Division III football in the Northeast has been undergoing significant changes during the last few years.
That is again the case with the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference, which will soon be juggling its league lineup.
The ECFC on Wednesday announced that it will add Alfred State College of New York and Dean College of Franklin, Massachusetts, as members beginning in 2017.
Alfred State is a provisional Division III member, transitioning from the junior college ranks while seeking full NCAA membership. Dean will begin that process starting with the 2016-17 academic year.
“We are thrilled to welcome Alfred State and Dean to the ECFC after unanimous approval from the conference presidents and athletic directors,” Matt Burke, chair of the ECFC Athletic Directors Council, said in a news release.
“The addition of these two programs helps the ECFC continue to be a competitive football conference with institutions committed to providing a high quality student-athlete experience,” he added.
The schools will fill the spots vacated by Becker College, which will join the Commonwealth Coast Conference ( which includes the University of New England in Biddeford), and Norwich University, which will become part of the New England Men’s and Women’s Athletic Conference in 2017.
Alfred State recently has competed against ECFC members Husson University of Bangor and Castleton University, and it is slated to square off with Dean and Husson again in 2016.
“The ECFC is a great fit for us competitively,” said Dr. Kelly Higgins, athletic director at Alfred State.
Dean is slated to take on Alfred State and Husson in 2016.
“Being accepted into a conference is a big step for the program and the college”, said Dean Athletic Director Todd Vasey.
Husson athletics director Frank Pergolizzi said the addition of Alfred State and Dean provides stability for the conference.
“It gets us back up to eight members and solidifies the [NCAA] automatic qualifier,” he said of the berth to the NCAA Division III Football Championship earned by the conference winner.
Pergolizzi said New England Division III football appears to be stabilizing with the commitment to football by the Commonwealth Coast Conference and the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference, and the formation of the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference.
Maine Maritime Academy in Castine announced last year that it will be joining the NEWMAC in 2017.
“I don’t know what other changes there would be,” said Pergolizzi, who said no other schools in the North Atlantic Conference, of which Husson is a member in other sports, are considering adding football.
“Right now I feel like our league is in a pretty good space,” he added of the ECFC, which is looking for a new commissioner.
“It gives us some stability and gives us a chance to move forward,” Pergolizzi said.
The change actually created some extra work for Husson, which already had Dean and Alfred State on its football schedule. Pergolizzi thus must schedule other teams for nonconference contests starting in 2017.