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Mercyhurst Athletics to Become Division I, Move to Northeast Conference

Photo courtesy of Mercyhurst Athletics

ERIE, Pa. – Mercyhurst University athletics are going NCAA Division I.

The university announced via a media release Thursday, April 4, that it will be leaving the NCAA D-II PSAC and joining the NCAA D-I Northeast Conference (NEC) beginning with the 2024-25 school year.

“Today marks a watershed moment for Mercyhurst University, amplifying our commitment to excellence in all that we do,” Mercyhurst President Kathleen A. Getz said. “In making this transition to the Northeast Conference, we believe our Mercyhurst community, our alumni, and devoted fans will benefit from a new era of spirited competition and connectedness, forging an enduring legacy for future generations of Lakers. Further, we are truly grateful for the gracious welcome extended to us by Commissioner Noreen Morris and the NEC Council of Presidents, whose values and mission are strategically aligned with our own.”

The Lakers current D-II program – Mercyhurst offers D-I in men’s and women’s hockey – will go through a four-year NCAA Division I reclassification period before attaining full membership status for the 2028-29 school year.

“Today, on behalf of the NEC Council of Presidents, we are delighted to extend a heartfelt welcome to Mercyhurst University as the newest member of the NEC,” NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris said. “Mercyhurst’s commitment to bringing out the best in their student-athletes, both on the field and in the classroom, alongside their focus on community engagement, deeply resonated with our mission and values. We appreciate President Kathleen Getz and Athletic Director Joe Spano for their exceptional leadership throughout this process. Their forward-thinking vision and meticulous planning have positioned the Lakers for a seamless and successful transition to Division I and the NEC. We’re eager to kick off this partnership, which promises to uplift the conference and invigorate both the vibrant campus life at Mercyhurst and the surrounding Erie community.”

Mercyhurst currently offers 27 varsity intercollegiate athletic programs, including 13 men’s sports and 14 women’s sports with 18 of those participating in the NEC (the others are sports sponsored by the NEC and will either most likley, in the case of hockey, stay in their current conferences and in other sports find new conferences to play in. Sports immediatly joining the NEC for the 24-25 school year include on the men’s side baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, and tennis and one the wonmen’s side basketball, bowling, cross country, field hockey, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, and volleyball.

During its reclassification, Mercyhurst will immediately be able to participate in NEC championships in NCAA non-automatic qualifier sports (cross country). Beginning in 2026-27, all Mercyhurst athletic programs will be eligible to compete in the NEC postseason but will remain ineligible for NCAA competition until the 2028-29 academic year.

The NEC full-member institutions for the 2024-25 season, when Mercyhurst begins play, include Central Connecticut State University, Chicago State University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Le Moyne College, Long Island University, Saint Francis University, Stonehill College, and Wagner College. Chicago State joined the conference in Decemeber.

Getz, the Mercyhurst President, compared the decision to go D-I to the decison to admit male students in 1969 and the decision to go from Mercyhurst College to Mercyhurst University in 2012.

“This decision arrives on the cusp of the university’s centennial, to be celebrated in the 2026-27 year, is a most fitting tribute to the university’s Carpe Diem legacy and its time-honored tradition of Seizing the Day,” Getz said. “By making the move to Division I and the NEC, we are not only raising the bar for our student-athletes but also elevating the profile and prestige of Mercyhurst University on a national stage. This transition will open doors to new opportunities for recruitment, competition, and collaboration with universities and athletic programs in new and larger markets, including New York, Chicago, and Boston.”

According to its media release, Mercyhurst officials engaged in months of assessment on whether to make the transition and consulted the leadership of other colleges that have moved from DII to DI in recent years. Their research considered an array of perspectives in the everchanging field of intercollegiate athletics, including its effect on enrollment, alumni engagement, university finances, and local economic development, as well as its consonance with the university’s mission.

The motion to proceed was ratified unanimously by the Board of Trustees on March 29.

“For years, our athletic programs have showcased exceptional talent and dedication, both athletically and academically, at the NCAA Division II level,” said Mercyhurst Athletic Director Joe Spano. “We are grateful for the more than 15 years we spent as members of the PSAC and the competition and camaraderie we shared under that affiliation. In looking to the future, we see the immense potential for growth and achievement that comes with competing at the highest level of collegiate athletics and we are excited to offer this opportunity to our student-athletes.”

Spano added that having recently completed major updates to the university’s athletic facilities, Mercyhurst is further poised for the move to Division I.

In 2019, the university implemented a comprehensive facilities improvement plan, centered around the William Vorsheck Jr. Athletic Complex, providing Mercyhurst student-athletes with first-class facilities, including renovations to every on-campus competition facility, among them Saxon Stadium, and the baseball/soccer field, four new locker rooms featuring space for women’s soccer and softball, the Ice Center, a new turf field with lights that is used by the university’s softball program and shared with Mercyhurst Prep, and a totally renovated athletic center and basketball court.”

The PSAC reacted to Mercyhurst leaving by wishing it’s student-athletes good luck.

“Mercyhurst University informed the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference this week that it has accepted an invitation to join Division I’s Northeast Conference (NEC) and begin the official process to reclassify to Division I status,” a release from the PSAC said. “Mercyhurst plans to join the NEC for the 2024-25 academic year and will end its 16-year affiliation with the PSAC at the conclusion of the spring season. Laker programs will remain fully eligible to compete in PSAC Championships for the remainder of 2023-24. Mercyhurst, sponsoring 8 men’s sports and 9 women’s sports in the PSAC, won 16 total conference championships throughout its tenure in the conference. The PSAC wishes Mercyhurst’s student-athletes and coaches all the best in their future endeavors.”


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