NAC gets northern exposure

After several seasons as one of Division III's most isolated Independent membes, Maine Presque-Isle will nest in the North Atlantic Conference starting in 2018-19.
Maine Presque-Isle athletics photo

Facing the potential loss of its automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA playoffs in multiple sports, the North Atlantic Conference (NAC) announced that it will add Maine Presque-Isle and SUNY-Canton as full members beginning in 2018-19. Their addition helps offset the scheduled departure of four members next season.

“Together with fellow NAC presidents I am delighted to welcome both SUNY Canton and UMPI into the North Atlantic Conference,” said Dr. Kathryn A. Foster, President of Maine-Farmington and chair of the NAC Presidents’ Council in the conference’s release. “The addition of Canton and UMPI fulfills an ongoing strategic initiative by the NAC Presidents’ Council to expand conference membership and provide the highest-quality experience for our institutions, athletic programs and student-athletes.”

Maine-Presque Isle and SUNY-Canton will arrive just as four current NAC members leave. Castleton will move to the Little East Conference, Colby-Sawyer to the Great Northeast Athletic Conference, and New England College to the New England Collegiate Conference. Green Mountain announced that it will leave the NCAA entirely and join the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

Before Monday’s announcement, the NAC was on course to drop from 10 members to six in several sports, leaving it one short of the seven-school threshold for a conference to receive an automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA playoffs. By adding two members, the NAC will keep its membership above that threshold, pending any further moves.

The move also weakens the effort by the newly formed American Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) to find enough members to gain an automatic qualifying bid. Maine-Presque Isle and SUNY-Canton are two of the eight schools that formed the ACAA beginning this season. Mills College does not participate in several sports, including men's and women's basketball, and SUNY-Delhi is an exploratory member of Division III, meaning it is at least four seasons away from being eligible for NCAA postseason consideration.

Despite the loss, ACAA leadership is supportive of the move by both schools.

"We formed the ACAA with the goal of giving league members a "home" conference to call their own. With the formation of the league and awarding our first championships this fall we accomplished that goal," said ACAA Commissioner Dr. Kelly J. Higgins in the conference's release.

"We also knew the ACAA could be a stepping stone as some institutions pursued more local/regional options. This understanding has always been considered as one of the integral parts of the design of the ACAA. Both SUNY Canton and UMaine-Presque Isle have been great founding members of the league and have always been willing to step up to the plate through the formation process."

"We wish both institutions the very best. The ACAA has been in discussions with several institutions about joining the league and continues to have a goal of adding to its membership in the near future."