West Long Branch, N.J. (The Verge) – Monmouth University is rich in sports. From having a highly ranked Soccer team to official Division I NCAA football and basketball teams, Monmouth is on the map for athletics. However, hockey isn’t considered one of those sports. The Monmouth IceHawks team has the look and feel of a NCAA approved Division 1 team, yet NCAA approved they are not.
When logged on to the Monmouth’s athletics website, hockey isn’t on the list of approved NCAA Division I teams. Scroll down, and the IceHAwks appear in the “Club Sports” section, along with other sports teams such as bowing, men’s lacrosse and the Monmouth Dance Team. Monmouth’s website states “The club sports program offers to provide a more in-depth experience of sports participation than is provided in the Intramural program.”
Hockey might not be as popular a sport as football, basketball or soccer, and Monmouth may not be considered a “hockey school” like schools in hockey-crazed areas such as Boston, but the Monmouth IceHawks are a fun, closely knit group to watch.
This past season was rough for the IceHawks team. The Icehawks finished 1-10-1 while playing in the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Hockey Association (MACHV), a Division 2 level. Home games would only have a couple of fans watching, mostly being close friends or family of one of the players.
“ I met a bunch of students at school who would look confused when I told them I play for the hockey team here at Monmouth. They look at me and ask ‘we have a hockey team?’ and I just laugh and shrug it off. I love hockey and play every game hard for my teammates, regardless how many people are in the stands,” explained Jake Romba, a junior forward for the team.
So why is it that the Monmouth IceHawks team isn’t viewed as an official sport at Monmouth. What would it take for the hockey team to finally get status as an NCAA official team? The team has gone to the Student Government to ask for funds and to be recognized as a NCAA team, but each time they are turned away, and it has to do in part with Title IX.
Title IX was written on June 23, 1972. Title IX is a way to provide women attending schools with federal financial assistance with equal opportunities. Originally planned for equality in classrooms, it has spread to collegiate athletics to push for gender equality. If the school allowed the IceHawks to become an official NCAA sponsored team, they would have to add a women’s team as well, and that would seriously strap the school for cash.
“As far as I know, the school does not want a NCAA hockey team at the current time. It seems that Monmouth is focused on installing a men’s lacrosse team for now, which makes sense because there is already a women’s lacrosse team. All I know is that the IceHawks will still be a club sport, playing Division II hockey,” explained senior defenseman, Eric Folker.
Another problem facing the IceHawks is where they will play their games. The IceHawks official 2011-12 schedule showed home games being played at a number of different arenas, from Wall, New Jersey to Lawrenceville to Baker Rink. Hockey is viewed as one of the most expensive sports to play, with thousands of family dollars going towards equipment, travel and training for a young hockey player. Monmouth University has no area on campus that a hockey game can be played
“The only place on campus that can hold a hockey game is the MAC. The MAC can be fitted with an adapter that would allow the basketball court to be converted into a hockey arena (rough estimate of $500,000 plus operating costs), as we see in professional arenas such as Madison Square Garden,” described Folker.
While it seems like a lot of money, the idea Folker brings up is not a bad idea at all. If the team were to become NCAA official, the adaptor could be paid for by the recruitment of Division I players. With the game roster plus practice squad players could result in roughly 25-35 players, and a 40k per year tuition fee could theoretically cover the costs of the rink. Sponsorships could also help, such as the sponsorship the school already has with NikeBauer. Still, another problem the IceHawks have is getting recognition on campus.
“ I am a huge hockey fan, and my family has followed the New York Rangers for generations. It wasn’t until the middle of my sophomore year when my friend asked if I wanted to go watch a Monmouth hockey game. I had no idea Monmouth even had a team,” said senior Danny Aquino.
The lack of recognition was there when the Monmouth IceHawks won the 2008-2009 Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey Conference (DVCHC) championship. The players didn’t get a lot of acknowledgement or even praise for their hard work and championship triumph. Again, if the team were NCAA approved, the recognition would have been through the roof. There are little advertising the IceHawks on campus, and emails received about upcoming games are few and far between.
Does the lack of exposure bother the players?
“ It doesn’t bother me. I got to attend a great college, and play my college career here. I got to play the sport I love, the sport I have been playing since being a little kid. I have no regrets about playing for a team that doesn’t receive a lot of recognition or had a lot of fans come to the games. Once you get on the ice, you block everything else out,” explained Folker.
Hockey is a great sport. It takes years of dedication and hard work for a hockey player to get to the collegiate level of hockey. For players like Eric Folker this is the end, and only beginning for the freshman that will join the team for the 2012-13 season. The IceHawks will continue to go to the SGA and try to become an NCAA approved team.
“ I do think that the hockey team will become NCAA Division I in the near future, probably in the next 3-5 years. There are some obstacles to overcome, but nothing that is impossible. Hopefully, the school and the IceHawks can make a compromise and hockey can reach a bigger audience”.