PAWTUCKET, R.I. – The Little East Conference has announced its first sport expansion in nearly 20 years, announcing the addition of men's golf and men's swimming and diving Thursday morning.
Castleton will shift its men's golf program from the North Atlantic Conference to the Little East Conference for the 2020-21 season, joining the 18 other programs that did so for the 2018-19 campaign.
"We are expanding the number of varsity sports in the Little East Conference to provide our students with more opportunities to compete on the playing field," said Eastern Connecticut State University President and LEC Presidents Council Chair Elsa Núñez. "Men's golf and men's swimming & diving give our male athletes more options and will enhance our conference's reputation across New England. This past year, we also expanded our membership to include Castleton University. These initiatives reflect the Presidents Council's continued interest in providing student-athletes with the best varsity athletic competition possible, while maintaining our academic focus as Division III institutions."
The Little East currently sponsors championships in 19 varsity sports (eight men's, 11 women's). The last expansion of LEC sport offerings saw the addition of women's lacrosse, and men's and women's tennis for the 2001-02 academic year.
"The LEC is thrilled to expand its championship sponsorship to include men's golf and men's swimming and diving, and will apply the full force of the league's support to provide an outstanding and consistent experience across our members' sport programs," remarked Commissioner Cora H.L. Brumley. "I applaud the Presidents Council's investment in the LEC by expanding quality athletic opportunities for their student-athletes".
Men's golf will become a LEC championship sport beginning with the 2020-21 academic year. There are five current member institutions that sponsor men's golf: UMass Dartmouth, Rhode Island College and the University of Southern Maine are affiliate members of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference, Castleton, which is an affiliate member of the North Atlantic Conference, and Western Connecticut, which competed as an independent during its first varsity season in 2018-19.
A search for additional men's golf members will begin immediately as the NCAA requires a conference have seven programs to earn Automatic Qualification (AQ) status for the NCAA Championship Tournament. The LEC programs will continue to have access to "Pool C/At-Large" NCAA selection after leaving their current conferences following the 2019-20 academic year, and will would have access to "Pool B" selection for conferences that do not meet the minimum membership requirement for an AQ until at least two programs are identified for membership.
To view the full Little East Conference release, click here.