WORCESTER – A Holy Cross alumni club representing the former students most closely associated with the college’s nickname – athletes – has come out officially against the idea of dropping the schools’ "Crusaders" moniker.

At a meeting on Nov. 18, the Holy Cross Varsity Club’s board of directors voted unanimously to back the current name, which the college’s leadership has decided to rethink this academic year with an eye on a possible name change.

"To be sure, it is clear that history indicates a certain negative connotation to the term 'Crusader' as in the context of killing and pillaging, which took place during the Crusades," the organization’s president, 2012 alumna Emily Marr, said in a statement, referring to one of the arguments against the nickname that led to the current debate about its appropriateness. "Literally, however, the ‘Crusader’ is one who follows the example of Jesus Christ on the Cross. This is reflected in the mission of our Alma Mater as being ‘men and women for others.’ It is within this context that we dare to call ourselves ‘Crusaders.’ "

While other alumni have expressed similar support for the nickname, the varsity club’s endorsement appears to represent the first official statement by an alumni association on the matter. The organization is the main alumni group representing Holy Cross’ thousands of former athletes.

All members of the Holy Cross community, including current and former students and staff, were invited by the college to submit input on the Crusader name over the past month and a half.

"Alumni and student groups are certainly an important part of our campus community, and we welcome and appreciate their feedback," college spokesman John Hill said when asked about the varsity club’s input specifically.

A commission created in September by the Holy Cross president, the Rev. Philip Boroughs, to lead the investigation into the nickname will consider that and other feedback when it puts together a report over the next few weeks for Rev. Boroughs and the college board of trustees, he added, which could decide at its meeting Feb. 3 whether to keep or drop the moniker.

The debate on campus over the Crusader name caught outside attention last academic year when the college’s student newspaper, also named the Crusader, announced its intention to reconsider its handle, in part because of the confusion caused by the existence of a Ku Klux Klan-affiliated publication of the same name.

Proponents of rethinking the nickname have also pointed to the general co-opting of the Crusader name and legacy by far-right groups and individuals, in part due to its historical origin as an example of Western, Christian forces battling the Islamic world.

But many Holy Cross alumni don’t think that meaning of "Crusader" should have anything to do with the college’s use of the name, said James Maloney, a 1969 alumnus who serves as secretary of the varsity club.

"I think it’s well-known they’re separate," he said, adding that for athletes specifically, "it’s a mascot, and nothing more than that."

But given the connection the college’s athletes have formed with the Crusader name, Mr. Maloney said, the varsity club "was asked to join the discussion by a number of members," all of whom supported keeping the nickname.

"I’ve never heard one athlete have any opinion it should be changed," he said, adding that since the college announced plans to revisit the name, the club has received dozens of messages from members in favor of remaining Crusaders.