No vote was held in RMU’s decision to axe men’s and women’s hockey programs

The+president+finally+broke+his+silence+on+the+state+of+the+hockey+program.+Photo+Credit%3A+Tyler+Gallo

The president finally broke his silence on the state of the hockey program. Photo Credit: Tyler Gallo

By Owen Krepps, Copy Editor / Podcast GM

“This is not an inexpensive enterprise,” states RMU President Dr. Chris Howard on the University’s decision to cut the men’s and women’s hockey programs.

After almost a week of silence, Robert Morris University president Dr. Chris Howard and athletic director Chris King finally spoke to the media Tuesday afternoon to address the controversial decision to cut both RMU men’s and women’s hockey last Wednesday.

The full interview can be found here courtesy of WTAE.

Howard started off the meeting reading a prepared statement which reads as follows.

“As painful as this is to discontinue the NCAA D1 men’s and women’s ice hockey programs here at RMU, we have had little choice. I know this decision came as a painful surprise to the student-athletes and many other members of our community,” Howard said.

As was hypothesized, money was what motivated this decision. Howard said that the RMU Island Sports Center has needed modifications for the past several years and that remodeling would cost too much for the University to continue housing these programs. He estimates the costs would be anything from $5 million to $30 million.

“The location of the RMU Island Sports Center a few miles from campus poses challenges for the upgrades needed to provide a DI facility despite being more than sufficient for club sports and community play,” he said.

The decision-making process, according to Howard, was not voted on by the Board of Trustees, rather it was a “consensus agreement” by members of the board. This sheds even more light on the departure of Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert from the board as not everyone had an equal voice on the board.

“The way we have done it for years is that they come to a consensus if they support or do not support,” Howard said. “They do not do an official vote and we do not ask our trustees to vote.”

The amount of power that each board member appears to be unequal. Donors such as Morgan O’Brien, the president, and CEO of People’s Natural Gas, now has a basketball arena named after his company, whereas Colbert’s frustrations caused him to leave the board.

“Donors will find what they want to love and what they want to support and we present the case to them,” said Howard.

One person who stayed silent for the majority of the meeting was athletic director Chris King who only answering one question. It is clear that he, along with many others at RMU, have had their hands tied in this decision-making process.

Howard stated ice hockey has been the university’s most expensive DI sport, costing the school a ballpark of $1 million annually to fund both teams. This is in part due to the limited ticket sales, limited donations, no conference revenue, and little to no television contract payouts, Howard mentioned.

Howard did not mention any specific area where the $1 million saved from hockey would go.

Despite massive support from the community and a GoFundMe page that has reached over $25,000, it does not look like there is any chance these teams are coming back.

“We don’t have any specific plans to bring the programs back. You have seen the numbers, and they are not insignificant and that is sitting out there,” he said. “However, we do not have any plans to bring the programs back.”

So the decision was made out of a money scare, but that does not explain the timing of this process. Howard and the university dropped the news in a tweet on a Wednesday in May at 2:00 pm, with the transfer portal already full.

With every school having their rosters for next season almost full, it will be challenging for these student-athletes to find a new home.

Howard did his best to avoid the question of why this decision was made in the middle of summer completely out of the blue. He continued to bring up how all student-athletes that chose to stay at RMU would still receive full-ride scholarships.

Despite several people with hands still raised and many questions still left unanswered, Howard and King wrapped up the interview after twenty minutes. There will be more to this story and you can listen to the full interview here, and also follow @RMU_CSN on Twitter as well as myself at @OKrepps85 for more updates.