Merrimack, Sacred Heart to Depart NEC for MAAC


Michael Ferrara had nine ground balls out of the midfield for Merrimack in 2023.

Less than two weeks after the Northeast Conference (NEC) triumphantly announced its return to men’s lacrosse for 2024-25, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports reported that Merrimack and Sacred Heart will depart the conference for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).

Rothstein, who broke the news Monday morning, said an official announcement was expected soon. The move will occur on July 1, 2024, according to an official announcement from the MAAC.

The realignment will be felt most in men’s lacrosse, as the NEC will still retain an automatic qualifier for the NCAA tournament in women’s lacrosse. Six teams are needed in a conference to have an AQ, and the NEC will have eight after Merrimack and Sacred Heart leave. The MAAC will expand to 12 teams.

The men’s lacrosse scenario is murkier. The MAAC expands to nine teams, while the NEC will shrink to five — even after the announced additions of Detroit Mercy and VMI as associate league members.

Chris Jastrzembski provided a clear picture of the new conference breakdown on X.

Continue below for the official release from the MAAC.


EDISON, N.J. — The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) announced today the addition of Merrimack College and Sacred Heart University as its newest member institutions effective July 1, 2024.
Merrimack and Sacred Heart will join Canisius University, Fairfield University, Iona University, Manhattan College, Marist College, Mount St. Mary’s University, Niagara University, Quinnipiac University, Rider University, Saint Peter’s University and Siena College as full member institutions in the MAAC. The addition of these two institutions will propel the conference to an all-time membership high of 13 for the 2024-25 academic year. 
“This is a significant and exciting day for the MAAC as we welcome two outstanding institutions to our conference,” said MAAC Commissioner Travis Tellitocci. “The addition of both schools extends our presence in major metropolitan areas, elevates our brand and enriches our conference. We are proud to welcome the Merrimack and Sacred Heart student-athletes, coaches, administrators, alumni and fans to the MAAC.” 
“Merrimack and Sacred Heart are two institutions that share our emphasis on the overall well-being of our student-athletes,” said MAAC President and Quinnipiac University President Judy Olian. “We’re a conference that has always prided itself on the academic focus of our student-athletes, their character, alongside their athletic distinctions. All of us in the MAAC are enthusiastic to expand the conference with these two schools as they share our values and commitment to the academic, athletic and personal growth of our students.” 
Merrimack College sponsors an expansive athletics program of 28 teams, 16 for women and 12 for men. Merrimack is in its first year of full Division I eligibility following its recent four-year reclassification process. Merrimack enjoyed unprecedented success during the transition, winning multiple Northeast Conference championships, including regular season men’s basketball championships in 2019-20 and 2022-23 and the tournament championship in March 2023. 

“Merrimack College’s strategic plan, the Agenda for Future, guides our institution’s ambition as a nationally-recognized Catholic research university and calls for excellence in academics, research and athletics,” said Merrimack 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 MAAC and partner with its outstanding member institutions whose values of academic integrity, athletic achievement, inclusive excellence and community engagement align with our Catholic Augustinian mission. I want to thank the MAAC Council of Presidents and Commissioner Tellitocci for their support and confidence in Merrimack.” 
Sacred Heart University is home to 33 varsity sports and over 1,000 student-athletes. The Pioneers have captured 73 Northeast Conference team championships and a league-best nine Commissioner’s Cups for overall league supremacy since joining the league in 1999. Sacred Heart student-athletes have also been prolific in the classroom, winning four NEC institutional academic awards. Pioneer teams, which earned four NCAA Tournament bids in 2022-23, have accumulated five national championships, while SHU notched the NEC’s first women’s NCAA Basketball Tournament victory in March of 2023. 
“This is an exciting day for Sacred Heart University,” said Sacred Heart University President John J. Petillo, Ph.D. “As one of the fastest growing Catholic universities in the country, we have many accomplishments to be proud of. As we look to continue our rise, the student experience remains at the forefront of our strategic initiatives. The invitation to join the MAAC aligns with our institutional goals allowing us to provide an exceptional competitive environment for our student-athletes, as well as associating ourselves with a group of like-minded institutions. We are excited for all MAAC members to experience our campus and our community.” 
Founded in 1980, the MAAC began its 43rd year of competition during the 2023-24 academic year and is headquartered in Edison, New Jersey. For the first time in its history, the MAAC’s geographic footprint will extend into the state of Massachusetts. Located in the suburbs of Boston, Merrimack places the conference squarely within one of the nation’s Top 10 media markets. The addition of Sacred Heart strengthens the MAAC footprint by joining Fairfield and Quinnipiac as the conference’s third member institution in the state of Connecticut. With these two additions, the conference is now comprised of 13 schools spanning five states – Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. 
The MAAC currently sponsors 23 NCAA Division I sports and championships with the MAAC champions earning automatic berths to the NCAA Championship in 15 sports. The conference sponsors baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s indoor track & field, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s outdoor track & field, women’s rowing, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s swimming & diving, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s volleyball, and women’s water polo. In addition to the 23 NCAA Division I sports, the conference also sponsors Esports, which includes four Esports Championships. 


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