Just weeks after the University of Hartford’s men’s basketball team made its first NCAA tournament, they and the rest of the Hawks student athletes are left wondering if they’ll have a future as Division I athletes at all.
School officials say they conducted a study to explore the possibility of moving athletics from Division I to Division III. The discussion, the school says, is about saving money and considering the academic experience of all of its students.
Wednesday, a leaked email exchange between the university’s president, Greg Woodward, and a colleague show the president apparently soliciting support for the move.
The exchange was accidentally shared over video chat during an online class and students took screenshots of it:
President Woodward (to Goldstein): "Use your voice. Write an editorial. Get Senate and other far groups to pass resolutions or write letters to the Courant in support of the move."
Goldstein: "I thank you for this wonderful response, Greg. I don't know how much organizing I can do, but I will definitely write something, hopefully for the Courant."
President Woodward: "Warren, it's best if you just speak to the Mission of the University and the disconnect that has grown over the years between D1 sports and the university mission. Be a faculty member with smart opinions on a more equitable experience for all your students, wellness, health, etc. It will be a part of the puzzle that needs to be said, and you can let me, and the spin doctors do the numbers."
In a statement to NBC Connecticut, the university said the emails were an "informal exchange" that included a "joking statement" and President Woodward regrets his choice of words.
When asked what he would say to student who do not view this as a joking matter, the school replied with another statement:
“He fully recognizes the anxiety this discussion has raised and will continue to reassure our student athletes of our commitment to them now and in the future,” it read. “President Woodward also reiterated his commitment to providing an exceptional academic and campus experience for all University of Hartford students. Our student-athletes excel on and off the court and are a source of great pride for UHart. We owe them only the absolute best in an educational experience.”
No decision has been made about the possible move to Division III, but the university said it would honor all current athletic scholarships.