Change in athletic scholarships critical to the future success of Union’s hockey team

Mark D'Alessandro, Contributing Writer

This past January, Union College made an announcement regarding the recent addition of athletic scholarships to the men’s and women’s ice hockey programs. Following a deciding vote at the NCAA meeting in Indianapolis, Union College will be able to offer scholarships to members of Division 1 teams. Through these scholarships, Union hopes to be able to recruit a broader pool of talented student-athletes. Scholarships will have no effect on the standard of admission, the budget of the college and it’s athletic department, or the financial aid of any student at Union College. Support for the scholarships is widespread throughout the athletic department as the Athletic Director, and Union’s division three athletes advocate for their introduction. 

The Concordiensis spoke with Athletic Director Jim McLaughlin ‘93 following the announcement to gain further insight into the process of how the scholarships were enacted and the effect they will have on Union College. McLaughlin stated that Union College formed a committee in the Fall of 2020 in partnership with a number of alumni to assess the future of Union’s hockey program and its sustainability and success. This committee recognized that Union was one of two institutions in the country that did not offer athletic scholarships for men’s and women’s division one ice hockey.

Without scholarships, Union was at a significant disadvantage to its competitors at attracting talent into the hockey program. The proposal of scholarships was discussed throughout the campus community as the committee sent a report voicing its recommendations to President Harris and Vice President of Academic Affairs Michele Angrist. Representatives of athletic teams from the Student-Athlete Advisory Counsel were able to voice their opinion on whether Union should move forward with the introduction of athletic scholarships and the Athletic Liaison Committee, a body composed of faculty, students, and alumni, voted in favor of the change. Then, the request was ratified by a vote at the NCAA meeting in Indianapolis, where athletic scholarships were voted into Union Hockey 388-18. 

One way athletic scholarships will level the playing field for Union Hockey is in the recruiting process. The addition of scholarships will play a massive role in allowing Union to recruit a much larger pool of prospective student-athletes that can bring their talents to the men’s and women’s ice hockey programs. Though Union is for the first time introducing athletic scholarships, McLaughlin explained that expanded scholarship access would enable Union to “talk to some more prospective student athletes and identify some talented hockey players and talented students as well.”

Prospective student-athletes talented enough to skate for Union under an athletic scholarship will still need to meet the high admission requirements of the College. Equally important is the fact that the scholarships will have no impact on the college’s or athletic department’s budget and will have no impact on financial aid for any current or prospective student of Union College as the funding for scholarships will be generated out of the average funds granted to the hockey program. A 10 million dollar endowment is also being formed to make up the difference from the funds. Additionally, the scholarship would have no effect on the admissions standards for prospective student-athletes. McLaughlin stated that admissions standards “will remain exactly as they are,” and that athletes would continue to have to meet educational and GPA requirements. 

Union’s Division 3 student-athletes had positive feelings toward the new advancement in the men’s and women’s hockey program. Charlie Alekson ‘24, a member of the men’s cross country and track and field teams supported the addition of scholarships as he stated “I think it’s good because it was unfair that we were one of the only schools to who didn’t have to opportunity to do it [provide scholarships] and it doesn’t come out of financial aid or affect students so there are no drawbacks.” As only division one and two student-athletes are eligible to receive athletic scholarships, Alekson explained that he felt the introduction of athletic scholarships made no difference to him or in his support of the addition as he knew he couldn’t receive athletic scholarships competing as a division three student-athlete. The establishment of athletic scholarships for Division 1 teams will only elevate the long tradition of success and excellence on and off the ice within the Dutchmen and Dutchwomen.