WEST LONG BRANCH — When the Metro Atlantic Athletic
Conference hired Richard Ensor in 1988 it was facing defections from a number
of schools and wanted a proactive approach to strengthening the league.
At a press conference Monday introducing Monmouth as one of
the conference’s two new members, Ensor said the league is on stable ground and
looking to add a 12th school in the near future.
Monmouth and Quinnipiac were announced Friday as the 10th
and 11th members of the MAAC. Both currently reside in the Northeast Conference
and are joining for the 2013-14 academic year.
Loyola is leaving to join the Patriot League at the end of
“I am proactive,” Ensor said. “I was hired at a time when we
were losing members after the initial formation of the Patriot League. Because
of the way that occurred, I’ve always been tuned in to membership issues and
we’ve been aggressive before.
“When we added Marist and Rider (in 1997) there wasn’t any
realignment going on, but we wanted to build the league and bring in members
that added rivalries and they made sense.”
Ensor said the legwork for expansion began long before
Loyola informed him it was departing, but the decision by the Baltimore-based
school sped up the process of adding new members.
He added that Nebraska’s move to the Big Ten — the tipping
point for this realignment free-for-all — delayed the decision to bump up to 12
“We were already in that discussion mode so when Loyola made
its decision, we realized it was time to get proactive,” Ensor said. “It was
easy to implement.”
The MAAC contacted around 12 schools in its search to add
members, Ensor said, including expansion into the South, but decided travel
would be too strenuous and opted to stay in the Northeast.
Both Monmouth and Quinnipiac met what the league was looking
for geographically, academically and athletically.
“Excellence in academics and athletics,” Ensor calls it.
He said the league is prepared to add a 12th school but
there is no timetable on when that might happen.
“It won’t be for next season,” Ensor said.
Ensor said the MAAC is likely to wait for the fall out from
the Catholic 7 — the group of schools that announced their split from the Big
East. Multiple reports have indicated several Atlantic 10 schools are in play
as the realignment shuffle heats up.
“There’s going to be a sorting out process that takes place
and we’ll see if there are some opportunities there,” Ensor said. “We wouldn’t
mind getting a Philly team in our market.”
Both La Salle — a former MAAC member — and St. Joseph’s
could be a fit if they are left out in the cold by the next round of conference
Monmouth brings with it the $57 million state-of-the-art
Multipurpose Athletic Center — called the MAC, which Ensor jokingly said the
school will need to sell the naming rights to in order to avoid confusion — and
a basketball program on the rise with King Rice at the helm in his second
“This is a big-time opportunity for our school and the men’s
basketball program,” said Rice, whose team is off to a 5-6 start. “Obviously,
it’s going to be a tough transition, but I like challenges. This is bigger than
men’s basketball moving, I think Monmouth has moved its way up to be considered
by the MAAC.”
The Hawks also share a natural rival in Rider. The two
schools signed a four-year home-and-home deal that began again this season with
the Broncs’ 65-62 victory in Lawrenceville.
“I think that’s a great game for us,” Rice said. “We’ve
recruited against each other since I’ve been here so I’m sure that will
continue. Now the stakes are a little higher because we will be playing twice a
As for scheduling next season, Ensor said the conference’s
athletic directors, chaired by Rider A.D. Don Harnum, will meet Thursday at the
recently renovated league office in Edison to hammer that out.
A 20-game home-and-home conference slate is most likely, but
a round robin where some teams only play each other once is still a