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RPI Awaits Its Fate

NCAA to Vote on Proposal 65

By Ken Schott

Schenectady Daily Gazette, January 12, 2004

TROY - The possible loss of athletic scholarships could have been a major distraction to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute men's hockey team.

Judging by their third-place position in the ECAC standings and their improved play over last season's 12-25-3 record, the Engineers haven't worried about the ramifications if Proposal 65 is passed today at the NCAA convention in Nashville, Tenn.

Proposal 65 affects eight Division III schools that play a Division I sport and offer athletic scholarships. If the proposal passes, athletic scholarships will be eliminated for those schools, beginning with the 2008-09 season.

Besides RPI, the schools affected are Clarkson (hockey), Colorado College (hockey), Hartwick (soccer and water polo), Johns Hopkins (lacrosse), Oneonta (soccer), Rutgers-Newark (volleyball) and St. Lawrence (hockey).

RPI president Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson and athletic director Ken Ralph will lead the school delegation at the convention.

"We've been told since Day 1 that Mr. Ralph and Dr. Jackson have been doing everything they can in order to help us out," RPI senior forward and co-captain Ben Barr said during Thursday's press conference at Houston Field House, which featured Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., lending his support for the school.

"There's nothing much we can do during the season to help that out. But anything we can do, we love to help. But it hasn't been much of a distraction."

Senior defenseman and cocaptain Scott Basiuk agrees.

"It hasn't been in our control," Basiuk said. "It's something that came up through the higher ranks. That's Ken and the athletic department's job, and they've done a phenomenal job all year and kept it away from us and didn't allow us to get distracted at all."

Ralph and the seven other athletic directors are submitting an amendment to Proposal 65 called Proposal 65-1. This proposal would allow the eight schools to keep athletic scholarships and close some of the loopholes in the existing legislation.

Ralph believes Proposal 65-1 has a better chance of passing.

"It's always a better tact to take to ask people to be positive in support of something, rather than to be negative and to vote against something," Ralph said. "By proposing the amendment to the amendment, we can ask people to take a positive step, saying, 'This is your chance to vote with us. We're working with the Presidents' Council in this regard. We'd like you to vote for the amendment to the amendment.' People seem to like the positive approach."

Ralph is also hoping that RPI's long hockey tradition, as well as the tradition and reputation of the other seven schools, will help in defeating Proposal 65.

"We have 102 years of Division I ice hockey history here at Rensselaer," Ralph said. "It's important for us to maintain our tradition, and to also be able to offer our students the opportunity to earn a Rensselaer education while still being able to pursue all of their other goals in life, including the opportunity to play Division I ice hockey."