Three MAC Commonwealth schools, two Capital Athletic Conference schools, two Skyline Conference schools and a MAC Freedom school are banding together to form a new conference.
Juniata, Moravian and Susquehanna, which broke away from the MAC for football earlier this season, join Catholic, Goucher, Kings Point, Stevens and Drew in the new league, which will start play in 2007-08 and will sponsor all sports except football. The schools span from Long Island to Washington, D.C., as well as central Pennsylvania.
“The student athletics culture of Division III competition is increasingly a focus of undergraduate excellence in higher education, and the formation of this conference is an expression of a belief in the leadership-building qualities of that culture,” Stevens president Harold Raveche told the Associated Press on Monday.
The conference will likely use a travel partner model in basketball, similar to the American Southwest Conference and the NESCAC, among others, where schools will travel and play an opponent on Friday, then swap opponents and play on Saturday. For example, Stevens and Kings Point would travel to the Baltimore/Washington area and play Catholic and Goucher, then swap and play Goucher and Catholic.
“We certainly looked at the travel aspect,” Michael Allen, athletic director at Catholic, told D3hoops.com. “We haven't worked out the details of how we're going to proceed, but we're looking at a travel partner model. When you take that approach the missed class time will be reduced. Since both teams are playing back-to-back nights it's not really an advantage (competitively) one way or the other.”
The move is the first big piece in what is likely to be many conference affiliation changes in a short period of time if legislation is approved at next month's NCAA convention allowing a short period for conferences to realign without losing automatic bids.
“We're moving forward either way,” said Allen. “If we have to get in the postseason as independents for a couple years that's something we'll have to deal with.”
Although Juniata is the westernmost school in the conference and somewhat geographically isolated, it's nothing new for them. “We were by far the westernmost school (in the MAC Commonwealth),” said Juniata athletic director Larry Bock. “There might be a few more miles with the Merchant Marine and Stevens part of it, but we were going to Widener before, so it's pretty much a wash.”
The MAC has been looking for new members since the three MAC Commonwealth teams split for football in October. The CAC may have an announcement regarding new membership as soon as tomorrow. “We've got a lot of things pending – we're talking to a lot of schools and they're talking to us,” CAC commissioner Dick Cook told D3hoops.com on Monday.
One of those schools is Villa Julie, which has been trying to get into the league for the better part of the past decade. The school confirmed its acceptance of a slot in the CAC on Monday evening. Athletic director Brett Adams said, “I was a part of the CAC when I was at York. It's a wonderful conference. We at Villa Julie have always thought highly of the Capital.”
Other candidates to join the CAC could include Frostburg State, Hood, Shenandoah and Wesley. The MAC is looking at many of the same schools.