• Evi Arthur

Roosevelt and Robert Morris integration: the athletes’ perspectives

Since the announcement of Roosevelt’s application to integrate with Robert Morris University, students from both schools have been wondering about what their futures might look like. No group of students has been asking more questions than those that are involved in the athletic programs.

Since Robert Morris has over 900 athletes—compared to Roosevelt’s 180—many of them were left wondering about their positions on their respective teams following the integration. Would they make the team? Would their coaches stay? Would they lose their scholarship if they didn’t make the team? What about playing time?

 “I understand the convergence because of the classes,” said Davon Holmes, a freshman football player majoring in criminal justice at RMU. “At RMU they don’t offer the different types of psychology classes that Roosevelt offers, and combining that will make us a better student body.” 

However, despite the obvious benefits to all students on the academic side, Holmes still sees the decision to integrate as unfair to certain athletes. “For example, it won’t hurt the football team as much, but if you’re a Roosevelt basketball or softball player, you’ll certainly be affected,” Holmes said. “What if you don’t want to play for a certain coach? What if you don’t make the team? All of this comes into factor.” 

On the FAQ page of the school’s new “Building a Stronger University” website, updated information on all aspects of the integration can be found as it is being decided, including athletics. On the site, the school explains that the athletic integration would consist of Roosevelt University absorbing RMU’s athletic programs and that there are currently no plans to “discontinue” any athletic programs. Furthermore, additional teams might be created “in many of those varsity sports currently offered at both Roosevelt and Robert Morris, to ensure that current and future students have the same access to participation opportunities.”

“I feel like the merge is inconsiderate, and they didn’t think things through in terms of sports,” said Alysea Jenkins, a freshman basketball player and biology major at Roosevelt. She then further explained how the convergence would impact her basketball team. “In terms of chemistry, we’re all trying to get to know each other,” she said. “But now you’re adding one more person in there and if they bring in new coaches that’s a whole different style of playing.”

Davontay Hill, an RMU freshman football player majoring in culinary, viewed the merge in a negative way in terms of the basketball team as well, “At first I liked it, but now that I look at it, I don’t really agree with the convergence,” Hill said. “You only have 15 players on the roster. So Robert Morris’ 15 players combined with Roosevelt’s 15 players, is messing up the roster, the chemistry of the game and their chance for a real championship.” 

For the sports that are offered at both schools (basketball, softball, etc.), the process of creating varsity and reserve team rosters will be decided in meetings with “athletic department leadership, coaches and student-athlete representation in each sport.” These rosters would be for the 2020-2021 academic year—no “final roster determinations” will be made, “until after the conclusion of that sport’s 2019–20 championship season.”

As for scholarships, “all athletic aid, as part of a student’s current overall financial aid package, would be honored under the parameters of the scholarship when it was awarded prior to the integration,” according to Roosevelt’s website. 

Micquasha Riddle, a Roosevelt freshman basketball player majoring in psychology, spoke optimistically about the Roosevelt and Robert Morris merge. “I’m happy about it because it’ll make the school and team more diverse.” However, she explained how she thought it was unfair for the athletes who might need to re-tryout for their team. Regarding the coaches, she said “I think whoever has the best season should take the job.” 

The decision of who will be coaching the integrated teams is still up in the air. Although there will be “no immediate changes during the current 2019–20 championship season for athletic programs at either University,” plans are already in place as to how coaching staff will be decided, when the time comes. According to the “Building a Stronger University” website, “institutional and athletic department leadership would meet with the coaching staff of each sport with a formal plan to discuss an integration strategy.”

Programs that are exclusive to one school will see no immediate changes to the “roster determination process as part of the integration.”

One student, Kerwin Chong, a sophomore biology major and tennis player at Roosevelt, sees the integration as good for his tennis team. “Robert Morris doesn’t really have a tennis program,” Chong said. “So we could recruit more people and make our team bigger and stronger.” 

Until the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) approves the integration application, both schools will continue to recruit prospective students for their academic programs, separately. However, the website mentions a “collaborative spirit” involved in this recruitment that would  make the “desired outcome of the integration of the two institutions transparent to all prospective students considering future enrollment.”

Going forward, students are able to see updates regarding the integration on the “Building a Stronger University” website, as well as join task forces relevant to the student experience in order to help decide the details of the integration. 

Visit the published story here.

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