Every Wave of College Lacrosse Realignment Since 1954

(Photo Courtesy of Maryland Athletics)

*Note: There are possibly some missing pre-NCAA conferences as anything before 1971 is more difficult to find and the quality of records kept depends on the program and conference*

Conference realignment has been a hot button topic as of late with new programs coming in over the past few years and, as always, the discussion as to which “power 5” conference may add lacrosse next, following the Big Ten’s decision in 2015.

But with all this talk of conference realignment, let’s take a look back and see just how we got to this point in NCAA DI Men’s Lacrosse. Here is a breakdown of conference realignment from 1954 to now.

In 1953, the ACC formed as a conference and started playing lacrosse that same school year in 1954. The original ACC lacrosse conference had Maryland, Duke, Virginia, and North Carolina as members. However, North Carolina dropped lacrosse the very next year in 1955.

The Ivy League conference formed in 1954 but they didn’t start lacrosse in the conference until two years later in 1956. The initial Ivy League lacrosse conference just included Cornell, Dartmouth, Penn, Princeton, and Yale. Harvard would join the very next year in 1957.

1961 is the earliest record of the Middle Atlantic States Collegiate Athletics Conference (MAC) playing lacrosse, but they could have been playing earlier since the conference was formed initially formed way back in 1912. During the 60s, the conference included, at least, Delaware, Drexel, Bucknell, Lafayette, Lehigh, Franklin & Marshall, and others.

1964 was a busy year as far as conference realignment goes. North Carolina added lacrosse back and rejoined the ACC and Brown joined the Ivy League in what was the last move for the conference in men’s lacrosse.

Just two years after the NCAA added lacrosse, North Carolina State added the sport in 1973, becoming the fifth ACC lacrosse member. Additionally, following the 1974 season, the East Coast Conference (ECC) was formed when 11 schools left the MAC, including Bucknell, Delaware, Drexel, Lafayette, and Lehigh. This move came right after the NCAA officially moved to the three division system. The ECC became solely DI while the MAC moved to DIII.

Again, there was movement in the ECC and ACC in the mid and late 1980s. The ECC expanded with Towson being admitted in 1983 and Hofstra coming in 1987. At almost the same time, the ACC was reducing back to their original four lacrosse members as North Carolina State dropped its program in 1983.

One of the biggest waves of conference realignment may have taken place in the early 1990s when both the Patriot League and America East Conference were formed out of the ECC, and the Great Western Lacrosse League (GWLL) also came into the pictures well.

The Patriot League was formed in 1991, taking Bucknell, Lehigh, and Lafayette from the ECC while Army, Colgate, and Holy Cross also came in to help form the new conference. In 1992, the America East was founded as the North Atlantic Conference with Delaware and Drexel leaving the ECC, in addition to New Hampshire, Vermont, and Hartford also joining the conference. Also, Air Force, Butler, Denver, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Ohio State came together to form the GWLL in 1994.

More changes in the North Atlantic happened in the early 1990s as they added Hofstra and Towson in 1995 and 1996, officially changed to the America East Conference in 1997, and lost New Hampshire in 1998 as they dropped their lacrosse program. The GWLL also saw Michigan State drop their lacrosse program a year prior, in 1997.

The MAAC began to sponsor lacrosse in 1996 with Fairfield, Mount St. Mary’s, Marist, Providence, Canisius, Siena, Niagara, Manhattan all fielding teams. Saint Joseph’s eventually joined in 1997 and Niagara dropped their lacrosse program in 1998. The last conference realignment move of the century was made by Quinnipiac as they joined the MAAC in 1999.

As if there wasn’t enough conference realignment in the 1990s, the 2000s ushered in a whole new era of realignment in college lacrosse and that initial wave can even be felt a bit in today’s current landscape.

In 2000, the ECAC began play with Georgetown, Penn State, Rutgers, Stony Brook, UMass, UMBC, and Navy making up the conference. Also in the year 2000, Hobart joined the Patriot League after being an independent following their move from DIII to DI, and Wagner and Sacred Heart joined the MAAC while Fairfield left the conference to become an independent. Fairfield eventually joined the GWLL in 2001 after just one season as an independent.

The CAA began play in 2001, taking Hofstra, Towson, Drexel, and Delaware from the America East, Sacred Heart from the MAAC, and also  brought in Loyola and Villanova. The MAAC also lost Quinnipiac to the America East in 2002. The American East also gained Binghamton as a first-year program, Albany as they were going into their third season as a DI program, and Stony Brook came in from the ECAC  in 2002, as well.

Not much conference realignment commotion went on in 2003 as the only two moves were Loyola leaving the CAA to become and independent once again and VMI joining the MAAC. 2004 saw much of the same as UMBC left the ECAC to join the America East and Navy left the ECAC to join the Patriot League.

2005, 2006, and 2007 can pretty much be clumped into one wave of realignment as a lot of this happened, but it was more sparse than the previous few years. In 2005, Hobart left the Patriot League to join the ECAC while Loyola and St. John’s also joined the conference that year, as well. 2006 saw Quinnipiac leave the America East for the GWLL and Robert Morris join the CAA after their inaugural season a year prior. Additionally, the GWLL gained Fairfield as they left the ECAC. 2007 saw the GWLL lose Butler as they dropped lacrosse, but the conference added Bellarmine to replace them.

After a few stagnant years, 2010 had to come in a shake up the whole college lacrosse landscape moves being made all over the place. First off, the old Big East added lacrosse with Georgetown, Notre Dame, Providence, Rutgers, St. John’s, Syracuse, and Villanova all joining in. That one move put holes in the CAA, ECAC, MAAC, and GWLL.

The biggest shake from the Big East move was seen in the GWLL as the conference folded entirely. Air Force, Bellarmine, Denver, and Ohio State all moved to the ECAC following the conference folding. Quinnipiac joined Bryant, Mount St. Mary’s, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, and Wagner to form the first NEC lacrosse conference in 2010, but thry didn’t play a full conference season until 2011. Additionally, the ECAC saw Penn State and UMass leave for the CAA and the MAAC added Detroit Mercy to replace Providence.

Shortly after that big shakeup in 2010, things started to move once again as Jacksonville joined the MAAC and Saint Joseph’s also joined the CAA in 2011. 

Also, in 2013 Michigan became the last team to join the ECAC conference.

But 2010 through 2013 proved to just minor shocks as a full-blown earthquake shook the college lacrosse world in 2014 and 2015.

In 2014, the old Big East shut down and Notre and Syracuse joined the ACC. The remaining schools started a new Big East which featured Denver, Georgetown, Providence, Rutgers, St. John’s, Villanova in 2014. Also in 2014, the Saint Joseph’s left the CAA for the NEC, Monmouth joined the MAAC, Jacksonville and VMI left the MAAC for the A-Sun, and Quinnipiac came back to the MAAC from the NEC. Also, Hobart left the ECAC for the NEC and the Patriot League gained Loyola from the ECAC and Boston U. as a first-year program.

In 2015 the GWLL folded. Fairfield went to the CAA, Bellarmine went to the SoCon, and Ohio State and Michigan joined Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland, and Johns Hopkins to form the first-ever Big Ten lacrosse conference.

Additionally, Marquette added lacrosse and joined the Big East, UMass Lowell added lacrosse and joins the America East. The SoCon was also formed in 2015 with Bellarmine, Furman, High Point, Jacksonville, Mercer, Richmond, VMI. Air Force later joined in 2016.

Cleveland State and NJIT came in as independents in 2015, and Hampton came in as one in 2016. 

The latest wave of conference realignment has involved the NEC and the MAAC. In 2019, the MAAC added first-year program St. Bonaventure and Utah came in as an independent. In 2020 the NEC will add NJIT from independent and Merrimack and LIU as they move up from DII to DI. 

Conference By Conference Breakdown:

Current Conferences

ACC 
  • Begins Lacrosse in 1954 with Maryland, Duke, Virginia, UNC
  • UNC drops lacrosse in 1955
  • UNC adds lacrosse back in 1964
  • NC State adds lacrosse in 1973
  • NC State drops lacrosse in 1983
  • Notre Dame and Syracuse join ACC from the old Big East in 2014
  • Maryland leaves for the Big Ten in 2015
American East 
  • Begins lacrosse in 1992 as the North Atlantic Conference with Delaware, New Hampshire, Vermont, Drexel, Hartford
  • Hofstra joins in 1995 from independent
  • Towson joins in 1996 from independent 
  • New Hampshire drops lacrosse in 1998
  • Towson, Hofstra, Delaware, Drexel leave for CAA in 2002
  • Binghamton adds lacrosse in 2002
  • Albany joins in 2002, two seasons after moving up from DII
  • Quinnipiac joins in 2002 from MAAC
  • Stony Brook joins from the ECAC in 2002
  • UMBC joins in 2004 from ECAC
  • Quinnipiac leaves for the GWLL in 2006
  • UMass Lowell adds lacrosse in 2015
Big East
  • Old Big East Begins lacrosse in 2010 with Georgetown, Notre Dame, Providence, Rutgers, St. John’s, Syracuse, Villanova
  • Notre Dame and Syracuse leave for the ACC from the old Big East in 2014
  • New Big East is formed in 2014 with Denver, Georgetown, Providence, Rutgers, St. John’s, Villanova
  • Rutgers leave for the Big Ten in 2015
  • Marquette adds lacrosse in 2015
Big Ten
  • Begins lacrosse in 2015 with Ohio State, Maryland, Penn State, Michigan, Rutgers, Johns Hopkins
  • Ohio State and Michigan came from the GWLL
  • Penn State came from the CAA
  • Rutgers from the Big East
  • Johns Hopkins from Independent 
CAA
  • Begins lacrosse in 2001 with Loyola, Hofstra, Towson, Drexel, Villanova, Sacred Heart, Delaware
  • Loyola leaves for independent in 2003
  • Robert Morris joins in 2006, just one year after adding lacrosse
  • Sacred Heart and Robert Morris leave for NEC in 2010
  • Villanova leas for the Big East in 2010
  • UMass and Penn State join from ECAC 2010
  • Saint Joseph’s joins in 2011
  • Saint Joseph’s leaves for the NEC in 2014
  • Penn State leaves for the Big Ten in 2015
  • Fairfield joins in 2015 from ECAC
Ivy League
  • Begins lacrosse in 1956 with Cornell, Dartmouth, Penn, Princeton, Yale
  • Harvard joins in 1957
  • Brown joins in 1964
MAAC 
  • Begins lacrosse in 1996 with Fairfield, Mount St. Mary’s, Marist, Providence, Canisius, Siena, Niagara, Manhattan
  • Saint Joseph’s joins in 1997
  • Niagara drops lacrosse in 1998
  • Fairfield leaves in 1999, joins GWLL in 2001
  • Quinnipiac joins in 1999
  • Wagner and Sacred Heart join in 2000
  • Sacred Heart leaves for the CAA and 
  • Quinnipiac leaves for the America East in 2002
  • VMI joins in 2003
  • Providence leaves for Big East in 2010
  • Detroit Mercy joins in 2010, one year after adding lacrosse
  • Wagner and Mount St. Mary’s leave for NEC in 2011
  • Jacksonville joins in 2011, one year after adding lacrosse
  • Monmouth adds lacrosse and joins in 2014
  • Jacksonville and VMI leave for the A-Sun in 2014
  • Quinnipiac comes back from the NEC in 2014
  • St. Bonaventure adds lacrosse and  joins in 2019
NEC
  • Begin full play in 2011 with Bryant, Mount St. Mary’s, Quinnipiac, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, Wagner
  • Quinnipiac leaves for MAAC in 2014
  • Saint Joseph’s joins in 2014 from CAA
  • Hobart joins in 2014 from ECAC
  • Merrimack and LIU join from DII in 2020
  • NJIT joins from independent in 2020
Patriot League
  • Begins lacrosse in 1991 with Bucknell, Army, Colgate, Lehigh, Holy Cross, Lafayette
  • Hobart joins in 2000 from independent 
  • Hobart leaves for NEC in 2004
  • Navy joins from ECAC in 2004
  • Loyola joins in 2014 from ECAC
  • Boston U. adds lacrosse and joins in 2014
SoCon
  • Begins lacrosse in 2015 with Bellarmine, Furman, High Point, Jacksonville, Mercer, Richmond, VMI
  • Air Force Joins in 2016 from independent

Defunct Conference 

GWLL 
  • Begins play in 1994 with Air Force, Butler, Denver, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State
  • Michigan State drops lacrosse in 1997
  • Fairfield joins in from independent in 2001
  • Fairfield leaves in 2006 for ECAC
  • Quinnipiac joins in 2006 from America East
  • Butler dropped lacrosse in 2007
  • Bellarmine joins in 2007 from independent
  • Notre Dame leaves for Big East in 2010
  • Conference folds in 2010
  • Air Force, Bellarmine, Quinnipiac, Denver, Ohio State go to ECAC in 2010
ECAC
  • Begins play in 2000 with Georgetown, Penn State, Rutgers, Stony Brook, UMass, UMBC, Navy
  • Stony Brook leaves for America East in 2002
  • UMBC leaves for America East in 2004
  • Navy leaves for Patriot League in 2004
  • Loyola, Hobart, St. John’s join in 2005
  • Fairfield joins in 2006 from GWLL
  • St. Johns, Georgetown, Rutgers leave for Big East in 2010
  • Penn State and UMass leave for CAA in 2010
  • Air Force, Bellarmine, Quinnipiac, Denver, Ohio State join after GWLL folds in 2010
  • Quinnipiac left for NEC in 2011
  • Michigan joins in 2013
  • Loyola leaves form Patriot League in 2014
  • Hobart leaves for NEC in 2014
  • Denver leaves for Big East in 2014
  • Conference folds in 2015
  • Fairfield went to CAA, Ohio State and Michigan to Big Ten, Bellarmine to SoCon
MAC
  • Begins lacrosse in the 60s with, at least, Delaware, Drexel, Bucknell, Lafayette, Lehigh, Franklin & Marshall, and others. 
  • Bucknell, Delaware, Drexel, Lafayette, and Lehigh were five of 11 schools who left to form the ECC in 1974
ECC
  • Begins lacrosse in 1975 with Bucknell, Delaware, Drexel, Lafayette, and Lehigh
  • Towson added in 1983
  • Hofstra joins in 1987
  • Delaware and Drexel help form the America East (North Atlantic) in 1991
  • Bucknell, Lehigh, and Lafayette leave to help form the Patriot League in 1991

 

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