Hopkins ready to lobby on exemption

Division III council vote turns up heat in effort to keep status quo in sport

College Lacrosse

November 01, 2003|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

One day after the NCAA's Division III Presidents Council took another step toward eliminating scholarships for eight schools that compete in Division I in a limited number of sports, Johns Hopkins athletic director Tom Calder remained confident his school can retain its combination of Division III membership and scholarships for lacrosse.

Calder said Hopkins had hoped that the council would withdraw the proposal that would require Division III schools to phase out athletic scholarships after 2008, but that request was rejected by a vote of 9-3 Thursday.

Now, lobbying efforts fall to the eight schools that have teams competing at the Division I level -- including highly successful programs at Colorado College (men's hockey and women's soccer) and St. Lawrence (men's and women's hockey) -- before the issue goes to a vote during the four-day NCAA Convention starting Jan. 9.

"That is going to be an issue that's going to require a lot of education and discussion," Calder said yesterday, "and a lot of it will take place before the convention, getting to athletic directors and presidents."

At the moment, that means the group plans to make regular conference calls and distribute a brochure to the other 416 Division III schools in an effort to preserve an exemption enjoyed by the eight schools since the division banned athletic scholarships in 1983.

The drive to eliminate scholarships from Division III schools is an element of a nine-part reform package introduced in August. The council also recommended limiting athletes to a four-year window of participation and cutting the number of athletic events in a season by 10 percent.

Before the initial proposal, Hopkins and similar schools thought that the grandfather clause introduced in 1983 might be extended. But after Thursday's vote, Middlebury College president and council chairman John McCardell said that if the affected schools wants to continue offering scholarships, they should move up to Division II.

"What defines Division III is that we do not give scholarships," said McCardell. "There was not a compelling case to keep this exception."

Hopkins does not intend to drop to Division III in lacrosse if the proposal passes. If it does, the school would compete in the sport in Division I without scholarships, or keep lacrosse scholarships and move the remainder of its programs to Divisions I or II.

But most of the group of eight's energies are focused on convincing other Division III schools that viable, multi-divisional membership -- with full scholarships for the exempt Division I sports -- is worth saving. With the centennial of its program coming next spring, Hopkins' competitiveness in lacrosse is something that Calder described as being "in our history, in our culture."

Calder said the group enjoys support along the East Coast because of the awareness of the prominence of Hopkins and St. Lawrence in lacrosse and hockey, respectively.

"Now our responsibility is to get to schools in the other parts of the country, where people don't understand the history of lacrosse at Johns Hopkins," he said. "They may not understand that we finished second in Division I and the historical significance of what we do now. Those are the people we need to get to."

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