The University of Hartford men's basketball team made history last month as the program’s first team to make it to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Division I tournament but now they're wondering if that team has a future.
“A week and a half, two weeks after we had come back from March Madness and we didn't really get a chance to celebrate,” said Hartford men’s basketball junior guard DJ Mitchell.
Mitchell said that’s when he and student athletes around campus found out that the school is considering a move from Division I athletics to Division III.
“Throughout all of this there has been no transparency,” said Mitchell. “Something gets leaked and then we find out about it and then we're reacting to it.”
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First the independent study by CarrSports Consulting that was leaked last week. The report said the school loses $13 million a year on sports and outlines the move to DIII. This week, it was emails between the school’s president and one of the university’s professors. During an exchange, which was accidentally shared during an online class that was then screenshotted by students, President Gregory Woodward appears to solicit support for the move and said “let me and the spin doctors do the numbers"."
“The language in there, to me, sounded like he made his mind up already,” said men’s basketball graduate student Traci Carter.
“Just sounds like they've been planning this and they're doing whatever they can to, or the 'spin doctors' are doing whatever they can to persuade the people making the decision,” said Mitchell.
The university says no decision has been made and if any changes were to happen, they would honor all current scholarships. Whatever the next steps are, the athletes know what they want: “communication and consideration,” said Carter.
“It's mind blowing how this all started with a couple of rumors,” said men’s basketball senior Matt Hobbs.
Rumors they're worried will hurt the immediate Division I future of the program by deterring recruits.
“Now we have to not only recruit them but convince them, ‘hey trust in this program’,” said Mitchell.
Asking for trust in a program these current Hawks have fought to put on the map.
“This is now my third year at the University of Hartford,” said Mitchell. “I can't imagine going somewhere else, but he wants to change it.”
On Thursday, Woodward sent letters to members of the UHart community that said he intends to meet with coaches and student-athletes in the next week.