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Friday, December 14, 2012

MAAC adds Monmouth, Quinnipiac

Following a week of speculation, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference is expanding.

Monmouth University and Quinnipiac University both announced Friday they are joining the league for the 2013-14 academic year.

The invitations were extended after the conference’s presidents met Friday morning in New York.

Both schools currently reside in the Northeast Conference and will have to pay a $250,000 exit fee to join the MAAC, according to NEC bylaws.

“We’re excited about it,” said Rider University athletic director Don Harnum. “We have a good, friendly rivalry with Monmouth. We’ve maintained that relationship with them even after we left the NEC. We play in field hockey, soccer, softball … I think it’s a good fit geographically, academically and athletically.”

 This brings the total number of schools in the league to 11. Loyola University (Md.) is leaving at the end of the year to join the Patriot League.

Harnum said conference presidents and athletic directors began discussing expansion with commissioner Richard Ensor long before Loyola announced it was leaving, but that the Maryland school’s departure, “expedited the process.”

“It wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction,” Harnum said.

Monmouth, located in West Long Branch, has 21 varsity sports and a state-of-the-art arena, the $57 million Multipurpose Athletic Center (MAC). The school will remain in the NEC for football, field hockey and bowling after it applies for associate membership.

The MAAC does not offer any of those three sports.
“There is already a built-in rivalry,” said Rider basketball coach Kevin Baggett, whose team beat Monmouth, 65-62 on Nov. 17. “It changes the recruiting dynamic because we’re both chasing the same kind of players now. It’s going to make the rivalry more intense.”

The Broncs are 12-4 against the Hawks since leaving the NEC in 1997 and lead the all-time series 23-15.

Rider is an associate member of the NEC in field hockey, winning the last three conference championships.

The Hawks also bring with them a top-25 men’s soccer team that has reached the NCAA tournament in three of the last four seasons. 
"Monmouth entering the MAAC immediately makes us a more competitive conference," said Rider soccer coach Charlie Inverso, whose Broncs lost to the Hawks, 2-0, this season. "They are well coached and play good soccer. They try to play the right way."

Quinnipiac, located in Hamden, Conn., also has 21 varsity sports. It plays in the $52 million TD Bank Sports Center. The venue has two separate arenas for basketball and hockey.

“It’s the mode you have to be in with so much uncertainty and instability with conference affiliation,” Harum said. “It was only a matter of time until all the movement filtered down to the mid-major level.”

Baggett was impressed with how aggressively the conference acted.

“People don’t realize how good and how underrated this league is,” said Baggett, whose team is 6-5 in his first year in charge. “It’s a feather in our cap that we’re able to add those two programs. It shows that our league is proactive.”

This likely isn’t the end of realignment. The seven catholic schools that helped make up the Big East — DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, and Villanova — announced Thursday they are ready to divorce themselves from the league.

That could cause a trickle down to the mid-major level.

“It would be foolish for any conference, commissioner or A.D. to think everything is done,” Harnum said.

When asked if there was anything else he would add to the realignment discussion, Harnum said, “stay tuned.”

He added that Rider is happy with its place in the MAAC and the recent moves “help stabilize the league.”


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