/notables/2015/11/the-race-to-seven

The race to seven: Two conferences chasing AQs


The next piece in the East Region conference shuffle could be Ithaca leaving the Empire 8 for the Liberty League.
Ithaca athletics photo

By Pat Coleman
D3sports.com

Ever since the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference dropped its offseason bombshell that it would add football in 2017, there’s been a slow-motion race in the East Region.

The NEWMAC was bringing some of its schools back home, as well as adding ones which currently participate in other conferences. And that left holes in a couple of conferences, to the point where both the Liberty League and the New England Football Conference would have just five members left and would lose their automatic bids in 2019.

There aren’t a lot of football teams in the East Region that aren’t in conferences already, so finding school to fill the gaps has been a slow, and sometimes quiet process. Since the initial announcement last April, the NEFC has been taken over by the Commonwealth Coast Conference, as the CCC eventually decided to add football to its slate of sports as well. This took almost six months, and gained them one program – University of New England, which is starting football in 2018.

Meanwhile, the NEWMAC picked up an eighth school, one that the CCC was hoping to snag. Catholic University wasn’t even believed to be in the market for a new conference, but will join the NEWMAC when it first sponsors football in 2017.

The Liberty League has been even quieter in this race, having made no public statement about the future of football that we can see. However, Ithaca has expressed continued interest in the Liberty League despite not being invited to join when Rochester Institute of Technology and Bard joined the LL in 2011. Now Ithaca presents something the LL needs – a football team.

Even admitting Ithaca won’t be the answer for the Liberty League, just as UNE adding football doesn’t solve the CCC’s quest to retain the NEFC automatic bid. Those moves will leave the conferences with six teams apiece, one short of an automatic bid.

Where will the seventh come from?

Existing football programs

There aren’t many independents in Division III football at all, and only one in the general footprint of either of these conferences. While Alfred State is certainly a free agent who is available, the school doesn’t generally fit the profile of a Liberty League member and is a better fit for the Empire 8, assuming the school reaches full Division III membership.

Perhaps it’s possible another school might leave their current conference to join the LL or CCC. Anything aside from talking about Ithaca would be unfounded speculation, but there is still time for a team to join in plenty of time to maintain either conference’s automatic bid.

Another possibility is St. Anselm, which in August declared its intention to enter the exploratory phase of applying to Division III. Based in Manchester, N.H., the school is more within the CCC footprint but views itself as a contemporary of the NEWMAC and might be a better fit as an institution in the LL. However, the school sponsors hockey, which makes it a better fit for the CCC. Regardless, St. Anselm isn't eligible for the playoffs until 2020 at the earliest, if it does decide to go through with applying to D-III.

New football programs

The Liberty League has five member schools which don’t sponsor football: Bard, Clarkson, RIT, Skidmore and Vassar. RIT has the largest enrollment of the group, but Clarkson, Skidmore and Vassar also have more than 2,000 full-time undergraduates. Hamilton, formerly a member of the LL in most sports, left the conference after 2010-11 to join its football program in the NESCAC.

There are no New England independents who sponsor football. Eastern Nazarene, Gordon, Roger Williams and Wentworth are all members of the Commonwealth Coast Conference. Of that group, Gordon has been mentioned as a possible candidate to start the sport.

Why look for a seventh program?

However, here’s a more intriguing thought: With two six-team conferences in the mix, why bother finding the seventh team? The two conferences could instead align with each other. With 12 teams, they could follow a model similar to the New England Football Conference’s from 1999-2012, where the two “division” champions would meet for a championship game to determine the automatic bid. The Midwest Conference currently does this.

We’re headed for an automatic bid crisis in Division III football. There are 25 this year, but the American Southwest Conference will regain its automatic bid in the next few years. The NEWMAC would be eligible for an automatic bid in 2019, and if the LL and CCC each manage to retain separate automatic bids, that would leave 28 automatic bids and just four at-large.

Whether the CCC and LL align with each other, or whether someone leaves the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference to join one of these leagues and triggers an alliance involving the ECFC, any opportunity to conserve automatic bids would be to the benefit of Division III football.

Contributing: Dave McHugh, D3sports.com

Oct. 14: All times Eastern
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Salve Regina 45, at Nichols 10
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Mount Ida 14, at Dean 7
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at Thomas More 59, Waynesburg 7
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at Maine Maritime 34, Coast Guard 16
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at Finlandia 27, Trinity Bible 21
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Hamilton 28, at Bowdoin 7
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at Olivet 47, Albion 26
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Union 27, at Rochester 0
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Amherst 40, at Colby 7
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at Western New England 41, Endicott 14
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at Brockport 48, Morrisville State 7
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at RPI 27, Ithaca 14
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Hobart 49, at Hartwick 27
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at Ferrum 34, LaGrange 20
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at Carnegie Mellon 42, Geneva 27
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Ohio Wesleyan 16, at Wabash 13
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DePauw 26, at Denison 17
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at Trine 42, Kalamazoo 7
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at Washington and Lee 47, Guilford 26
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at Husson 49, Castleton 0
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Gallaudet 35, at Alfred State 19
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at Wittenberg 49, Allegheny 15
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Brevard 41, at Methodist 17
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at Lebanon Valley 31, Stevenson 24
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Buffalo State 24, at St. Lawrence 21
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at Cortland 20, Alfred 17
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at Randolph-Macon 52, Emory and Henry 29
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at Wesley 29, Kean 9
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at Hampden-Sydney 58, Apprentice 28
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Frostburg State 59, at William Paterson 7
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at N.C. Wesleyan 45, Greensboro 0
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at Westminster (Pa.) 49, Grove City 27
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Washington and Jefferson 49, at Bethany 14
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at Westminster (Mo.) 56, Crown 15
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 29, Iowa Wesleyan 7
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at Knox 56, Grinnell 14
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at Widener 31, Lycoming 17
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Trinity (Conn.) 23, at Tufts 16
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at Mount St. Joseph 66, Earlham 7
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Ohio Northern 27, at John Carroll 20
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Baldwin Wallace 23, at Muskingum 20
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at Mount Union 72, Capital 14
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Rose-Hulman 44, at Manchester 13
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at Hanover 31, Bluffton 28
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Defiance 45, at Anderson 0
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at Wartburg 42, Loras 11
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Hiram 62, at Kenyon 56
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Springfield 35, at Merchant Marine 13
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Williams 27, at Middlebury 26
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at Westfield State 33, Fitchburg State 21
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Marietta 43, at Wilmington 33
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at Berry 34, Hendrix 10
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Curry 40, at Becker 0
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TCNJ 20, at Rowan 14
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at SUNY-Maritime 51, Anna Maria 15
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Salisbury 28, at Montclair State 10
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at Huntingdon 28, Maryville (Tenn.) 16
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at Austin 33, Millsaps 19
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 65, Howard Payne 0
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at Washington U. 55, Buena Vista 20
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Alma 27, at Aurora 19
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at Rockford 29, Concordia-Chicago 14
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Wisconsin Lutheran 22, at Concordia (Wis.) 19
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at Lakeland 57, Benedictine 21
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at St. Norbert 10, Chicago 0
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Concordia-Moorhead 45, at Hamline 0
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St. Olaf 22, at Augsburg 20
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Bethel 24, at Gustavus Adolphus 3
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St. John's 35, at Carleton 0
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at Eureka 30, Greenville 19
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Centre 27, at Trinity (Texas) 21
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Dubuque 42, at Nebraska Wesleyan 27
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Central 30, at Coe 19
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Lake Forest 56, at Cornell 28
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at Carthage 31, Elmhurst 8
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at Illinois Wesleyan 30, Carroll 0
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Millikin 28, at Augustana 27
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Ripon 52, at Beloit 28
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MacMurray 49, at Minnesota-Morris 13
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Macalester 21, at Lawrence 18
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at Monmouth 59, Illinois College 14
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at UW-Stevens Point 26, UW-Eau Claire 3
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Case Western Reserve 63, at Thiel 28
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at Wooster 38, Oberlin 28
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Texas Lutheran 41, at East Texas Baptist 34
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at UW-Stout 21, UW-River Falls 16
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UW-Oshkosh 28, at UW-Platteville 14
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Sewanee 34, at Birmingham-Southern 13
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at Hope 22, Adrian 3
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Linfield 49, at Lewis and Clark 14
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La Verne at Occidental
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Whitworth 17, at Pacific Lutheran 14
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at Cal Lutheran 42, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 20
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at George Fox 58, Willamette 12
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at Pacific 35, Puget Sound 27
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Pomona-Pitzer 45, at Whittier 23
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at Western Connecticut 28, Massachusetts Maritime 21
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at St. Scholastica 56, Martin Luther 21
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at St. John Fisher 39, Utica 36
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at Heidelberg 48, Otterbein 45
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at Shenandoah 38, Bridgewater 20
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Southwestern 60, at Belhaven 31
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Hardin-Simmons 35, at Sul Ross State 10
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at Louisiana College 52, McMurry 34
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at Simpson 38, Luther 17
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at Chapman 45, Redlands 26
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at Wheaton (Ill.) 42, North Central (Ill.) 20
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Oct. 20: All times Eastern
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Gettysburg at Johns Hopkins
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Oct. 14: All times Eastern
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at Delaware Valley 49, King's 14
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at Cortland 20, Alfred 17
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at Wesley 29, Kean 9
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Frostburg State 59, at William Paterson 7
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at Wittenberg 49, Allegheny 15
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at Brockport 48, Morrisville State 7
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Washington and Jefferson 49, at Bethany 14
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Ohio Wesleyan 16, at Wabash 13
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at Mount Union 72, Capital 14
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at Wartburg 42, Loras 11
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at Berry 34, Hendrix 10
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Springfield 35, at Merchant Marine 13
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 65, Howard Payne 0
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St. John's 35, at Carleton 0
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at Illinois Wesleyan 30, Carroll 0
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Concordia-Moorhead 45, at Hamline 0
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Case Western Reserve 63, at Thiel 28
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UW-Oshkosh 28, at UW-Platteville 14
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Linfield 49, at Lewis and Clark 14
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at George Fox 58, Willamette 12
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Hardin-Simmons 35, at Sul Ross State 10
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at Wheaton (Ill.) 42, North Central (Ill.) 20
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Oct. 20: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Gettysburg at Johns Hopkins
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