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Framework for Change
August 2001
Authors Unknown




UVM Athletic Mission Statement

Intercollegiate athletics at the University of Vermont promotes the personal development of student-athletes by providing a comprehensive, competitive, and equitable program of varsity sports opportunities to a diverse population of highly skilled athletes. As an integral part of the University, Intercollegiate Athletics actively promotes equitable opportunities for students, faculty, and staff including minorities and women, fosters the pursuit of academic excellence, and provides community enrichment.

Background

For over 100 years The University of Vermont's program of Intercollegiate Varsity Sports has been a source of pride for the Institution, the State of Vermont, as well as thousands of students, alumni, and fans. UVM's philosophy has always emphasized both academic and competitive success. UVM student athletes are, in aggregate, excellent academic performers, consistently posting higher grade point averages and graduation rates than the student body at large. UVM can point to some truly outstanding athletic accomplishments by teams and individuals. Our skiing program's success frequently provides national recognition as it competes annually for the NCAA National Championship, winning this title four times in the past 10 years. The women's basketball program consistently battles for the top spot in the America East Conference Championship and the women represented America East in four NCAA Tournaments in the past nine years. Men's ice hockey and soccer, on occasion, reach for and attain significant pockets of success on a national level, as does the women's track and field program. In addition, UVM proudly strives to provide equitable opportunities for women and men student-athletes in its Intercollegiate Varsity Sports program.

The University takes tremendous pride in its ability to provide the maximum number of varsity athletic opportunities for the greatest number of students. UVM, with 27 varsity sport programs, ranks first in sports offerings in America East; the average number of sports sponsored by the other nine schools in the conference is 19.7. UNH follows UVM with 24 varsity sports. While many schools across the country and in our conference and region recently eliminated programs, UVM's offerings actually increased with the addition of women's ice hockey. The last sport elimination occurred with football in 1974.

While this sounds good, when looked at through a different lens, the resources invested in our Athletic program rank last in the America East Conference by almost all measurements. For example, UVM's overall athletic budget of 3.2 million is 1.3 million less than any other Conference school and 4.9 million below the Conference average of 8.1 million. UVM also provides the fewest number of scholarships in the Conference (46 in comparison to a league average of 94.3) and has the smallest administrative staff of any America East school. In short, Athletics attempts to do much with very few resources.

The NCAA Division I philosophy statement, while not binding, provides a guide for Division I schools. It states that as a member of Division I, schools should "strive in their athletic program for regional and national excellence and prominence. Accordingly, its recruitment of student-athletes and its emphasis on and support of its athletics programs are, in most cases, regional and national in scope." While UVM does fund certain programs at levels that support this type of success, many others operate at the absolute minimal level to maintain Division I status. This lack of support makes it nearly impossible for our athletes to compete successfully.

During the past several years a combination of factors, both internal and external, changed the landscape in which UVM Athletic operates. As a result of these changes, the varsity athletic program must alter its programming to meet its mission and continue to serve the interests of the University, its students, and the larger UVM community. This retooling requires the maintenance of an equitable program for women and men within which the proper balance is struck between quantity and quality, tradition and progress.

External Factors

1. Changes in NCAA Scheduling Requirements and Emergence of Conference Scheduling

No longer can you schedule non-Division I institutions which increases travel costs considerably.

2. Competitor School's Title IX Compliance Efforts Extensive levels of financial aid have been instituted by football playing schools to comply with Title IX. Our women's programs without scholarships just can't compete!

3. Growth, Geographic Diversity and Increased Competitiveness of Conference Schools

As the America East shifts so does the costs of operation for travel, meals, and lodging.

Internal Factors

1. Budget Cuts

Athletics Department cuts have been sustained at 560k FY 92-95 and 354k FY01-03.

2. Facility Issues

Next to scholarship dollars, excellent facilities are an institutions number one recruiting tool. We desperately need an artificial surface, track, pool, and playing fields renovation. (Discussed in more detail under the plan.)

3. Combination of Large Number of Sports and Limited Resources and Staffing

The need for the best possible support will require fewer activities and/or more staff on each level.

The Case for Change

UVM Athletics can no longer sustain the existing varsity program at an acceptable Division I level, particularly if we hope to maintain competitive success and make additional investment in our most visible Tier 3 programs. The factors listed above irreversibly alter the picture, both financially and competitively, for UVM Athletics. If one looked at the levels of competitive success achieved by UVM teams over the years, one sees a disturbing trend which points to diminishing levels of success in many of our poorly funded Tier 1 & 2 varsity sports programs. While students, regardless of their team's level of success, often rate their experiences highly, this trend is of concern for a variety of reasons:

1) Adherence to mission statement.

UVM Athletics' mission statement describes a "competitive program of varsity-level sports opportunities for highly-skilled student athletes." Certain varsity sports programs at UVM no longer compete well at the Division I level and coaches struggle to attract "highly skilled" student-athletes, capable of competing at this level. While terms like "competitive" and "highly skilled" are endlessly interpretable, with inferior levels of funding, more budget cuts on the way, and a stated commitment to first enhancing Tier 3 programs, little prospect remains for some of UVM sports programs to be competitive.

2) Winning is important.

UVM Athletic's mission includes the statement concerning the competitiveness of the sports program and UVM must strive to provide all student-athletes with the potential to achieve, at the very least, a minimal level of competitive success. Success reinforces the skills, both athletic and personal, which student-athletes learn through practice and competition.

In addition, the enhancement of the University's image and reputation occurs when student-athletes enjoy high levels of both academic and athletic success. Conversely, sponsoring sports where competitive success is lacking and/or poor academic performances abound diminish the University's image of quality and excellence. Undoubtedly, certain sports gain greater visibility and notoriety than others, and therefore effect a larger impact on institutional image, but a message of quality and excellence in every arena where UVM performs remains a goal for Athletics.

3) Strategic Use of Available Resources

Limited resources plague the department. Redistribution of these resources requires a reconfiguration of the sports offerings. Consideration of all the requirements for a program necessitates this change. Even programs with small budgets, such that money lost from NCAA revenue distribution would offset any savings, need scrutiny as decreased administrative and facility requirements would allow for enhancements to other programs.

Enrollment Management & Club Sports

Elimination of varsity sports programs raises legitimate concerns about the impact this decision may have on the enrollment management goals of the Universtiy. To varying degrees, all sports help to generate interest and applications to the University. Some sports generate as many as 76 applications and as many as 28 paid deposits. This does not include the number of students who apply or enroll without contacting the coach, but who hope to participate in athletics upon their arrival. How many of these students would no apply to or attend UVM if the sport disappeared from our program? What impact might fewer applicants have on the quality of those students accepted and enrolled? These difficult questions need to be thoroughly considered prior to final decisions. Certainly some sports generate more interest from prospective students than do others. The opportunity to participate on a Division I varsity level team drives the college decision making for some students, while for other students, even some who are on UVM's varsity teams, many other considerations influence the decision making process.

The addition of club teams, in some, if not all, of the sports that are dropped from varsity status might mitigate some of the perceived negative impact. The Student Government Association in conjunction with Athletics should study this issue. Club team participation opportunities may help reduce the number of student-athletes who transfer, and may minimize the negative impact on applications and enrollment. In addition, it may provide the University a unique opportunity to gain some needed control and supervision of club sport programs.

Criteria for Determination of Programs to be dropped from Varsity Status

Decision will be made with an emphasis on ensuring the following:

  • The University continues to sponsor an equitable program of varsity sports for women and men that is consistent with UVM's commitment to the principle of gender equity and that allows for full compliance with the requirements of Title IX.

  • A broad-based sponsorship of sports be offered to UVM students, spreading out across the traditional fall, winter and spring seasons and maintaining a mix of "team" and individual" sports.

  • The sports offerings reflect the importance of conference affiliation and provide for full participation in the America East Conference.

In determining which of the existing varsity sports programs will be eliminated from varsity status the following specific factors will be considered:

They are listed in no specific order.

  • Impact on enrollment management. This includes potential loss of applications, tuition revenue and general interest among prospective students.

  • Current level of competitive success of program and potential for success in the future given such factors as availability of quality talent in Vermont and our traditional recruiting region, quality of existing facilities at UVM, history of success and the compatibility of the sport to our location and environment.

  • Constituent (Stakeholder) interest. This includes interest of UVM's student body, faculty/staff, parents, friends of the University, local and national media, and the citizens of Vermont. This factor addresses the potential that exists for a program to positively impact the University through increased visibility, revenue generation, and image enhancement.

  • Future growth. This includes participation trends and the potential for increased interest among the various constituent groups.

  • Budgets and resources An assessment of the funding and resources required to sponsor sports at a minimally acceptable level of competitiveness.

  • The overall contribution that each sport makes to academic quality at the University by assessing trends in grade point averages and graduation rates.