Husson University players celebrate after beating Thomas College 3-1 in the North Atlantic Conference championship at the Winkin Complex in Bangor. Credit: Monty J. Rand | Husson University Athletics

The North Atlantic Conference will add three New York schools to its ranks as of July 1, 2020, a move that should allow for east-west divisional competition within the league as well as stabilizing access to automatic NCAA Division III tournament berths.

Cazenovia College, SUNY Cobleskill and SUNY Polytechnic Institute will become full members of the conference beginning next summer, increasing to 12 the number of full institutional members of the conference.

All three new schools sponsor 10 NAC sports — baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross-country, men’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, and women’s volleyball.

Cazenovia and SUNY Poly also sponsor women’s lacrosse, while SUNY Cobleskill fields teams in men’s golf and, men’s and women’s track and field.

The NAC membership currently includes five Maine schools — Husson University of Bangor, Maine Maritime Academy of Castine, Thomas College of Waterville, the University of Maine at Farmington and UMaine-Presque Isle — as well as Northern Vermont University-Johnson, Northern Vermont University-Lyndon and SUNY Canton.

SUNY Delhi begins competition as a full conference member this fall.

“The addition of our three new members achieves the first phase of our strategic plan to grow the NAC regionally,” NAC commissioner Marcella Zalot said. “I am looking forward to working with them to shape the NAC vision and offer increasing transformational growth opportunities for our student-athletes.”

The recent exodus of Castleton (Vermont) University; Colby-Sawyer College of New London, New Hampshire; and New England College of Henniker, New Hampshire, from the conference had left the NAC with fewer than the minimum seven schools required to maintain an automatic berth to the NCAA Division III Championship in baseball.

Only five NAC schools fielded baseball teams last spring, which required Husson, the 2019 NAC tournament champion, to face City of New York Athletic Conference champion Baruch College in a best-of-three series for an automatic NCAA tourney bid. Baruch won 2-1.

SUNY Canton will become the NAC’s sixth baseball program next spring, meaning one more year of a play-in series against the CUNYAC champion for an NCAA berth. The league’s baseball ranks will swell to nine schools in 2021 with the addition of Cazenovia, SUNY Cobleskill and SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

That will enable the NAC to regain its own automatic tournament berth in that sport.

Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...