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Colgate Offers Scholarships

November 12, 2003 Columns No Comments

Colgate Goes with Scholarships

by Steve Sheridan

October 18 was a very important day in the history of Colgate University athletics. The Colgate University Board of Trustees approved a measure that would grant athletic scholarships to Raider student-athletes for the first time in the school’s history. This decision culminated a yearlong review of financial aid packaging. This announcement was generally viewed as a good thing by the members of the campus. In tiny Hamilton, the feeling of apathy generally tends to permeate the student body, and I for one hope that this decision will help to bolster the often-dormant state of varsity athletics at Colgate. Some members of the student body derided Colgate, an institution that prides itself on high academic standards, for its decision, saying that scholarships will help lesser-quality students enter the University. Despite these naysayers, the scholarships should help emphasize the fact that Colgate is a Division I school with D 1-quality athletics. As said before, athletics do not play a big role on campus, and I feel this is certainly a step in the right direction in helping to rectify this problem.

When the basketball team wins a game at the buzzer and all of thirty students storm the court, this signals that something could be wrong with the state of varsity athletics at the ‘Gate. The Patriot League in general is new to the idea of merit-based scholarships, having first allowed athletic scholarships to be granted only four years ago. The league was very late into the game in this respect, and it seemed the member schools were hurt by not being able to recruit as they wished. The decision of the Colgate trustees leaves Lafayette as the lone school in the league to not grant athletic scholarships to its athletes, after Bucknell decided to go the same route in the spring. With Colgate’s choice, it looks as if it will only be a matter of time before the Leopards join the rest of the league in compensating student-athletes for their performance on the field. When running a Division I program, these steps are necessary to recruit athletes who may well be tempted to go elsewhere.

Colgate’s plan allows for 31 athletic scholarships to be distributed among men and women’s basketball, soccer, lacrosse, hockey and swimming and diving, as well as women’s softball, field hockey and volleyball. Nineteen more need-based packages will be set aside for the football team, but these will not be merit-based, as the Patriot League currently does not allow football scholarships to be given by member schools. Because of the size of the football program, there are more women’s sports receiving scholarships than men’s, so as to balance the gender lines as evenly as possible. These scholarships do not alter the financial structure of financial aid, however, as these scholarships will be converted from the 62 financial aid packages that previously had been bestowed upon students.

This new plan looks obviously to help the football program, which doesn’t need much help in recruiting at the current time, as the team is ranked in the top-ten in D 1-AA, but will help to take qualified players away from some similar institutions. The basketball and hockey programs meanwhile, which may not have been able to attract top-quality talent, now look more appealing to prospective students, as well. The main result of these scholarships will be a better product put forth on the playing field. With this goal, I cannot possibly see how this decision could be a bad one. As everyone knows, with W’s come national recognition, and with this comes the name recognition that is a key factor in recruitment of high school seniors and transfer students. And most importantly, of course, I want my team to WIN. Scholarships help a team win, plain and simple, especially when competing against other teams that dole out scholarships to its athletes.

The main criterion for qualification for scholarships was that the team must compete in a full Patriot League schedule. For this reason, the men’s golf team and men and women’s tennis, crew, track and cross country will not be eligible to receive scholarships, as these squads are not required to participate in full Patriot League schedules. These teams are also generally more individually oriented, with the success of the team depending mostly on individual achievements. The crew teams in particular have traditionally never been granted any monetary support from the University, and so this sport was never considered as part of the plan. All the aforementioned schools also hold a much lesser profile on campus, and so scholarships given to these programs would most likely not do much in terms of raising the profile of the program. No offense to these teams, but if Colgate used a scholarship to recruit a “star” rower or a “wicked fast” runner, I still wouldn’t particularly care about the sport.

While the 19 football “equivalencies” will remain constant, the remaining 31 scholarships could vary between the individual teams in certain years. The NCAA does restrict the number of scholarships that can be given to any particular sport in a year, but the school reserves the right to give more scholarships to certain sports depending on special circumstances. The Athletic Director is able to, for example, give more scholarship sports to a team that was particularly hit hard by injuries in order to help the team rebuild itself. This is a good thing.

The first class of Raider scholarship athletes will come to Hamilton in the fall of 2004, and I for one, will welcome them with open arms.


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