At 8:35 p.m. on Thursday May 6th, 2021, The University of Hartford sent a message to all student athletes and coaches announcing that:
“After more than a year of analysis, the Board of Regents has voted to begin the multi-year process of transitioning the University’s intercollegiate athletics programs from Division I to Division III.”
On the heels of this shocking and most devastating news, I sat down with current Graduate student Megan Miller of the University of Hartford Women’s Lacrosse Team. Miller is a member of the inaugural class for the program, the team’s current head captain, and in her four seasons with the Hawks has secured both the coveted title of All-time leading scorer and all-time leader in points for the program. I asked her some questions about her journey as a Hawk, her last season on the team, and what she thinks the switch to DIII will mean for her returning teammates, the future of her team, and the future of the school.
What made you decide to come The University of Hartford?
Growing up playing lacrosse, it was always my dream to play at the Division I level. During my sophomore and junior year of high school I had a knee injury that required surgery and rehab and I saw my dreams go out the door. However, one of the prior assistant coaches of the program reached out to me and gave me the opportunity and I couldn’t pass it up.
How would you describe your 4 years here at Hartford?
With everything that has happened, mainly throughout the last year, I still would say that these were the best four years of my life. Playing against top competition as a first- or second-year program had its struggles, but the people that I had the opportunity to meet and become lifelong friends with made it all worth it.
Describe your feelings upon finding out your junior year was being cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nobody picks the “perfect” time when a pandemic happens, but it couldn’t have come at a worse time for our team. We had finally just cracked the surface of being able to actually compete against in-conference teams, only to have this setback happen. Aside from lacrosse, it just changed our whole college experience until now. From being on campus all going from apartment to apartment and now only really being with our direct housemates. It really impacted our last year of college.
Did the abrupt ending of your junior season affect your decision to return to the university?
I finished my undergraduate degree in three years which allowed me to enroll in the MBA program at Hartford. I never really looked at the fact that finishing my undergrad a year early meant I was leaving. Being a part of the inaugural class was the best thing that could have ever happened to me, so I knew I’d be staying for my senior lacrosse season to finish out my four years with the group of women that started the program with me.
How do you feel about the timeline of events that have transpired surrounding the decision to transfer to DIII athletics (analytic reports lea decision is announced)?
I don’t think the situation could have been handled more poorly or unprofessionally than how Hartford and Gregory Woodward have handled it. Woodward was careless, insensitive, and lacked compassion toward the students that put their Hartford jerseys on every day and give it their all on the track, court, and field. He displayed a complete and total disregard for the students’ lives he was about to change and the dedication that comes with playing a Division I sport. I feel bad for everyone who was negatively affected by the decision, but even worse for the men’s basketball team. Despite all of the obstacles that were thrown at them this season regarding COVID they made school history, competed at the March Madness tournament, and put Hartford on the map. You would expect to come back to your school and be congratulated, maybe even celebrated, but they came back to quite the opposite.
What do you think this will mean for the future of your program specifically?
I know I speak for all of the current, past, and incoming members of the Hartford Women’s Lacrosse team when I say that each and every one of us came here to build a Division I program, and the reality is that our program won’t ever be the same. From the moment the email announcement came out, the University changed for the worse. It would be hard to believe that any incoming recruits are still planning on coming to the University. The two different divisions are not even comparable between the time commitment, dedication, hard work, level of competition etc. In the realm of girl’s lacrosse, we play some of the top competition in the country as part of the America East Conference. While that has never been easy, especially with our being such a new program, the only way we can ever get to that level is by competing with competition at that level. Nothing moving forward will be the same.
How does this make you feel as a graduate and a member of the inaugural women’s lacrosse team?
It is so disheartening to know that everything our team went through for the past four years was essentially for nothing. I was so excited for the day to come back to Hartford and see them win championships and now I can’t say that day will feel the same whether they are winning or losing. I gave four years to this school as a Division I athlete, I intended on graduating from a Division I program, and now when people ask about my Alma Mater, I have to say that they’re Division III.
Will you consider being a donor to the athletic department here at the University of Hartford in the future?
Never. But, more importantly, I will never be a donor to the University of Hartford. I think every student-athlete and alumni would say the same.