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Women’s Crew Team Tries to Enter Div I

NCAA Rules Prohibit Interdivisionary Play

By Vincent Chen

In order to improve coaching and practice opportunities for Varsity Women’s Crew, MIT has decided to petition the National Collegiate Athletic Association for reclassification at the Division I level.

“We, as an institution, wish to preserve the strong traditions of rowing at the EAWRC [Eastern Association of Women’s Rowing Colleges] sprints level of competition,” said Director of Athletics Candace L. Royer.

For the 2001-2002 year, MIT women will continue to abide by the regulations of NCAA Division III. However, they intend to petition the NCAA for an exception regarding the last portion of the season. Interim Head Coach Sarah Lynch said, “We're going to compete at the Division III level this year, but will seek special status so we can compete at the IRA [Intercollegiate Rowing Association] championships.”

Under current regulations, MIT’s season would end with NCAA championships. However, MIT wants to let lightweight women rowers compete in the IRA championship in May.

New NCAA rules prompt move

MIT’s decision to petition was sparked by two changes that the NCAA made last year, the first of which established a separate Division III championship in women’s crew. The second change limited the practice hours of all Division III teams. Until last year, there was only one level of competition for women’s rowing, so MIT competed against Division I schools.

“This never was an issue before last year,” Lynch said. “They created a Division III national championships this year. Before now, there was only one NCAA Championships.”

Women’s crew competed in the Eastern Sprints race at the end of the crew season in May, but of the 18 schools that participate in that race, MIT was the only university classified as Division III. In January, the NCAA Division III membership voted to limit the seasons of all sports at Division III schools to a maximum of twenty-one weeks. This affects all NCAA teams at MIT.

However, some teams at MIT compete in the National Collegiate Championships despite being classified as Division III teams, and prior to this decision, they had been allowed to practice up to twenty-six weeks in a year. Now they will be limited to twenty-one weeks, which puts them at a disadvantage relative to their Division I rivals who will still be allowed twenty-six weeks.

Every Division III institution is allowed to petition to have a men’s and a women’s team reclassified. After filing the application, there will be a waiting period during which the transition to Division I would be made.

MIT debates merits of Division I

Some question whether MIT should have any Division I teams, since the Institute is a Division III university. However, Royer said, “We believe that this decision is in the best interest of MIT oarswomen and oarsmen, and that our basic commitment to the Division III philosophy of participation and promoting excellence in athletics while preserving academic integrity will not be compromised.”

The move has been considered since the NCAA decisions last year placed MIT women’s crew in Division III. “This rowing program has competed at the elite level since the beginning, and being Division I will allow that sort of competition to continue,” Lynch said. “We’ll be able to race against the best schools in the country at the Division I level.”

Men’s crew is not affected since it is not a NCAA-sanctioned sport. Rather, men’s crew is part of the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges. Men’s crew follows rules similar to those of NCAA Division I teams.