. They set the bar very high.
“We are strong, unified, supportive of each others’ achievements, and resolute in our commitment to continued Division I success and growth. We will not settle for anything less!”
Related content: Title IX Lawyers to UConn: Reinstate Rowing or We Sue