UHart to nest in CCC

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Chase Arena at Family Reich Pavilion seats over 3,500 for men’s basketball games, which is more than the student enrollment for all but two CCC members.
University of Hartford athletics file photo

The University of Hartford has found a place to nest when the Hawks transition from Division I to Division III. UHart will be the 11th member of the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC).

The CCC announced the move on Tuesday.

“The CCC Board has been most impressed with UHart’s thorough strategic plan, vision for athletics and solid commitment to provide expanded sport offerings,” said CCC Board of Directors Chair and University of New England President Dr. James Herbert in the release. “Each of the CCC member institutions places the highest emphasis on providing elite academic and athletic opportunities that complement each other, and the CCC board is pleased to partner with an institution that has demonstrated their commitment to these values.”

The NCAA approved UHart’s move to Division III in March, beginning a process that UHart officials hope will culminate in becoming an active Division III member in Fall 2025.

UHart will compete as a Division I Independent in 2022-23 and honor scholarships to its existing players, but will not offer new scholarships to incoming first-year players. The University will officially join the CCC in 2023-24 and eliminate athletic scholarships in the 2024-25 season. The goal is to be a full member of NCAA Division III no later than the start of the 2025-26 athletic season.

The conference announcement follows the news that Texas-Dallas head coach Polly Thomason will take over the UHart women’s program. Even before that hire, UHart’s athletic department had several connections to Division III.

UHart’s Acting Vice-President of Athletics and Recreation Dr. Shannon Beverly was the Athletic Director at Vassar for a decade and also spent time at TCNJ. Last season the Hawks’ women’s basketball team was led by Melissa Hodgdon who spent 16 seasons at Wheaton (Mass.) and two at Wentworth. Assistant men’s basketball coach Tom Devitt won 139 games at Wentworth, including the CCC men’s basketball title in 2007.

UHart currently offers the 14 championship sports sponsored by the CCC, plus women’s golf and men’s and women’s indoor track. The University announced plans to add tennis, field hockey and ice hockey.

It is very rare for athletics programs to reclassify from Division I to Division III.

The last to do so was Centenary College in Shreveport, La. which started its reclassification process in 2009 and gained full Division III membership in 2014. Birmingham-Southern announced it was leaving Division I in 2006 and became a full member of Division III in 2011. The University of New Orleans started the reclassification process in 2009 following Hurricane Katrina and the resulting enrollment loss. UNO was accepted into Division III membership in 2010, pivoted to Division II instead, and then ultimately remained in Division I.

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