NEC Academic Success
NEC Community Showcase
NEC Celebrates 40th Anniversary of Title IX
Northeast Conference History
The Northeast Conference (NEC) heads into its 32nd year as an NCAA Division I athletic conference in 2012-13 with great anticipation and high expectations. Under the leadership of Noreen Morris, the NEC will set in motion a number of key initiatives as part of its new Strategic Plan to usher in a new era of growth and achievement in the Conference.
The NEC and its member institutions are committed to providing opportunities for student-athletes to achieve their fullest potential both in athletic competition and in the classroom. Likewise, the Conference continually strives to be an NCAA Division I leader for student-athlete achievement, academic excellence, integrity, sportsmanship, equity and diversity, community partnership and national engagement.
When the Northeast Conference (NEC) was first established as the ECAC-Metro Conference back in 1981, the league’s founders had one goal in mind: to create a competitive NCAA Division I men’s basketball conference for unaffiliated schools on the Eastern seaboard. A single-sport entity at its inception, the NEC has grown far beyond expectations over the past three decades, having transformed itself into a burgeoning 12-member, 23-sport conference.
The remarkable success story of the conference began to unfold in 1985, when the league began sponsoring additional sports. Three years later, a change of name was in order and the Northeast Conference as we know it today was born. With membership and sport sponsorship continuing to grow over the years, the NEC now enjoys qualification or play-in access to 15 different NCAA Championships (baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s golf, men's and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, men’s and women’s tennis and women’s volleyball).
Though the NEC has featured various incarnations since its inception, charter members Fairleigh Dickinson, LIU Brooklyn, Robert Morris, St. Francis (NY), Saint Francis (PA) and Wagner remain part of the current 12-school alignment. They are joined by Monmouth (admitted in 1985), Mount St. Mary’s (1989), Central Connecticut State (1997), Quinnipiac (1998), Sacred Heart (1999) and Bryant (2012), now an official member of the Conference following a five-year NCAA reclassification. The NEC's six-state geographic footprint includes access to such major media markets as New York City, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Hartford and Providence.
NEC member institutions now compete in 23 championship sports: baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s bowling, men’s and women’s cross country, field hockey, football, men’s and women’s golf, men’s and women’s indoor track and field, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s outdoor track and field, men’s and women’s soccer, softball, women’s swimming, men’s and women’s tennis, and women’s volleyball.
NEC New Media/Television
The NEC has embraced new media to convey its message to a growing fan base. With the support of league Presidents and administrators, the Conference will launch NEC Front Row and a companion mobile app at the start of the 2012-13 season. The multimedia initiative will serve as a vehicle for the NEC to present a unified, branded message, while at the same time showcasing three key components of University life at each member institution: athletics, academics and work in the community. Every NEC basketball and football game, a slate of NEC championships and hundreds of other live events will air at no charge on the Front Row portal. Each institution will have its own co-branded page on the site, where fans will be able to access live events, highlights, coaches shows and other on-demand content.
The Conference has attracted a loyal following in recent years on its Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages, and the NEC Overtime! blog continues to grow in popularity. The NEC relaunched its official website in 2011-12 with a brand new interface and slew of new components. The league also provides its fans with weekly NEC Notebook spots (that also air on Sports Radio 66 WFAN in New York City and SportsRadio 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh) during football and basketball season.
Over the last five years, the NEC has regionally televised over 125 basketball and football games, as the league’s coverage area has expanded to over 50 million homes. Along with flagship station MSG Network, other regional television partners include Root Sports-Pittsburgh, MASN and Cox Sports. The NEC has also partnered with ESPNU, ESPN3 and Fox College Sports to bring games to a national audience. In 2012, ESPN2 broadcast the NEC men’s basketball championship game for the 25th straight year, while ESPNU carried the women’s championship for the fifth year in a row.
The Northeast Conference’s commitment to academic excellence led to national recognition for both individual student-athletes and the league’s member institutions as a whole in 2011-12.
Overall, the NEC’s 4,800+ student-athletes averaged a record-high 3.163 GPA for the 2011-12 academic year and 11 of the league’s 12 core member institutions finished with at least a 3.0 GPA. More than half of the league's student-athletes were named to the NEC Academic Honor Roll and a record 561 earned a spot on the Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll with GPAs of 3.75 or higher. Likewise, three NEC student-athletes were tabbed Capital One Academic All-Americans.
Additionally, the NCAA honored 40 NEC teams with public recognition awards for exceptional academic performance with respect to their latest Academic Progress Rate scores. The 40 teams earning Public Recognition established a new league record. NEC institutions also ranked among the nation’s elite in Graduation Success Rate (GSR) figures released by the NCAA with 50 teams achieving a perfect 100 percent GSR in their respective sports and over 40 percent earning a GSR of over 90 percent. Student-athletes at Robert Morris posted an NEC all-time high 3.28 GPA to win the 2011-12 NEC Institutional Academic Award.
The NEC sent representatives to NCAA Championship events in 14 different team sports in 2011-12, while NEC student-athletes individually qualified to compete for an NCAA title in men’s golf, men’s indoor and outdoor track and field, and women's indoor track and field. Individually, 13 NEC student-athletes earned All-America honors in their respective sports.
For the first time ever, the NEC sported three men’s basketball teams (LIU, Robert Morris and Wagner) with 25+ wins, and for the second time in league history sent three teams to the postseason. Top-seeded LIU Brooklyn won its second straight NEC men’s basketball title with an 90-73 win over Robert Morris before a sellout crowd at the WRAC and nationwide audience on ESPN2. The Blackbirds have now won a league-record 52 games over the last two seasons and have posted a remarkable 32-4 record in NEC play over that span.
NEC women’s basketball reached an all-time high with a conference RPI ranking of 15 and also sent three teams to the postseason. Sacred Heart won its third NEC women’s basketball championship in the last seven years with a 58-48 triumph over Monmouth. The Pioneers have now posted at least 18 victories and won at least 12 NEC games in each of the last 11 seasons.
Two-time NCAA women’s bowling champion Fairleigh Dickinson nearly added a third title to its trophy case, coming up just short against UMES in the national championship match. FDU has now advanced to the national semifinals eight times in the last ten years. FDU was joined in the NCAA field by NEC champion Sacred Heart. In just its fourth year sponsoring the sport, the NEC featured an incredible nine teams ranked in the top-20 of the NTCA poll during the 2011-12 season. NEC women’s bowling produced four NTCA All-Americans, led by FDU’s Danielle McEwan, the NTCA Division I Bowler of the Year. She was joined by teammate Joely Carrillo, and Sacred Heart’s Jackie Carbonetto (first team) and Nicole Trudell.
The NEC continued to earn national acclaim in men’s soccer. Monmouth ranked as high as 18th in the country in the NSCAA Top-25 poll, won its seventh consecutive NEC regular season title and third straight NEC Tournament crown. Behind NSCAA All-American RJ Allen, the Hawks slipped past visiting Stony Brook in penalty kicks to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in school history.
Albany football ranked 23rd in the final FCS Coaches’ poll and finished just out of the top-25 in the final Sports Network poll. The Great Danes, who claimed the NEC’s automatic bid to the FCS playoffs after sharing the regular season title with Duquesne, came up just short against Stony Brook in a thrilling NCAA first round matchup. Bryant running back Jordan Brown, Monmouth defensive back Jose Gumbs and Duquesne safety Serge Kona were all named FCS All-Americans. Brown, the leading rusher in the nation, was also a finalist for the Walter Payton award, which recognizes the top FCS running back in the country.
The Quinnipiac women’s cross country program maintained its dominance with a seventh straight NEC championship last fall. It marks the longest active title streak in the conference and is tied for the longest streak in league annals (Mount St. Mary’s women’s tennis, 1989-95). Monmouth earned a sweep at the NEC outdoor track & field championships for the fourth consecutive year and sixth time in school history, while CCSU men's cross country and Saint Francis (PA) women's swimming have won three NEC titles in a row.
In just its second year as a sponsored NEC sport, men’s lacrosse began to make noise on the national scene. NEC tournament champion Bryant and NEC regular season champion Robert Morris were both nationally ranked, and Colonial standout Kiel Matisz was named a USILA third team All-American.
Chosen in the supplemental first round by the Boston Red Sox, Monmouth righthander Pat Light became the highest MLB Draft pick in league history. Light, with a fastball in the mid-90s, was taken with the 37th pick overall. He was also tabbed to the Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger All-America third team.
LIU Brooklyn's Jessie Gaines (triple jump), CCSU's Aaron Radden (200 meters) and Sacred Heart's Bertony Jean-Louis (60 meter hurdles) were all named USTFCCCA second team All-Americans for their performances at the NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships. The Mount's Tom FitzSimons (decathlon) earned second team All-American status at the outdoor meet.
The NEC announced its second Hall of Fame class last December. The three-member class featured longtime FDU men’s basketball coach Tom Green, former Saint Francis (PA) women’s basketball standout Beth Swink and two-time NEC Men’s Basketball Player of the Year Rik Smits.
Sacred Heart took home its fifth straight Brenda Weare Commissioner’s Cup, tying UMBC’s record for most consecutive Cup wins. The Pioneers also claimed a sixth straight Joan Martin Women’s Commissioner’s Cup. Monmouth won the Men’s Cup for the 11th time in the last 15 years.
On Campus/Commitment to Sportsmanship/In The Community
The NEC welcomed the class of 2015 to campus last fall as part of its annual outreach program designed to raise awareness of the league and its member institutions. Over 10,000 freshman students were introduced to the Conference with a promotional gift bag and informative NEC Fan Guide.
The NEC continued its participation in the NCAA’s Respect Campaign, an effort to promote an environment of respect and integrity at Conference events. The NEC Team Sportsmanship Award program recognized those teams and student-athletes who adhere to the principles of sportsmanship and pursue victory with honor. Saint Francis (PA) finished the year with a league-high five NEC Team Sportsmanship awards. The Red Flash have led the NEC in sportsmanship honors in each of the four years since the program was instituted in 2008-09.
The NEC, its member institutions and student-athletes have made community involvement an important piece of its mission. In 2011-12, the NEC Student-Athlete Advisory Committee made its annual visit to the Cancer Recovery Foundation in Hershey, PA. The SAAC also participated in a “Penny Wars” fundraiser for a third straight year that resulted in a significant donation to the Foundation. To assist in raising breast cancer awareness, NEC women’s volleyball teams supported "Dig Pink" and women’s basketball teams participated in the WBCA’s "Pink Zone" promotion.
For the second straight year, Sacred Heart was awarded the NEC Building Communities award. The award recognizes the institution which demonstrates the highest dedication to making an impact in the community through the efforts of its student-athletes, coaches and administrators. Over the course of the 2011-12 academic year, Sacred Heart donated 6,625 hours of community service. In total, Conference members logged over 26,000 hours of community service.
Evolving and Expanding
In recent years, the NEC has taken aim at elevating the brand awareness of the league, elevating the caliber of its championship events and enhancing the opportunities and experiences for student-athletes that compete in the Conference.
The NEC has raised its commitment to basketball through a host of strategic initiatives. most notably via a Brand and Basketball Enhancement fund, revised scheduling parameters and the implementation of LED signage at all arenas beginning in Fall '12. The NEC has also provided each institution with a basketball marketing grant in an effort to enhance attendance growth on a leaguewide basis.
Through the launch of NEC Front Row, the Conference has set its signs on maximizing exposure of league institutions and sports, and improving the in-game fan experience with a host of social media tie-ins.