Somerset, NJ (July 3, 2013) -- Saint Joseph's University has accepted an invitation to join the Northeast Conference (NEC) as an associate member in men's lacrosse, it was announced on Wednesday by NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris. The Hawks will begin play in the 2014 spring season.
Saint Joseph's becomes the second associate member to join the NEC this week. The NEC added Hobart College as an affiliate on Monday, raising men's lacrosse membership to seven for the 2014 season. NEC core members Bryant University, Mount St. Mary's University, Robert Morris University, Sacred Heart University and Wagner College all sponsor men's lax.
"The excitement around NEC men's lacrosse has heightened even more with the addition of Saint Joseph's University as an associate member," said Morris. "The leadership of the Hawks administration and coaching staff have demonstrated a strong commitment to building a successful men's lacrosse program both on and off the field, and we are thrilled to welcome them to the NEC family."
"The NEC is a conference committed to academic and athletic excellence and it has demonstrated the commitment to building a premier lacrosse conference," said Saint Joseph's head coach Taylor Wray. "It is clear to me that lacrosse is a priority sport for the NEC and we are excited to be a part of it. We believe this is a great fit for Saint Joseph's and a great move for our program."
This past season, Saint Joseph's celebrated the 20th anniversary of the sponsorship of men's lacrosse as a varsity sport. The Hawks had competed as a member of the MAAC for 14 seasons and then after making a refocused commitment to the program, joined the CAA in 2011.
Saint Joseph's has made considerable improvement in the past two seasons under Wray, totaling more wins in two years than in the previous three years combined. The Hawks went 6-9 in 2012 and 5-11 in 2013, which included a 7-6 win over 2012 CAA champion Massachusetts. Freshman Pat Swanick was named to the 2013 CAA All-Rookie team to become the first men's lacrosse player in program's history to earn CAA postseason honors.
Saint Joseph's sports a 19-17 all-time record against NEC programs, including a 3-2 mark since the NEC began sponsoring the sport officially in 2011.
"The changing landscape of college athletics and conference realignment created this opportunity to join the NEC, providing an option that suits our long-term interests and positions us for future success," said Saint Joseph's director of athletics Don DiJulia. "We are extremely excited to join the NEC and to compete with these fine institutions as we continue to grow our men's lacrosse program."
"The addition of Saint Joseph's and Hobart will not only strengthen the NEC men's lacrosse brand, it will continue our upward trajectory in a sport where we are just scratching the surface of our potential," said Morris. "Likewise, these two institutions also bring excellent traditions of academic success and community involvement, two areas in which the NEC strives to be a leader."
The NEC announced the addition of men's lacrosse in the spring of 2008. Official sponsorship began in 2011 with Mount St. Mary's crowned the league's inaugural champion. Since that time, the Conference has enjoyed success in the sport both on and off the field. Several of its members have appeared in the national rankings since 2011, including two-time defending NEC champion Bryant, which ended the 2013 season ranked No. 20 in the Nike/Inside Lacrosse Division I Media Poll. This past May, the Bulldogs became the first NEC program to earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament. In the classroom, NEC lacrosse teams combined to place 75 student-athletes on the NEC Academic Honor Roll and 17 on the prestigious NEC Commissioner's Honor Roll with GPAs of 3.75 or higher during the 2012-13 academic year.
About The Northeast Conference
Now entering its 33rd year, the Northeast Conference is an NCAA Division I collegiate athletic association consisting of 10 institutions of higher learning located throughout six states. Media coverage of the NEC extends to four of the largest markets in the United States - New York (#1), Pittsburgh (#23), Baltimore (#27), and Hartford/New Haven (#30). Founded in 1981 as the basketball-only ECAC Metro Conference, the NEC has grown to sponsor 22 championship sports for men and women and now enjoys automatic or play-in access to 14 different NCAA Championships. NEC member institutions include Bryant, Central Connecticut, Fairleigh Dickinson, LIU Brooklyn, Mount St. Mary's, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, St. Francis Brooklyn, Saint Francis U and Wagner. For more information on the NEC, visit the league's official website (www.northeastconference.org) and digital network (www.necfrontrow.com), or follow the league on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube @NECsports.