We learned yesterday that Robert Morris was going to drop its program, effective immediately. The school announced that both the men’s and women’s programs were being cut “as part of a series of strategic initiatives intended to position the university to be amongst the most agile and professionally focused schools in the nation as it prepares for its upcoming 100th anniversary.”
How about that for a bunch of B.S.?
It’s absolutely shameful the way that the Robert Morris administration handled this situation, all the way up to RMU President Chris Howard. They should all be ashamed for what they did to the coaches, players, and staff.
According to multiple sources, RMU coaches had no warning that this decision was forthcoming. In fact, sources said earlier today that the coaches and players found out only a short time before the press release was posted online.
As of this afternoon, support staff was still trying to figure out how long they’ll be able to keep their paychecks coming.
For the administration to contemplate a move like this without cluing in anyone that it would directly affect is heartless and cowardly.
RMU tried to spin this decision by saying that it will honor scholarships if student-athletes want to continue to pursue their degree. But, they know full well that most of those players will want to play and will ultimately decide to transfer.
But, if you’ve noticed, the transfer portal news has slowed considerably over the last two weeks. That’s because most programs have already filled out their rosters for the 2021-22 season. Space is very limited, and we’re about to see another huge influx of players hitting the open market, the majority of whom will not be able to find a landing spot.
By making this decision so late, the school effectively gave most of their student-athletes little to no chance of finding a new home in the transfer portal.
The RMU administration informed no one that this news was coming. An Atlantic Hockey source said this afternoon that the league had no prior warning that this was even on the table. The league’s athletic directors were meeting via Zoom this afternoon and are scheduled to meet again on Friday to discuss scheduling.
One Atlantic Hockey school was on the phone with Robert Morris coaches just yesterday discussing potential scheduling dates for this upcoming season.
Everyone was blindsided.
Well, everyone but Chris Howard and his administration.
That’s because this decision was announced at the RMU Board of Trustees annual retreat last week, according to a press release.
It seems clear that budget shortages weren’t a main factor for this move. There must be some other political forces at play within the RMU universe for this sudden and drastic move to happen. Schools can do whatever the heck they want — we say that play out all the time, in different ways, good and bad — but this was done without any consideration for the people it would most directly impact.
“We are saddened for the student-athletes who will be unable to continue in their sport at Robert Morris University and are committed to assisting them during this difficult time,” Howard said in the release. “However, this is the best course of action to leverage our strategic assets and position us for future growth.”
What does that even mean?
College hockey’s impact, is another story all together. Some new programs are joining, others are folding up shop. College hockey is stuck in neutral as a result. Atlantic Hockey will be fine with 10 teams, or now it has room to expand. So the whole impact could be neutral, who knows.
But that’s a cold-heard calculation that again, doesn’t factor in anyone personally involved, for whom this is brutal — and unnecessary.
I feel bad for Derek Schooley, his staff, and his players. They deserved much better. If RMU wanted to make the ill-advised decision to cut hockey, then fine. But to treat the coaches, staff, and players with such disrespect and such heartlessness is indicative of something bigger.
Shame on you, Chris Howard. Shame on you and anyone else who participated in this behind the scenes.
In the same release, RMU detailed the following:
“The university is currently running 26 percent ahead of last year’s pace in deposits for first-time freshmen for the fall semester. Among the university’s other recent milestones was surpassing its goal in its record-setting $100 million fundraising campaign, nearly a year ahead of schedule. Thus far RMU has raised $108 million for its RMU 100: Ready to Rise campaign. That includes a $3 million gift from Netflix founder Reed Hastings to fund 20 full-tuition scholarships.”
So money wasn’t an issue. The school even said COVID wasn’t an issue.
“The decision to discontinue D1 hockey is part of a broader strategic initiative intended to position RMU for future growth and success and align our athletic offerings more closely with other similar nationally-ranked universities of our size.“
So what was the problem? Just because “other similar nationally-ranked universities of their size” don’t offer hockey, RMU decided to cut its program?
For the RMU administration to brag about its fundraising, In the same release where it announced cutting two hockey programs, is a disgrace.