The Damage is Already Done


We take a break now from your regularly scheduled Mercy College content for an insight on my former school, the University of Hartford, and the resignation of President Gregory Woodward.

Woodward announced his “retirement” from Hartford early on Friday morning. Woodward had held the title of presidency since 2017 after formerly serving as the president of Carthage College.

Born in West Hartford, Woodward was expected to help lead his hometown school into a new age. He was expected to be the leader of an institution that featured proud students who were happy to represent the school.

Instead, Woodward will go down as the villain in the saga that essentially crippled the university for years to come, and the man who crushed many dreams, including my own.

As my few readers know, the column that I write for The Impact is titled “The Transfer Portal.” This is in reference to the three separate times my name has been listed inside the transfer portal. I first attended Salisbury University, moved on to Onondaga Community College, and before my Mercy tenure, I spent a year at Hartford.

I came to Hartford having just fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine. Ever since I was in eighth grade, my goal was to become a Division I lacrosse player. It was a dream I chased well into high school. I ended up committing to Salisbury, which is a Division II institution. But after moving on from the Sea Gulls and landing at Onondaga, I was afforded that chance to re-chase that dream.

I received a few offers after Onondaga, but Hartford was my first on the Division I level. I knew a few friends from high school that went to the school and seemed to like it, and I figured that I would enjoy it as well. Finally, in August of 2020, I had fulfilled a dream.

On the day that I committed to go to Hartford, I remember vividly the moment that my dream came true. I was sitting in my car, processing the fact that I had just completed six hours of work, and would have to soon get out of my car and go work another six hours at a crappy country club job. In between, however, I had called my future coach. I told him I was sold on Hartford and I would be coming. Tears actually formed on my face, and I y. After the last 18 months of constant questioning, sacrifice, and hard work, I’d done it.

My experience at Hartford I consider to be a good one. I had made some of the best friends that I have ever had, and I still talk to them regularly. I had the chance to compete at the Division I level, even though my playing time greatly decreased from my Onondaga experience. I had the chance to study journalism about 20 minutes from the company that I hope to call my place of business one day (ESPN).

Yet, my experience will forever be marred by Gregory Woodward.

In late March, an email had been leaked to the entire student body that Woodward was setting into motion plans that would transition the entire athletic program from Division I to Division III. He didn’t even plan on announcing it to the public. It was going to be under wraps until the process had been all but signed, sealed, and delivered.

This came to a shock to my teammates and myself. Hartford was an okay school, in a decently nice area. However, and I hate to say it, but the main reason we all attended this school, along with most of the other athletes on our campus, was to be a Division I athlete. Our sports teams weren’t at the upper echelon of college sports. That’s not to say that there wasn’t success. In fact, days before the announcement was made public, our men’s basketball team had reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.

Woodward’s reasons for the move were not received well, and they continue to not make sense. For starters, he stated that the move partly was made because our athletes “were not going pro at high rates.”

I mean…what?

What does that have to do with it?

Does everyone even know the percentage of college athletes that have the opportunity to turn pro?

It’s TWO percent.

We are not the University of Alabama. We’re not Duke University. We all came to college to compete in collegiate athletics and have that help pay for our education. We knew we weren’t likely going to turn into super-star professional athletes. That wasn’t the goal, Gregory.

His other main reason for the move was to help cut costs in terms of handing scholarships out to perspective athletes. From the surface and to outsiders, it almost makes sense. Division III schools are not allowed to give athletic scholarships. So, his logic was that the university would save money, while at the same time, “aligning athletics with what the universities academic mission was.”

There are a few problems with this way of thinking. For starters, I attended a Division III school. No, we were not given athletic scholarships. But were my friends and I offered “academic money?” Absolutely. Schools find their way around it. Now, Woodward and the rest of the administration could have not chosen not to do this, but then you’re caliber of athlete will suffer.

Speaking of the athletes, do you know how many of us on the lacrosse team ended up transferring to different schools because of this decision? A grand total of 33 men’s lacrosse players saw the direction the school and athletic program was heading into and decided they wanted no part of it.

After the announcement was made, the following school year saw the school field no lacrosse team on the men’s or women’s side. Both basketball teams this season combined for seven wins, and men’s soccer finished with no wins in 2022-23. The athletics have suffered.

This is not meant as a slight to the current student athletes at my former institution. All are talented in their field and earned their spots on their respective teams. The administration just failed all of them, including me.

Although Woodward has resigned, the damage has already been done. Athletics have suffered, enrollment in the institution has declined, and alumni are unwilling to claim the school as their own.

Countless social media accounts and petitions were created to try and stop him. Lawsuits were brought forth against Woodward and the school. Time after time, Woodward and his administration failed to stand behind their students, and they are paying the price for it.

I am forever grateful that Mercy took me in and allowed me to continue my academic and athletic journey. In fact, our lacrosse team last season made it to the national championship game, a game that took place in Hartford. Weird coincidence.

Still, I think back at my time and wonder what would’ve happened if things hadn’t gone down the way that they did. What would’ve happened if our president had chosen to stick by us, in stead of undercutting us constantly?

Say what you will about Mercy College. We have our problems. But at least our administration continues to attempt to support us. Hartford and Woodward did no such thing.

Woodward will forever me remembered at Hartford as what he displayed himself to be. A clown, a villain, and the most hated man in West Hartford.