15.5.14

WE'LL BE JUST A LITTLE LIKE DIVISION I.

Union College vice president for student affairs Therese McCarty thinks she's keeping Union College out of the intercollegiate sports arms race.
Our league, the Liberty League, has done a good job of supporting all of its member institutions in integrating academic and athletic life. The big surprise at Union has been our success in adapting the Division III model to Division I hockey.

Union College completed its men’s hockey season this year by defeating the University of Minnesota for the national title at the Frozen Four, in Philadelphia. That is, a liberal-arts college—with 2,200 students, one National Hockey League draft pick, and no athletics scholarships—versus a major university, with 34,500 undergraduates on its flagship campus alone, 14 NHL draft picks, and 18 men’s-hockey scholarships. To play at this level, Union has followed the road less taken to competitive success, a path that relies on a strong academic-athletic partnership. Along the way, we have had ample opportunity to reflect on the relationship between athletic and academic priorities.

Athletics teams are the anti-MOOC. Membership is limited and competitive, not massive or open. Teams can’t play online. And, to state the obvious, in spite of their potential contributions to learning, athletics competitions are not courses. Rather, a team is an extracurricular activity that is grounded in a particular place and which is personal, with each player’s identity reflected in a particular role.
Yes, and wait until the basketball coaches start touting the visibility that participation in March Madness will bring Union.

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