With several hundred students, faculty, staff, alumni and fans in attendance, the UMass Lowell announced all of its athletic teams will be Division I members as of July 1, 2013. With the move, the River Hawks will join America East, a conference featuring many of the University’s peer institutions.
“All throughout the membership evaluation process, our conference’s leadership has stressed the importance of finding peer institutions with similar profiles and an infrastructure of strong academics, competitive athletics programs and outstanding facilities,” says America East Commissioner Amy Huchthausen. “UMass Lowell has those assets and will strengthen America East in all facets.”
The university community, including the faculty and student govenment, as well as the UMass Board of Trustees all approved the action. According a study done by a 32-person committee, America East not only had the third-highest Academic Progress Rate in Div. 1 but it features schools similar to UMass Lowell’s size, teams and academic focus.
The America East Board of Presidents, the University Faculty Senate Executive Committee and Student Government Association all approved the shift unanimously.
“This is about the academics of this institution,” Chancellor Marty Meehan said. “This is about where we’ve been and where we’re going as an institution. You’re associated by those teams you play, and those universities that are a part of your league. And we belong in America East.”
The University will elevate 14 of its teams to Division I and add men’s and women’s lacrosse in the next few years. Men’s ice hockey will remain in Division I Hockey East. While the shifted teams will not be eligible for postseason play while they complete the four-year NCAA reclassification, student athletes and coaches are excited for the changes.
“At first I was nervous,” says Margaret McSpiritt, a junior civil engineering major on the women’s soccer team. “But I want to be a part of this change and now I’m excited to play in Division I. I’m looking forward to getting more practice time with the team, traveling, playing at different levels of competition and the challenging games ahead.”