The Robert Morris men’s and women’s hockey players found out just before the rest of the world did that the university was cutting their programs, team sources told Pittsburgh Hockey Digest.
RMU president Chris Howard and athletic director Chris King delivered the shocking news to the teams.
“We were given a brief, I’d say 10-minute Zoom call, where Dr. Howard and Chris King basically spoke and just told us the information,” redshirt senior forward Michaela Boyle said to PHD. “They just said they were cutting the men’s and women’s hockey teams and we’ve taken into consideration all the factors and ultimately seems to be what we have to do.
“And that was it. … So, it just left us in a state of sadness and confusion. I mean, I felt numb. It didn’t feel real.”
The RMU press release detailing the move cited financial reasons for deciding to both downsizing the athletic department in general and for cutting the hockey programs specifically.
Boyle said the news was especially shocking for the women’s team that is coming off its second NCAA Tournament berth this spring and third CHA Tournament title.
“I think unfair is the best way to describe it, but I don’t think it does it justice,” Boyle said. “They talk about they want to put RMU on the map and make it a well-known school. How does cutting two of your best programs help you do that.”
“I guess making the NCAA Tournament doesn’t mean anything,” 2020-21 captain Lexi Templeman added via Twitter.
In absolute shock. I guess making the NCAA tournament doesn’t mean anything…. https://t.co/9r6le0UFoJ
— Lexi Templeman (@lexi_templeman) May 26, 2021
RMU said that it will honor the players’ scholarships and given past precedent for when schools close their programs, the NCAA will likely allow players an unhindered transfer to another program.
But the late date of the closure combined with the fact that all players were granted an additional year of eligibility for the pandemic-impacted 2020-21 season means it could be difficult for players to find landing spots this fall.
“If this was something they were considering, they should have told us months ago,” Boyle said. “With the extra year of eligibility being granted due to COVID, it puts a lot of people in a really, really tight spot. A lot of universities don’t have the money to place kids on scholarships. So then it comes back on us to be like, well, can we afford to pay our way through school?”
Schools have already been wrestling with all of their seniors from 2020-21 earning an extra season, and budgets also hindered by largely playing the 2020-21 season without fans have strained schools’ abilities to even retain their existing eligible teams, let alone add transfers.
“I feel terrible for them,” another Division I head coach told PHD. “My heart goes out to the student-athletes. The timing of this will now make it harder for them to find a home.”
“I think the bottom line of it is it was extremely poorly handled,” Boyle summarized.