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Schumer Supporting Fight Against NCAA Proposal 65

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, January 9, 2004

TROY - Saying that the future of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute men's hockey program was at stake, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Thursday offered his support in the college's effort to defeat Proposal 65 at Monday's NCAA convention in Nashville, Tenn.

Proposal 65 affects eight NCAA Division III schools that play a sport at the Division I level and offer athletic scholarships.

If passed, the proposal would eliminate the waiver that allows the eight schools - RPI, Clarkson (hockey), Colorado College (hockey ), Hartwick (soccer), Johns Hopkins (lacrosse), Oneonta (soccer), Rutgers-Newark (volleyball) and St. Lawrence (hockey) - to offer athletic scholarships. It could force those schools to decide if they want to continue to compete at Division I without the scholarships.

"We're getting quite close," Schumer said during a 20-minute news conference at Houston Field House. "We're at the end of the third period in RPI's battle to keep the hockey team just where it is, in Division I hockey."

Schumer was joined at the news conference by RPI athletic director Ken Ralph, coach Dan Fridgen, co-captains Ben Barr and Scott Basiuk, Troy Mayor Harry Tutunjian and RPI vice president of student life Eddie Knowles.

Several RPI fans also attended the press conference. "For so many families in the Capital Region, Friday night in the winter is right here watching hockey," Schumer said. "Men's hockey has been, for over a hundred years, an enormously popular winter sport for RPI fans in the Capital Region."

Schumer also talked about RPI's economic and social importance to the area. He spoke of the Engineers' hosting several NCAA hockey tournaments at Pepsi Arena.

"Nearly 100,000 fans generate roughly $10 million for the local economy," Schumer said. "The fact that RPI has done so well in hockey has helped secure the East Regional tournament in 2004 and 2006, and that's huge.

"But in addition to the economic benefit, there's the benefits to the heart and the soul. Just the ability to root for a team that is so fine and does so well, that's part of life. We don't want that part of life taken away from us in the Capital Region."

Five of the universities affected by this legislation are located in New York state, and that caught Schumer's attention.

He is sending letters to the presidents of the 47 New York state schools that support Division III sports urging them to vote against Proposal 65 and support Proposal 65-1, which would allow the eight schools to keep the athletic scholarships while, at the same time, close some loopholes in the existing legislation.

Asked if he can persuade those presidents, Schumer said yes.

"New York has over 10 percent of the colleges in Division III," Schumer said. "Most of those college presidents I know, and many of them I've been able to help their colleges one way or the other. . . . I have a pretty good name and reputation with them. It's no sweat off their backs to vote our way."

Basiuk, a senior defenseman, was impressed with Schumer.

"It's great to see important people that have power to come and really help us out," said Basiuk, whose team will host Capital Region rival Union tonight at 7. "It's great to meet a guy like that. Just to see that he really cares, it's a blessing to have him here."