On Wednesday, March 26, several members of the RPI Athletics led by Director Brick Thamer addressed the Office of the President in hopes of expanding its program to include several additional Division III sports. This action was due in large part to a new report by the Rensselaer Financial Planning Committee saying that funds being saved for the construction of the Nuclear Research and Development Facility in nearby Colonie will no longer be required. Why? Because on Thursday, March 20, the Environmental Protection Agency declared the formation of such a facility to be in direct violation of the Safe Living Environment Standards called for in the National Environmental Safety Act of 1982. This act says that “no site designed for the production of nuclear energy (which would therefore store nuclear wastes on its grounds) can be placed within 10 miles of the nearest house or living area.”
Since the ruling against construction of the nuclear facility last week, RPI’s administration has reached out to several esteemed lawyers including William Darrow of Jennings, Bryan, and Darrow, in New York City in hopes of overturning this decision in the national circuit courts. But, due to the unsuccessful history of like cases, RPI’s administration has begun to consider alternative spending programs for its newfound surplus of capital.
Hudson is not the first person to present his case to the Office of the President since the decision. Several other groups have asked for additional funding. These groups also include: Residence Life, Alumni Services, the School of Management, the School of Engineering, and even Admissions, just to name a few.
According to the Financial Planning Committee, the total amount of available funding is approximately $30 million. In his presentation Wednesday, Hudson asked for $2 million over three years to expand the athletic program. In addition to some funding for new gear and equipment for the sports already in place, the athletic director also asked for funds to add two new sports to Rensselaer’s Division III program. First, in response to the growth in popularity of club tetherball from three members to 15 in the past five years, Hudson asked for the funds necessary to start a 10-person, Division Three team that will play in the Northern Atlantic Athletic Conference. The proposed team would become the 10th member of the NAAC and would play schools such as Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Quinnipiac University, Middlebury College, and Amherst College.
Later in his presentation, Hudson added that the amount of funding would be much smaller over the first few years due to the fact that the program wouldn’t need to recruit players until probably 2016 or 2017. The main costs he stated, “are equipment and transportation for the team. Furthermore, all of the participating colleges in the NAAC run an overnight stay program in which tetherball teams can stay in vacant on-campus apartments Saturdays into Sundays. This will eliminate overnight hotel stays.”
For those who aren’t familiar with tetherball, it is a sport played in a dirt pit (indoors in the case of Division III tetherball) in which players try to hit a ball tied to a pole by a string in opposite directions until one players manages to wind the entirety of the string around the pole. Games in Division Three are played best-of-three sets, each to seven points. In a subsequent interview with club tetherball’s third-ranked player, freshman Jon Wrona, Le Polyteknique’s William Walton asked the young star what it felt like to possibly get the chance to play competitive tetherball for RPI. “I think it’s great for my friends and I on the club team who’ve worked hard these past six months and have really improved. I’m looking forward to playing against other schools … Honestly, I didn’t know there was such a thing [Division III Tetherball]. I think it’s great for the sport.”
Later on in his presentation, Hudson discussed the second Division III sport he hoped to include in RPI’s expanded program. “Due to the number of talented Frisbee players on campus, and the development of Frisbee golf conferences throughout the country during the past decade, we would also like to start a Frisbee golf team at RPI.”
In Frisbee golf, players aim for holes on a course and try to get the Frisbee into the hole in the least number of throws. As opposed to golf, the holes in Frisbee golf are metal baskets that stand a few feet off of the ground. The holes are set randomly throughout the grounds of the golf course.
This part of the proposal was made by Assistant Athletic Director Kathryn Perry, a former Ultimate Frisbee star at Colgate University. She stated that Frisbee golf will be a very low cost addition for the athletic program. “Because Frisbee golf is played on the terrain that is available with randomly placed holes, the Institute will not need to landscape a new field for the team. The lacrosse and soccer fields, as well as the fields near Stackwyck, will more than suffice for the Frisbee golf course. Furthermore, because the team will only have six players, the team can drive themselves to away events. Lastly, the total estimated cost for equipment for the team is only $500, a very small amount compared to other sports.”
The proposed Frisbee golf team would compete in the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Conference against schools such as Columbia University (the school’s only non-Division I sport), University of Rochester, Amish College of Technology, and Hobart College. The proposed team would start practice two weeks before the official start of school in late August of 2014.
After Perry finished her discussion of the suggested Frisbee golf team, Hudson once again addressed the Office. “The proposal for $2 million will cover not only equipment upgrades for many of the sports already in the program, it will also, based upon the cost growth rate model shown here, cover the costs of the two suggested additional sports for the first twenty to twenty-five years of their existence.”
Hudson added that he already reached out to the conferences and they’re ready to add RPI to their ranks. “These two sports,” he said, “will be very easy to implement into the program. Probably the easiest yet.”
At the end of the presentation, Hudson stressed the importance of a diverse athletic program on campus that can support the interests of all student athletes. “It is important for these kids that want to compete to have the chance to do so. Getting to compete against other schools allows student athletes to become better. Better players, better students, better leaders, and better people.”
In a special newsletter released on Sunday, March 30, the Office of the President announced that it will wait until June to see if the civil suit against the Environmental Protection Agency overturns its ruling. Then it will decide by July 1 how to distribute the surplus funding and whether the proposed sports will be accepted into Rensselaer’s athletic program.