St. Francis exited the college sports world Monday in shocking fashion. Which means the Northeast Conference will get the conference realignment wheels cranking again.
The NEC will now be an eight-team league after the Brooklyn school shutters its athletics department at the end of the academic year. That means it almost assuredly has to add a new member, and maybe even two. The conference said as much in its release responding to the St. Francis announcement.
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Some potential candidates: Among the current Division-1 membership, Howard and NJIT figure to be the buzzy names. Howard has a football program, which could appeal to the NEC. It’s hard to imagine Bryant would return a year after leaving for America East.
If you are looking to Division-2 schools ready to make the move up — like NEC members Merrimack and Stonehill recently have — Le Moyne has signaled it is serious about going to Division-1. New Haven has also made moves toward that goal. New Haven plays football. Le Moyne doesn’t.
The St. Francis news is quite unfortunate. An original NCAA school that never made March Madness. It’s hard to imagine how a small school of under 3,000 students that had 21 athletics teams stays open long-term without sports. Even if some stick around to have their scholarships honored. But they’re going to try.
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James Kratch can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jameskratch.