BENNINGTON -- Southern Vermont College and Bennington College have formed an athletics consortium that will allow students from Bennington College to play sports at SVC.
The agreement, which was recently signed off on by the National College Athletics Association, will allow students at Bennington College, which offers only intramural athletics and is not a member of any athletic conference or organization, to participate on any of the 12 teams at SVC.
The SVC Mountaineers are a member of the New England Collegiate Conference, which is part of NCAA Division III.
So far, one Bennington College student-athlete, Chernoh Jalloh, has earned a spot on the men's soccer team and will be dressed to compete this Saturday in the team's first game. A second Bennington College student, Martin Carrillo, is trying out for that team, and Bennington College's assistant director of student life, Michiel Considine, said that several students had expressed interest in cross country as well.
"This is a tremendous opportunity, not only broadening our athletic programs, but also partnering with our collegiate neighbors in a way that enhances both institutions athletically and academically," said SVC Director of Athletics Michael McDonough.
The NCAA allows schools that already share an existing academic consortium, as SVC and Bennington College have had in place since 2005, in which one of the schools does not offer athletics, to enter into an agreement in which student-athletes from the school that does not offer athletics to play for the school that does.
SVC President Karen Gross and Bennington College President Mariko Silver first broached the idea of athletic collaboration in January, said Gross at a press conference on Thursday. SVC then had to get approval from the NECC and the NCAA.
"This is a hard time for higher education, nationally," said Gross, "and institutions have to be thinking about ways to make higher education work."
Gross said she met with Silver very early in the new Bennington College president's tenure to discuss ways in which the two schools could work together. "What's interesting to me," said Gross, "is that things tend to move slowly in higher education. This collaboration did not move slowly. It's remarkable to me that we can now say that Southern Vermont College and Bennington College are now partnered together and that our students can benefit from each other, which is, at the end of the day, what higher education is all about."
Silver was unable to attend Thursday's press conference, but said in a written release that, "As neighboring institutions an SVC-Bennington athletics consortium is one way of sharing resources that offers clear benefits to all our students, as well as to the surrounding community." Considine said that arrangements were being made for vans to take Bennington College students to the games to cheer on their classmates.
Both Considine and Gross expressed a desire to expand on the growing relationship between the two colleges in the future. Considine said that student leaders at the two colleges have been meeting for months to plan mixers and community events that students from both institutions can participate in. "This partnership has opened numerous doors, both within athletics and beyond," he said.
Under the new agreement, McDonough noted that if SVC is recruiting a student-athlete who wants to study something that SVC doesn't offer, the coach would be able to recommend Bennington College to that student. As SVC athletics are paid for through the tuition of its students, Bennington College will pay part of the cost of fielding the team, determined by the number of students they have on the team. Bennington College students will play under the SVC name, be trained and practice at the SVC facilities. However, McDonough did note that the agreement opens up the use of the Bennington College soccer fields and tennis courts to SVC teams.
While SVC does not currently offer tennis, McDonough noted that the NECC does, and that it would be a logical fit should SVC expand its athletics program in the future. However, Gross noted that, "With sports, even ones that seem like a good, easy fit, there are costs that have to be considered." Those costs, she said, included hiring coaches, trainers, referees, and travel expenses for the new team.
"This doesn't happen on its own, it takes real effort," said Gross on the agreement. "If Michael McDonough had not worked with our conference and the NCAA, this would never have happened."