More than 30 years after being one of the six schools who founded the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), Fairfield officials are eyeing a switch for their varsity teams.
“Everyone who makes a move does so with the desire to be in a higher level conference,” Fairfield’s Athletic Director, Gene Doris said. “All schools always seek to better themselves, as do conferences.”
Asked about when such a move might happen, he added, “A school only applies when an invitation is extended.”
What’s behind a switch?
Such a move wouldn’t be unheard of in the current times of conference changes and dismemberment. Traditional rivalries, like the ones in the Big East, are no longer.
When making a switch, it is important for schools to make sure that the schools in the prospective conference match not only athletically, but also in terms of school size, budget and whether the school is private or public.
“A conference move is a long term commitment,” Doris said, “Finances have to be viewed in the long term when weighing costs versus benefits.”
The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) is a rumored favorite. James Madison University, Northeastern University, University of Delaware, Drexel Universtiy, George Mason University, Georgia State University, Hofstra University, University at North Carolina Wilmington, Northeastern, Old Dominion University, College of William and Mary, and Towson University are the current members.
“If we did switch into the CAA, [it would] put a big Fairfield name in Boston, and deep in the heart of Virginia,” Joe Klauder, Fairfield’s Senior Associate Athletic Director in charge of Compliance, told The Mirror.
In regards to the harder competition, Colleen Reynolds ’14, a member of the women’s soccer and lacrosse teams is “excited about the potential to play more difficult teams.”
What is the MAAC?
The MAAC, formed in the 1980s, is presently composed of 10 schools located in the Northeast, “bound by the sound principles of quality and integrity in academics and excellence in athletics” according to, their official website. (MAACsports.com)
Loyola University Maryland, Canisius College, Marist College, Niagara University, Siena College, Iona College, Rider University, Manhattan College and St. Peters University currently join Fairfield in the conference.
All existing members are small, private schools. Besides Marist, the schools have no football teams. Many teams have off-campus arenas, like the Webster Bank Arena that Fairfield has a contract with for home games. With the exception of Rider, the institutions are also Catholic.
“In schools that have football, it is a driving force [to switch],” said Doris. “In all other schools and conferences, it is basketball.”
Current MAAC conference changes
Beginning in Fall 2013, one of Fairfield’s longtime foes, Loyola University Maryland, will no longer be participating in the MAAC. The Greyhounds joined the Patriot League.
With the departure of Loyola comes the arrival of two new universities: both Monmouth and Quinnipiac will be leaving the Northeast Conference to join the MAAC beginning in the fall of 2013.
“Loyola athletics’ primary mission is to support the development of student-athletes who thrive academically, athletically, spiritually, and socially,” James Paquette, assistant vice president and director of athletics at Loyola, told Loyolagreyhounds.com “The Patriot League embraces and supports those values.”
With the departure of Loyola comes the arrival of two new universities: both Monmouth and Quinnipiac will be leaving the Northeast Conference to join the MAAC beginning in the Fall 2013.
“Monmouth Athletics is looking forward to its new association with the MAAC conference and its member institutions with strong academic and athletics profiles,” said Monmouth Vice President and Director of Athletics Dr. Marilyn McNeil to gomuhawks.com.
Quinnipiac President John l. Lahey agreed, telling quinnipiacbobcats.com that they are “delighted to be joining the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference that will continue to advance us both athletically and academically.”
Fairfield’s name is already starting to spread outside of the tri-state area, due to Men’s Lacrosse participation in the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), and Women’s Field Hockey play in the America East.
Stag successes on and off the field
Regardless of the lack of Men’s Lacrosse and Field Hockey in MAAC play, Fairfield has still been successful. Since 1991 Fairfield has been ranked as one of the top 3 schools in regards to win percentage every year.
Fairfield won the Commissioner’s Cup, which is awarded to the school that appears in the most championships, 4 times. Fairfield won the Women’s Commissioner’s Cup 7 times and the Men’s cup 3 times.
The 2011-2012 year didn’t just finish with two Commissioner’s Cups, but also three championships in men’s soccer, men’s tennis and women’s tennis, and a combined win percentage of .609.
In total, Fairfield has won 50 MAAC championships, 49 MAAC regular season championships, and appeared in NCAA tournament 31 times.
Academically speaking, Fairfield also showed leadership.
69.3 percent of student athletes in Fall 2012 had a GPA over 3.0, dominating the MAAC academically, Klauder said.
Along with that, 82 student athletes earned All-Academic MAAC honors in 2011-2012, according to Fairfield’s Annual Report. This doesn’t include the 10 Field Hockey players and 5 Men’s Lacrosse players who received academic and athletic recognition from the America East and ECAC respectively.
So why move?
“It could academically diversify us in regards to the applicant pool,” Klauder said.
Along with that, Fairfield may get more endorsements to help increase the status of Fairfield Athletics, so that, as one coach who wished to remain anonymous put it, “players don’t have to pay for their own warm-up jackets.”
More travel, more competition
A change into a different conference will most likely expand travel distance, and increase the level of competition.
“It’ll be harder to do homework because of the increased travel,” says Karolyn Collins ’14, on the women’s soccer team. “That means more time on bus rides and more time spent overnight in hotels.”
Junior Shelby Butwell, a nursing major on the softball team, disagrees with Collins’ sentiments.
“Even though the competition will increase, I don’t think it will affect my work. We’ll still be playing 56 games a season,” she said.
The change will not only affect the athletes, but also the 3,000 other students who don’t participate in Varsity athletics.
“It would be awesome to watch my friends and the people I have classes with play on TV,” said Gabrielle Angresano ’14 of switching into a more competitive conference.
“As long as we stay a Division 1 school, I don’t really care what conference we play in,” said Cody Reinold ’15,
Most students, though, agree with Nina Giacchi ’14, supporting the switch into a different conference if it gave other students the inspiration to have more school spirit.
All discussions surrounding such an offer are confidential in order to avoid placing “either side in an awkward position,” but any mid-major conference would be an option, Doris said.
“In the end,” he warned, “there may be no move made.”