After much debate in yesterday’s Senate, SGA passed a resolution in favor of the College switching athletic conferences. Senator Sarah Smith presented the resolution with support of SGA President Erica Arbetter, which encouraged the Board of Trustees to vote in its meeting next week in favor of the switch from SoCon (Southern Conference) to CAA (Colonial Athletic Association).
While senators presented arguments for and against the bill, all the students expressed concerns on what decision would benefit student athletes most. As a representative body, senators worried whether or not the switch would affect student athletes in a negative manner. After discussing the switch, senators voted by roll call 22-4 in favor of the resolution with two abstentions.
Those against the resolution presented three concerns: increasing costs, downgrading certain sports and increasing the number of classes student athletes miss due to increased travel. Regarding the concern over cost, several senators informed Senate that if the College left SoCon with less than two years’ notice, it would have to pay $600,000. In addition, travelling costs would increase since teams would have to travel farther north for games. Travel budgets for sports like baseball and soccer could more than double if the College made the switch.
Some senators also expressed concern on whether the switch would downgrade certain sports like sailing and baseball. While Senator Nathan Wills abstained from voting, he spoke against the resolution during debate. “There’s a lot of other sports here,” Wills said. “If they get hurt going to this conference, are we really doing them a service?”
Wills specifically spoke about baseball, which would take a hit by leaving SoCon (ranked 7th in RPI last year) for CAA (18th). However, other students mentioned that the majority of sports would benefit from the switch. Senator Brian Doheny noted the positives in regard to basketball. He said, “As far as basketball goes, it’s a step up. No doubt about it.”
Some senators mentioned that the switch to CAA would increase the number of televised games, which would not only benefit student athletes, but the school in general. Senator and President Pro Tempore Ryan Spraker said the switch would improve the College’s national standing, attract higher quality athletes from farther states and enhance the College’s exposure on a national level due to increased televised games.
“The TV stations coming to our games would help all sports, not just basketball,” Spraker said. “If you have bigger awareness of our school… this will be a good way to get our name out to these people and to bring in not just athletes but other students. It’ll bring more diverse students and more professors. I see it as a step forward and not backward.”
Spraker was among many other senators in favor of the resolution who touched on the argument that the switch would generate more exposure for the College. Parliamentarian Seth Burrell said senators should vote in favor of the bill, because it would help with the expansion of the College. “Our college is always trying to grow,” Burrell said. “This will only help that expansion.”
Some senators in favor of the resolution took a different perspective on the transition’s benefits. Senator Erik Corcoran said the switch benefited student athletes. Because Senate is a representative body, Corcoran said senators should vote in favor of the bill in order to promote the students’ best interests.
Corcoran said because CAA would create a more competitive field for student athletes, they would improve in their performance and be able to compete against better schools, at least for the majority of the College’s teams. “I have many classmates who are athletes. Who do we stand for here? Do we stand for the students?” Corcoran said. “Why in the world would we vote against it when they will have the opportunity to compete against better athletes?”
While Chief of Staff Zykeedric Free also expressed concern over what would benefit students most, he said the switch would negatively affect student athletes because increased travel would force them to miss more classes. Other senators expressed similar concerns.
At the end of debate, the majority of senators voted in favor of the resolution. They will share their decision to the Board who votes on the decision next week.
Arbetter said she hopes the passing of the resolution will affect the Board’s decision. She said she encouraged senators to vote in favor of the resolution because it was in the best interest of students. She said, “When the students support it, and I support them, I support it.”