In the immortal words of the late Bob Johnson, January 12,
2004 was indeed a “great day for hockey” for four NCAA schools’ hockey programs
(Clarkson, Colorado College, RPI and St. Lawrence) whose fate hung in the
balance of a division wide vote.
This past weekend, the entire membership of the NCAA’s
Division III held their convention in Nashville and the culmination was a vote
that took place on Monday on a variety of issues that made up a sweeping reform
package to Division III.
The most publicized and hotly contested issue within the
package evolved around Proposition 65. If passed, it would put an end to the
waiver (that was passed back in the 1982-83 school year) that allows schools
that “play up” in Division I in one sport to offer athletic scholarships. The
proposition would have affected a total of eight schools. Four of the eight
schools “play up” in Division I in Men’s Ice Hockey: Clarkson University,
Colorado College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and St. Lawrence
University. Both Clarkson and St. Lawrence also have Division I Women’s Ice
Hockey programs that would’ve also been affected. All four schools vehemently
opposed Proposition 65. RPI and NCAA Lacrosse powerhouse Johns Hopkins University
spearheaded a grassroots campaign to urge other Division III members to vote
against Proposition 65. Among the ideas that were set in motion included a
“Stop Prop 65” website, where over 8,000 visitors signed a petition expressing
their opposition to the proposal and RPI’s Houston Fieldhouse (where the RPI
Men’s Ice Hockey team call home) hosted a press conference by New York Senator
Charles Schumer, who threw his support behind the schools to oppose Proposition
To counter Proposition 65, the eight schools later tabled an
“amendment” called Proposition 65-1, which would “grandfather” the original
Proposition 65 proposal.
On Monday, January 12th
the votes were cast. The amendment Proposition 65-1 passed by a vote of 296-106
with 17 abstentions. As a result of the amendment’s passage, the original
Proposition 65 was revised to allow those schools granted by the 1982-83 waiver
that “play up” in Division I in certain sports to continue to do so
permanently, including the ability to offer scholarships. Furthermore, it would
no longer allow any more schools the ability to “play up” in Division I as well
as offer athletic scholarships. The revised version of Proposition 65 was then
put to a vote where it passed 304-89 with 18 abstentions.
To understand just how much of an effect that this
proposition would have had on these schools’ hockey programs, if the amendment
Proposition 65-1 had failed, one need not look no further than the rich
traditions and history that these four schools hockey programs have. The four
schools have all had Men’s Division I Ice Hockey programs for 65 or more years.
In the case of RPI, their hockey program is already over 100 years old.
Colorado College hosted the first ten NCAA championships dating back to 1948 as
well as won two national titles. Clarkson has made 34 NCAA playoffs appearances
and St. Lawrence has made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances, mostly
recently a Frozen Four berth in the 1999-2000 season.
The four hockey programs have also had an impact on the National
Hockey League. Several current and former players, coaches and general managers
are alumni of these programs. Among them are former player and current Los
Angeles Kings general manager Dave Taylor (Clarkson), current Ottawa Senators
head coach Jacques Martin (St. Lawrence), current Edmonton Oilers center Adam
Oates (RPI) and current San Jose Sharks defenseman Tom Preissing (Colorado
College). In addition, there are many NHL drafted prospects that currently play
in these programs. They include Clarkson defenseman Matt Nickerson (DAL), RPI goaltender Nathan Marsters (LA), St. Lawrence right winger John Zeiler (PHX) and two members of
Team USA’s gold-medal winning WJC squad from Colorado College: left winger Brett Sterling (ATL) and defenseman Mark Stuart (BOS).
The ECAC and WCHA conferences would also have been impacted.
All schools play in the ECAC, except Colorado College, who plays in the WCHA.
The ECAC would have had much to lose, because in addition to the Division I
status of four of its schools, the conference learned last week that current
ECAC member University of Vermont’s application for membership into the Hockey
East conference had been approved. Vermont will begin play in the Hockey East
conference in the 2005-06 season.
Another area that would have been impacted, according to the
opponents of Proposition 65, would have been the economy of the communities in
which these schools reside. Clarkson and St. Lawrence are in a section of New
York State known as the “North Country”. RPI is located in Troy, New York and
Colorado College is located in Colorado Springs. The popularity of the hockey
programs (in addition to their Division I status, which brings in other popular
Division I opponents such as Cornell and University of Minnesota) in these
schools also brings money into their respective communities.