Breaking down the controversial University of Hartford athletics study recommending a downgrade to Division III

·3 min read

The University of Hartford’s potential move from Division I to Division III has been under scrutiny this week, after the release of an athletics feasibility study commissioned became public.

The study, prepared by CarrReports, led by former UConn AD Jeff Hathaway, determined that the cost of maintaining Division I athletics is not sustainable and recommended a move to Division III that will align with the university’s mission. UHart has been in D-I since 1984, at a loss of $13 million in 2019.

Although UHart has made no decisions,. Hartford president Gregory Woodward, in a series of email to a university professor that were inadvertently released to public, looked to be rallying support for the move. The study will be discussed by the university’s board in the near future, while its athletic programs proceed — and recruit — with an uncertain future.

Here are some of the details and recommendations from the CarrSports report, released Thursday:

Revenue/expenses in Division I

For fiscal year 2022 in D-I, the study projects UHart will spend $15.36 million and take in $2.3 million, a loss of just over $13 million. Revenue includes $500,000 in student fees, which would stay the same in D-III, operating revenue would drop from $1.8 million to $600,000. These projections are based on 2019 revenue/expenses.

“Athletics’ expenses along with UHart’s student-athlete financial aid discount rate [around 94 3/8 percent, are inconsistent with UHart’s institutional size and operating capacity, and run significantly counter to the University’s general student population discount rate,” the report says.

As the report notes, increased “combo aid,” a combination of partial athletic and academic scholarships, has facilitated a rise in costs in recent years.

Revenue/expenses Division III

Projecting a first year in D-III, which would follow of transition period, the expense of $6.2 million in financial aid to athletes would be eliminated, compensation to coaches and staff reduced from $5.5 million to $3.6 million, operating expenses from $3.6 to $1.25 million.

The total revenue-vs.-expenses as a D-III program would then become $4.9 million vs. $1.1 million, so rather than a deficit of $13 million, it would be $3.8 million This should be qualified, however, in that the $6.89 million in aid to athletes can be valued differently, depending on cost of tuition and how scholarships are valued against the budget.

On the other side, it should be noted that with some form of compensation to D-I athletes on the horizon, costs are likely to rise.

Conclusions

The study examined UHart’s model as an America East member, where it is the only private school and has the lowest undergrad enrollment (4,426, compared to the conference’s average of 7,161) and what the model might be if it changed conferences (MAAC or NEC) within D-I. UHart’s athletic budget ranks eight in the nine-team AEC. The study says it “conclusively shows that athletics’ current Division I funding model is not viable, nor does it achieve the goal of becoming more self-sustaining.”

The D-III conferences the report recommends exploring are the Commonwealth Coast Conference, the New England Men’s and Women’s Athletic Conference and the Little East, which includes Eastern and Western Connecticut.

Dom Amore can be reached at damore@courant.com