Merrimack College Leaves NE-10 Conference

Merrimack College officials announced on September 10 the school will be leaving the Northeast 10 Conference and NCAA’s Division II. The school will remain in the NE-10 for the 2018-19 academic year, then move to Division I and join the Northeast Conference in the fall of 2019.

Of the 24 teams Merrimack fields, just two were already competing at the Division I level Men’s and women’s ice hockey. These teams will continue to play in the Hockey East conference.

Recently, Merrimack has excelled in many sports. In the 2017-2018 year, Merrimack won three NE10 championships. The Warriors won titles in baseball, soccer, and lacrosse. Merrimack went on to win the NCAA D-II lacrosse national championship.

Merrimack’s departure reduces the NE10’s membership to 14 schools, which actually balances out sports with divisions, like basketball.

Julie Ruppert, commissioner of the Northeast 10, would not say if the conference would look to add another member school to make up for the loss of Merrimack.

“Our presidents are set to meet in November to discuss the next steps,” Ruppert said, “Fourteen is a nice number. There is no panic.”

Merrimack had been a full member of the NE10 since 1984 when it became the ninth school to join the conference. They are not the first team to leave the conference for Division I. Most recently, the University of Massachusetts Lowell left in 2013 to join the America East.

Le Moyne athletic director Matt Bassett praised the departing conference rival.

“They’re a very difficult opponent to play against in virtually every sport they put out,” Bassett said, “You have to be at your best to compete and beat them. In some ways, it’s disappointing to see a quality program like that leave.”

In 2018, Merrimack won NE10’s Presidents’ Cup, which is given to the school with the top athletics program. Merrimack’s departure offers an opportunity for other schools to rise up toward the top of the conference’s standings.

“It’s that next man up mentality. That’s three titles open for others now,” Ruppert said. “Le Moyne, Adelphi, and a few others are in a position to challenge for that spot.”

Le Moyne’s athletic profile has grown in recent years. Just last year the women’s lacrosse team won the college’s first women’s national championship and the men’s basketball team enjoyed a long run through to the elite eight of the NCAA Championships. The Dolphins even had a pitcher, Josiah Gray, selected in the second round of the Major League Baseball draft.  

However, Bassett downplayed the Presidents’ Cup, stressing the depth the conference still has and his focus beyond titles.

“We don’t promote that competitive ranking as a goal or an ambition to go for as a department. Bassett said. “Our goal is getting our kids to a place where they’re playing in the kind of games that matter to their hearts. If we are able to keep moving forward, that’s great, but it’s not a primary force.”