Merrimack College has accepted an invitation from the Northeast Conference's Council of Presidents to become the league's 11th member, it was announced today by NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris.
Merrimack, located in Andover and North Andover, Massachusetts, will become a full member of the conference in 2023-24 upon completion of its four-year NCAA Division I reclassification period.
"We are thrilled to welcome Merrimack College to the Northeast Conference family!" Morris said. "From the outset it was extremely evident that President Hopey and the entire campus community had a clear vision to elevate the academic and athletic profile of Merrimack College. With increased investment in resources, capital improvements and personnel, that vision has become a reality with Merrimack's most successful competitive season in 2017-18 and the college's largest incoming freshman class ever entering in the fall 2018. We are very excited that the NEC will be the future home of the Warriors!"
Twenty-two of Merrimack's 24 teams currently compete at the NCAA Division II level. Men's and women's ice hockey currently compete as Division I programs and will remain in Hockey East.
"The College's 2011 strategic plan, the Agenda for Distinction, called for Merrimack College to become a Division I institution to compete and excel at the highest level," said college President Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D. "We are pleased that our record of achievement and growth has resulted in this invitation to compete in the NEC and partner with its outstanding member institutions."
Merrimack's Director of Athletics, Jeremy Gibson, also expressed his excitement.
"Our student-athletes have enjoyed tremendous success academically and athletically. We are thrilled that they will have the opportunity to pursue excellence through membership in the Northeast Conference, and that our entire community will experience the excitement of Division I athletics across all of our program," he said.
Nicknamed the Warriors for the college's founding to educate World War II veterans, Merrimack has been a member of the Northeast-10 Conference since 1984. From a competitive standpoint, Merrimack enjoyed its most successful year ever in 2017-18, highlighted by winning the NCAA DII men's lacrosse national championship and three NE10 championships (baseball, men's lacrosse and men's soccer). Likewise, seven teams qualified for the NCAA tournament (baseball, men's basketball, men's cross country, men's lacrosse, men's soccer, softball, men's tennis) in their respective sports, a school record.
Merrimack won the 2017-18 NE10 Presidents' Cup, awarded annually to the top athletics program among the 15 member institutions that make up the conference. The Warriors also finished 44th out of 268 schools in the Learfield Director's Cup standings.
Merrimack offers a broad-based athletic program, fielding 10 men's and 14 women's sports teams. Sports sponsorship at Merrimack includes baseball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, field hockey, football, women's golf, men's and women's ice hockey, men's and women's lacrosse, women's rowing, men's and women's soccer, softball, women's swimming and diving, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field, and women's volleyball. Merrimack will sponsor 21 of the NEC's 23 sports in 2019-20, the only exceptions being men's golf and women's bowling.
Merrimack will be incorporated as fully as possible into NEC athletic schedules beginning with the 2019-20 season. During its reclassification Merrimack will be able to participate in NEC championships in NCAA non-automatic qualifier sports (cross country, swimming and diving, and indoor and outdoor track and field) only.
"Congratulations to President Hopey and the entire Merrimack community on joining the Northeast Conference," said Saint Francis University President and Chair of the NEC Presidents Council Fr. Malachi Van Tassell, T.O.R., Ph.D. "We are excited to welcome our newest member at this exciting time in conference history, and are very pleased they accepted our invitation. The Warriors will enhance the level of competition and bring a new dimension to the league. Merrimack is a perfect fit for the Northeast Conference."
The NEC is expanding for the first time since 2012 when Bryant was added to the membership. Fairleigh Dickinson, LIU Brooklyn, Robert Morris, St. Francis Brooklyn, Saint Francis U and Wagner are charter NEC members. Mount St. Mary's was admitted in 1989, Central Connecticut in 1997, Sacred Heart in 1999 and Bryant in 2012.
A formal media availability and campus celebration will be hosted by Merrimack College in its basketball arena at the Merrimack Athletics Complex at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 13.