UHart student-athletes protest discussion of moving athletic programs from Division I to Division III

Hartford

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– Student-athletes at the University of Hartford aren’t happy with talk of moving the university’s athletic program from Division I to Division III.

UHart students planned a demonstration Monday at noon to protest the idea.

This comes after the University of Hartford made its first-ever appearance in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The Hawks lost but it was probably one of the biggest moments in school history.

For those unfamiliar with how the NCAA works, the schools that made the tournament or play in bowl games are Division I, (schools like UConn). Division III are smaller schools with no scholarships (like Trinity College or Wesleyan).

Protesters blame UHart’s President Gregory Woodward, saying he has not been transparent.

UHart volleyball player Megan Anderson told News 8, “It’s a big deal. A lot of us come here for Division I sports.”

UHart soccer player Nyrick Antoine said, “It is hurtful to see the president behind our backs to not keep us informed not keep us in the loop.”

UHart lacrosse player Jessica Harrison added, “When it is done like this, it makes you feel you are unheard and that’s why we are marching. We feel our voices deserve to be heard.”

Related: Exclusive: Could the University of Hartford downgrade its athletic program?

When News 8’s Chief Political Anchor Dennis House broke the story that school president, Gregory Woodward, is considering ‘downgrading’ the athletic program from Division I to Division III, it unleashed a whole mess of problems.

A screengrab of a conversation between Woodward and a professor then went public. It appears to show how Woodward wanted help ‘spinning’ his plan.

Monday’s protest included student-athletes and other students from the university. They marched from the sports complex to the office of President Woodward demanding he resigns.

Monday, a well-known alumnus of the school, pro golfer Jerry Kelly had this to day:

“I have no faith in the leadership of the University of Hartford president at this moment. I can’t at this point support the school financially or otherwise. I recommend the university of trustees take a no-confidence vote in the president and act accordingly.”

It is unclear if President Woodward was in his office during Monday’s protest, and he has not released a statement about the demonstration.

When we spoke with him two weeks ago, he told us no decision has been made. That study will be discussed by the Board of Trustees next month.

On Monday, April 26, one of the most powerful leaders in the state government weighed in on the UHart controversy.

House Speaker Matt Ritter is scheduled to be at a celebration for the men’s basketball team this week along with Governor Ned Lamont and the mayors of Hartford and West Hartford. It’s not yet known if President Woodward will attend.

Monday Speaker Ritter told us he hopes they stay Division I: “I think there is some cachet to being Division 1. I agree with alumni and students who talked about that. Look, having the University of Hartford play in the NCAA tournament probably raised the profile of the school nationwide more than a lot of things you could do.”

Another rally is set for Wednesday, April 28 at 2 p.m. at West Hartford Town Hall. We will have complete coverage.

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