UMass Lowell’s athletic teams will move up to Division I, joining the America East Conference, representatives of both announced today at a rally at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell.
The America East Board of Presidents unanimously approved accepting the University of Massachusetts Lowell as a member of the conference effective July 1, 2013. The move also received the unanimous support of UMass Lowell’s Faculty Senate Executive Committee and Student Government Association.
“UMass Lowell is an outstanding addition to our membership and an ideal fit for America East,” said Stony Brook University President and Chairman of the America East Board of Presidents Dr. Samuel L. Stanley. “It is a public research university within our conference’s geographic footprint that highly values academics while also excelling in athletics.”
“UMass Lowell is proud to have been chosen to join the America East Conference, not just on the basis of the strengths of our outstanding athletics programs and facilities, but also because of the university’s excellence in academics, research and vibrant campus life,” said UMass Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan.
“I congratulate UMass Lowell on this exciting accomplishment and I look forward to cheering on the River Hawks in the upcoming season,” said Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
With the move to America East, the 16,300-student UMass Lowell will join institutions in America East that are of similar size and are also four-year research universities, the majority of which are public. Those include the University of Maine, University of New Hampshire and University of Vermont, already fellow members of Division I Hockey East with UMass Lowell.
“UMass Lowell student-athletes are not only known for their performance on the field, court and ice, but also in the classroom. Our current only Division I sport, men’s ice hockey, has the highest average GPA of all of our men’s teams, regularly receiving honors from their league and other organizations,” said UMass Lowell Athletic DirectorDana Skinner. “By moving all of our teams to the America East Conference, UMass Lowell will join our peers not only in athletics but also in academics and research.”
“I am thrilled to welcome UMass Lowell as the newest member of America East,” America East Commissioner Amy Huchthausen said. “All throughout the membership evaluation process, our conference’s leadership has stressed the importance of finding peer institutions with similar profiles and an infrastructure of strong academics, competitive athletics programs and outstanding facilities. UMass Lowell has those assets and will strengthen America East in all facets.”
UMass Lowell will begin competing in 14 sports in the 2013-14 academic year, but will not be eligible for postseason play while it completes the four-year NCAA reclassification from Division II to Division I. The River Hawks will be full Division I members of America East for the 2017-18 academic year.
As a full member of America East, UMass Lowell will join the University at Albany, Binghamton University, University of Hartford, University of Maine, University of Maryland Baltimore County, University of New Hampshire, Stony Brook University and University of Vermont. In addition, Fairfield University and Providence College are associate members of America East in field hockey and volleyball, respectively. Boston University departs America East for the Patriot League following the 2012-13 academic year.
UMass Lowell, with more than 88 degree programs in its six colleges, is ranked as one of the top 100 public universities in the nation and as a top-tier national university by U.S. News & World Report. All of UMass Lowell’s peer institutions, based on similar academic and research profiles, compete at the Division I level in athletics. Enrollment at the university has increased 40 percent in the last five years, while diversity and academic credentials of students have increased dramatically. The university has broken records in each of those years for the number of students receiving diplomas, and students on athletic teams have graduated at a higher rate than those who are not over the last 10 years. UMass Lowell –with 75,000 graduates earning among the top mid-career and starting salaries in New England, according to PayScale.com – has been recognized by the Carnegie Foundation and President Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll for community and campus engagement.
“This move will add value to the degrees that students receive from UMass Lowell because being a Division I school will add to the prestige of the institution by strengthening the reputation of the university not just in this area but around the country,” said Student Government Association President Brian Dano, a marketing and finance major from Merrimack, N.H. “I hope one day to watch UMass Lowell athletics on ESPN in the not too distant future.”
With the exception of its Division I men’s ice hockey team, UMass Lowell has been a member of NCAA Division II since 1975 and a member of the Northeast-10 Conference since 2000. Since 2000, the River Hawks have made 104 NCAA post-season appearances, won two team national championships, had two individual national championships and a pair of national players of the year, one Olympian, won 59 conference championships, had 214 All-Americans and 32 Academic All-Americans.
America East was formed as a men’s basketball-only conference in 1979 as the ECAC North. The league became an all-sports association as the North Atlantic Conference in 1988. The conference changed names to America East in 1995. The addition of UMass Lowell is the first expansion since 2002 when UMBC was elected to membership effective for the 2003-04 academic year.