University of Hartford under fire for decision to downgrade Basketball team to Division III
May 20, 2022
In March 2021, the Hartford University men's basketball team became the first team in the school's history to qualify for the NCAA tournament. However, the school recently announced that they would be downgrading to Division III by 2025. The move, which was suggested by the school president Gregory Woodward, led to controversies.
During the week leading up to the tournament, John Gallagher, the team's head coach, was on the scene all around Indiana. He was interviewed by reporters from various media outlets. At one point, Phil Martelli, the coach of the St. Joseph's College team, congratulated Gallagher on his achievement.
Despite losing to a national champion in the first round, the Hartford Hawks could still reach the second round. Under Gallagher's leadership, Hartford was able to establish a small program that was known as the "Neighborhood". He was able to build a team filled with well-performing students and became regarded as the best coach in town.
Various studies conducted by multiple organizations, including an independent study, questioned the figures used by Woodward to justify the move. According to the study, the school loses about $13 million annually due to its decision to compete in Division I. A counter-study claimed that the university could reduce its budget by about $500,000 if it continued to improve its basketball program.
Some of the athletes affected by the decision to move to Division III reportedly crossed over. However, Gallagher, who was the team's head coach before it was moved to Division III, remained. He refused to take a huge raise to leave Oklahoma as his friend Porter Moser's chief assistant before the Division III announcement was made.
Sharon Beverly's messages to coaches, student-athletes
In June, a new interim athletic director was appointed. Sharon Beverly, the interim AD, sent out two emails before the graduation ceremony. One of these was to the school's coaches, while the other was to the student-athletes.
In her email, Beverly told the coaches that they should discuss the various consequences of their actions with their players. She also reminded them that they were responsible for the behavior of their student-athletes, adding that any disruption in the program could result in disciplinary action.
In her email, Beverly also thanked the students for their hard work and congratulated them on their achievements. She insisted that they should behave properly during the ceremony.
She reminded them that the graduation ceremony is a time to celebrate the students' hard work and respect the support of their loved ones. According to the school's previous communications, graduates are expected to treat their guests with dignity and respect.
If the graduates or their guests are found guilty of disrupting the ceremony, they will be penalized. Beverly then stressed the fact that the coaches must take responsibility for their actions. She also warned them that the team's matches could be canceled next season.
"Should any of our graduates or their guests be found responsible for disruptions, there will be athletic repercussions for the entire team, in addition to the transcript and diploma holds," Beverly wrote. "I recognize that you are graduating, but your teams will ultimately have to take responsibility for your actions, including the possibility of games being canceled or forfeited next season."