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Daron Montgomery, Saint Anselm director of Athletics, told The Crier that “for the foreseeable future, the college will remain an active member of the Northeast-10 Conference [in NCAA Division II].” That could mean increased stability and improved numbers in admitted and retained student-athletes.
College administration officials met Oct. 25 with all faculty academic advisors to discuss the divisional status.
“The purpose of our meeting with faculty and staff was to provide an update on athletics and inform them of our intent to remain in the Northeast-10 for the foreseeable future. Pre-registration and advising [began] the week of Oct. 31, and we wanted to prepare faculty members for questions they might receive from student-athletes,” explained Montgomery.
Montgomery also added “President [Steven] DiSalvo and I both spoke to the group and answered questions. It was very productive and well received by those who attended.”
One question that may arise in regards to athletics is what the college is planning to do with the varsity ice hockey programs when Saint Anselm’s contract with the New England Hockey Conference (NEHC) expires after the 2016-2017 season.
“There are several institutions which will no longer be recognized by the NEHC at the end of this academic year. We are currently working with the NE-10 conference commissioner, our coaches and those other schools on schedule plans for 2017-18 and beyond. Our goal is to find a solution which will be beneficial for both current and future ice hockey student-athletes, [and] for both the men’s and women’s teams,” Montgomery told The Crier.
The college originally applied to enter an exploratory phase of membership in NCAA Division III in August of 2015. At that time, the college had made the decision to stop offering athletic scholarships for new recruits in accordance to Division III guidelines.
All students who were awarded athletic scholarships before this decision was made were guaranteed to continue to receive the aid, as long as they met all of the academic and athletic requirements of their specific awards.
Elizabeth Keuffel, Saint Anselm director of financial aid, told The Crier that at the time, the college chose not to award athletic scholarships to incoming students in an effort to expedite the process of being eligible for conference and post-season play within a Division III conference.
In order to become a full member of a Division III conference, the college would have needed to wait until there were no more enrolled students receiving athletic scholarships. According to the original timeline announced in August of 2015 by Dr. DiSalvo, Saint Anselm would have become full members of Division III by the fall of 2020 if they were accepted into a conference.
This past April, it was announced that Saint Anselm had submitted an application to join the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC), a Division III conference headquartered in Boston, MA, however the Hawks were not accepted into the conference.
In May, the college announced that it would reinstate athletic scholarships effective for incoming fall of 2017 recruits.
Keuffel told The Crier that these recruits would begin signing a National Letter of Intent, to commit to Saint Anselm, on Nov. 9.
According to Keuffel, men’s and women’s basketball have ten full scholarships in each of their budgets, and the rest of the teams that offer athletic aid have partial scholarships.
Eric Nichols, Saint Anselm vice president for enrollment and dean of admission, was among the college administrators present at the meeting with faculty advisors. He is also a member of the recently formed Athletic Director’s Advisory Group.
Nichols told The Crier that the college’s continued exploration into moving divisions could create “uncertainty in the minds of students looking at the school that are thinking about athletics.”
“This past year, we did enroll fewer recruited athletes than in the past, and that was primarily because we were in that transitional exploratory year,” Nichols continued.
He said the college reinstating athletic scholarships “will create more stability with recruited athletes, and so we’re anticipating we’re going to see levels move back up, similar to years past with respect to how many students enroll that are athletes.”
In terms of keeping enrollment of student-athletes up, Nichols said that “long term from an admissions stand point, you can make it work if it’s Division II, you can make it work if it’s Division III. The bigger issue is that whatever you choose, you stick with it, and it’s stable.”
He also said that it matters “what company you keep. I think it makes a difference to recruited athletes about what conference they are in, who they are going to be playing against, so that definitely is an important factor.”
Nichols added that “one advantage of staying in Division II for now is we are surrounded by schools that students are already looking at to begin with, from an admissions stand point. So they’re looking at Stonehill, Saint Michael’s, and Assumption.”
All three are institutions, similar in enrollment size to Saint Anselm, in the Northeast-10 Conference.
“If we are going to be moving away from that to Division III down the road, we want to make sure that we are surrounding ourselves with likeminded schools as well. I think part of the issue with the athletic transition has been that we have been unable to find that home. Whether it’s an existing league, or the potential of creating a league,” Nichols continued.
“I don’t believe the college is satisfied with just standing pat. I think they want to continue to find the right long-term future home. That includes conference as well as division,” Nichols concluded.