Dear Commissioner Walker,
On behalf of student-athletes at Stony Brook University, and across the country, we urge the America East Conference to immediately reconsider its decision to disqualify Stony Brook University student-athletes from conference championships, thereby depriving them of the opportunity to earn NCAA team automatic qualification. The vote by the America East Presidents earlier this month, in response to a conference realignment, was unfair, unjust, and inequitable, but not irreversible. As we’ve recently seen with the University of Illinois Chicago and the Horizon League, a conference can choose to reconsider a previous disqualification vote and reverse course if the shared goal is reaching a resolution that is in the best interest of the student-athletes.
This punishment of our student-athletes is predicated on an outdated, inconsistently applied and controversial America East bylaw triggered by what should have been a routine conference realignment discussion. Stony Brook asked our longtime partner to engage in a professional, collegial, negotiated conference transition, and we repeatedly asked America East to stand up for student-athletes and not to impose such punitive measures against the very individuals whom it has pledged to support. Instead, we were ignored and our student-athletes punished.
Stony Brook is not alone in calling out such injustice and demanding a change to such archaic rules. The NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee recently wrote to its membership that taking “away competitive opportunities from student-athletes solely based on conference realignment [and] excluding student-athletes from postseason conference play and the opportunity to earn automatic qualification (AQ) bids to NCAA championships is an unacceptable and unjust punishment for student-athletes.” Stony Brook agrees it is long past time to eliminate such punitive bylaws wherever they exist and we remain committed to diligently advocating for equitable change to reflect national best practices and our shared goal of supporting and protecting student-athletes.
Maurie McInnis, President, Stony Brook University