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12-Member NEAC to Begin Play in 2004-05 Season
Doug Lippincott, Director of Communications
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE—Feb. 9, 2004
KEUKA PARK, N.Y.—Twelve NCAA Division III colleges from three states have joined to form a newlook North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC). David Sweet, athletic director at current NEAC member Keuka College and acting conference commissioner, said conference play will begin in the 2004-05 season.
Joining NEAC holdovers Keuka (Keuka Park, N.Y.), Cazenovia College (Cazenovia, N.Y.), and D’Youville College (Buffalo, N.Y.) are:
• Baptist Bible College (Clarks Summit, Pa.).
• Bard College (Annadale-On-Hudson, N.Y.).
• Chestnut Hill College (Philadelphia, Pa.).
• Keystone College (La Plume, Pa.).
• Pennsylvania State University-Berks (Reading, Pa.).
• Philadelphia Biblical University (Langhorne, Pa.).
• Polytechnic University (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
• SUNY Purchase (Purchase, N.Y.).
• Villa Julie College (Stevenson, Md.)
Current NEAC members Medaille College and Hilbert College will join the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference next season.
The defection of Hilbert and Medaille would have left the NEAC with just three
schools—Keuka College, D’Youville College, and Cazenovia College—for the 2004-05 season. “The conference wouldn’t have existed with just three members,” said David Sweet, athletic director at Keuka College and acting NEAC commissioner.
Pulling the plug on the NEAC would have left Keuka and the other two colleges with two alternatives: join another conference or become an independent.
“We explored the possibility of joining another conference but none of the Division III conferences in New York state were looking to expand and the others just didn’t work geographically,” said Sweet.
Returning to independent status, which Keuka held before it joined the NEAC in 2001, was “something we didn’t even want to consider,” said Sweet. “Scheduling is very difficult for independent schools, but most of all our kids want to play for championships and everything else that goes with being in a conference, such as player of the week, all-conference, and all-academic honors,” he said. “We joined the NEAC for the benefits it would provide our student athletes, and we wanted to stay in a conference for the same reasons.”
So Sweet and his counterparts at D’Youville (Brian Miller) and Cazenovia (Pete Liddell), along with presidents Joseph G. Burke (Keuka), Sister Denise A. Roche (D’Youville), and Mark J. Tierno (Cazenovia) went to work to save the NEAC.
Their work was worthy of an ER script. Not only is the NEAC still kicking, but it has grown.
According to Keuka’s top administrators, the new NEAC will benefit the College in a number of ways. “We have aligned ourselves with a group of prestigious schools that share our desire to provide our student athletes with the best possible academic and athletic experience,” said President Joseph G. Burke.
Said Dean of Students Jim Blackburn: “This conference not only will improve the quality of the student athlete’s experience at Keuka, but it will have a ripple effect throughout the student body. Competing for championships and perhaps an NCAA tournament berth in a viable, NCAA-sanctioned conference will create excitement across campus. It raises the bar and enhances our campus culture.”
The new-look league will also draw the attention of prospective students, according to Vice President for College Advancement, Enrollment Management, and Marketing Carolanne Marquis.
“The opportunity to compete against schools from around the Northeast and in NCAA Division III tournaments are things that appeal to students who plan to play sports in college,” she said.
With nine full NCAA Division III members, the NEAC will be eligible for NCAA
recognition immediately. Penn State-Berks began its provisional membership in Division III last fall. Keystone will do so this fall and SUNY Purchase will in the fall of 2005. The NEAC will be eligible to garner automatic Division III tournament qualifier status from the NCAA in 2006-07, according to Sweet.
Sweet said the expanded NEAC will offer a full slate of championships in 12 sports in year one, including men’s soccer, women’s soccer, men’s cross country, women’s cross country, women’s volleyball, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, and golf.
“Discussions are under way to add more sports, including men’s volleyball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and track and field,” said Sweet. He said the NEAC will be split into two, six-team divisions to reduce travel costs and the
amount of time student athletes will be away from classrooms.
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