Exploring Club vs. NCAA

Brad Perkins is a senior at Liberty University and regularly attends athletic events on campus.  Last year he purchased a $50 season pass to watch hockey games at LaHaye Ice Center.

“I understand why we have to pay for hockey games because (that is) the way they have to cover costs,” Perkins said. “I [do not] mind paying because I know it helps provide and keep the hockey team playing.”

Perkins is just one of many who are willing to pay to attend hockey games but do not understand why they have to pay admission to hockey games while their Flames pass admits them to football games, basketball games, volleyball and the like. This is because hockey at Liberty is a club sport, not an NCAA sport.

For Perkins and for the student body, let us dive into the difference of club sports and NCAA programs.

There are many club sports at Liberty.  Of the 45 sports teams at Liberty, 25 are classified “club organizations.” NCAA sports operate out of the Hancock building, while the Club Sports Office is in LaHaye Ice Center.

Fans of club sports such as hockey have to pay to attend home games while getting into any NCAA event at Liberty is free. Liberty Athletic Director Jeff Barber said admission to home NCAA games is covered in each student’s activities fee.  This benefit does not extend to club sports.

Where does the money for club sports come from, if not from the university? Some students believe that club sports teams have to raise their own money while the university covers all the expenses for NCAA teams; which is largely a true statement.

Kirk Handy, Director of Club Sports, said that while club sports receive less financial backing than NCAA teams, the university does recognize the importance of club organizations and provides limited financial assistance.   Club sports also raise money through a variety of fundraisers (such as Hockey ticket sales) and team members also pay team dues.

With full time coaches, NCAA compliance, and scholarshiped athletes, the NCAA sports require more money than do the club sports.

Barber said NCAA athletics at Liberty organizes their programs into three parts: scholarships, operation and salary.

Athletics raises part of their money, while the university provides most of the needed funding.

“The basic difference is we (do not) give out scholarships, all team members pay some money out of their pocket, and our coaches are part time,” Handy said.

There are approximately 500 NCAA student-athletes at Liberty but not all receive scholarships.   Liberty currently offers 213 scholarships and these are split up over the 500 student-athletes.

However, scholarships are strictly a function of NCAA teams.  There are around 300 student athletes competing on club sports teams who do not receive them.

Fans often wonder why hockey, the most popular club sport on campus, has yet to become an NCAA sport.

Barber gave possible reasons men’s hockey remains a club sport.

Proportionality as defined by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 gives criterion for how many NCAA men’s or women’s teams a school can have.

Barber said proportionality is the principal that requires sports teams to reflect the gender population ratio of a school within one percent.  Liberty enrolls 53 percent women and consequently cannot add more men’s teams.

Title IX is not an issue for club sports because there is no overarching body that regulates club sports.

“Each program has a governing body that has rules and regulations,” Handy said.

In addition to legal obstacles, logistical — and by result, monetary — issues present themselves.

“Nobody’s playing Division I hockey in our competitive region,” Barber said.

Barber said a competitive region is everywhere within a 350 mile radius. Most Division I hockey programs are in the north and thus because of sheer distance are too expensive to travel to for competition.

Club sports are growing fast at Liberty as demonstrated by this past year’s five team expansion.

“We want to recruit and retain students through club sports,” Handy said. “This also creates more options for students interested in competing and more options for those students interested in attending these events.”

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