RMU Charts Strategic Course Headed into its Centennial Year
The Beyond 100 plan includes a focus on diversity and inclusion, more campus events, and a reorganization of its athletics programs.
May 26, 2021 – Robert Morris University announced today it will no longer field NCAA Division I men’s and women’s ice hockey teams as part of a series of strategic initiatives intended to position the university to be amongst the most agile and professionally focused schools in the nation as it prepares for its upcoming 100th anniversary.
The university’s senior leadership team shared these strategic initiatives, collectively called “RMU: Beyond 100,” at the RMU Board of Trustees annual retreat last week.
The university will honor all scholarships currently being received by the student-athletes whose sports are being discontinued and will assist those who wish to transfer. Under NCAA rules, student-athletes who transfer from schools that have eliminated their sport do not have to sit out a season at their new school. The university has pledged to put all of its support services at the disposal of student-athletes, including academic, eligibility, and career advising.
“We are saddened for the student-athletes who will be unable to continue in their sport at Robert Morris University and are committed to assisting them during this difficult time,” said RMU President Chris Howard. “However, this is the best course of action to leverage our strategic assets and position us for future growth.”
RMU remains committed to NCAA Division I athletics, and continues to field 15 Division I sports. By discontinuing Division I ice hockey, the university puts itself in closer alignment with similarly sized institutions. Approximately 55 student-athletes and seven staff positions will be impacted by this decision, which is effective immediately.
Among the other initiatives presented to the board this week:
- A new Center for Equity and Professional Advancement will be opened in the fall of 2021, funded in part by a $500,000 gift from retired technology entrepreneur and CEO A. George “Skip” Battle. The center will promote student diversity, inclusivity, academic excellence, and professional advancement and leadership for women and underrepresented students through mentorship, financial support, and personal development.
- RMU will be departing as presenting sponsor of the Pittsburgh Speakers Series in downtown Pittsburgh in favor of hosting more events and opportunities for cultural and professional enrichment on its own campus, affording greater access to its students, faculty, and staff. This includes the long-standing CEO Lecture Series, which has featured leaders from the region’s top corporations to network with students.
- The CEO Lecture Series takes place in the UPMC Events Center, which is once again booking live entertainment – including concerts – for its 4,000-seat arena. NEEDTOBREATHE is playing October 3, The Brothers Osborne on November 20, and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit on December 7. RMU also will play host in the fall to the Center for Independent Colleges Visiting Fellows Program, and the RMU Center for Innovation and Outreach has launched the Innovation Speakers Series.
- The university is adding additional club sports, including women’s ice hockey, women’s golf, men’s rowing, and skating for Fall 2022. This will give RMU 24 club sports, including three club men’s ice hockey teams. More than 400 students are currently involved in club sports at RMU.
“All these strategic initiatives, and everything we have accomplished over the past year, put us in a position of strength as we enter our second hundred years,” said Howard.
The university is currently running 26 percent ahead of last year’s pace in deposits for first-time freshmen for the fall semester. Among the university’s other recent milestones was surpassing its goal in its record-setting $100 million fundraising campaign, nearly a year ahead of schedule. Thus far RMU has raised $108 million for its RMU 100: Ready to Rise campaign. That includes a $3 million gift from Netflix founder Reed Hastings to fund 20 full-tuition scholarships.
Additionally, in February, RMU launched a new dual-enrollment program with four community colleges, called RMU Gateway. The Gateway program provides students with additional financial assistance and an accelerated enrollment pathway in order to allow them to graduate from RMU in two years or less.
Frequently Asked Questions
What process did the university undergo that led to the decision to reduce the number of varsity sport programs offered?
The university continually evaluates its curricular and extracurricular offerings, including benchmarking itself against institutions of similar size, to ensure it is providing the best, most affordable experience for its students. RMU is focusing its resources and efforts on strategic initiatives best suited to position the university for future growth.
How did RMU determine which sports were to be eliminated?
The decision to discontinue the men’s and women’s ice hockey programs was made based on an analysis which included scholarships and operating costs, and the necessary investments to maintain and improve the current facility. The university also wanted to align our athletic offerings more closely with other similar nationally-ranked universities of our size.
Are other sports in danger of being discontinued?
RMU has no plans to discontinue other Division I sports. We remain committed to sponsoring a competitive Division I athletics program, and we continue to field 15 D1 sports.
Why is this decision being announced now?
There is never an ideal time to announce a decision like this. Once the decision was made, the university wanted to announce it as quickly as possible to allow student-athletes to pursue all other options available to them. We notified head coaches in person and arranged virtual meetings with assistant coaches and support staff. We shared the news directly with student-athletes through a Zoom meeting. (Most student-athletes were not currently on campus.) Athletics Department and other university staff are on call to help student-athletes during this difficult time.
What other cost-savings measures is the university implementing?
The decision to discontinue D1 hockey is part of a broader strategic initiative intended to position RMU for future growth and success. It includes ending the university’s sponsorship of the Pittsburgh Speakers Series in favor of hosting more on-campus events for students, faculty, and staff. Over the past two years, the university has completed a thorough review of its academic degree programs, adding some and discontinuing others to reflect market demand, while also restructuring its administrative workforce.
How many student-athletes and staff are impacted by this decision?
Approximately 55 student-athletes and seven staff positions will be impacted by this decision, and we are committed to providing students, coaches, and other staff all the support they need to navigate this transition.
How do you plan to support impacted student-athletes?
The university will honor all scholarships for student-athletes who are impacted by this decision (through degree completion), and will also assist any student-athlete who wishes to transfer and pursue their academic and athletic careers at another institution. We will also provide support resources to any student-athlete who desires it, including facilitating access to counseling, as well as academic, eligibility and career advising.
Will RMU honor men’s and women’s hockey student-athlete scholarships?
Yes. RMU will honor all athletics scholarships until students have completed their program of study.
Will men’s and women’s hockey student-athletes be able to transfer to other institutions?
Yes. RMU will provide any and all assistance they require to transfer to another university. The NCAA "Discontinued/Non-Sponsored Sport '' transfer exception permits a student-athlete to be immediately eligible if their sport is discontinued.
How are 2021 signees affected by this announcement?
RMU will also honor scholarships for incoming student-athletes who have signed National Letters-of-Intent and will also assist them should they choose to pursue their academic career at another institution.
How will the RMU Island Sports Center be impacted by this decision?
The RMU Island Sports Center will continue to be open to the public.
Is this decision in response to the financial fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic?
The COVID-19 certainly had a negative impact on university finances, similar to what many other colleges and universities experienced, but it was not the primary factor influencing our decision. The decision to discontinue D1 hockey is part of a broader strategic initiative intended to position RMU for future growth and success and align our athletic offerings more closely with other similar nationally-ranked universities of our size.