Waterville, Maine - The North Atlantic Conference (NAC) began a new chapter on July 1, 2020 when three outstanding institutions of higher education officially became members of the conference, bringing total full membership to 12 public and private schools across Maine, Vermont, and New York.
Cazenovia College, The State University of New York (SUNY) at Cobleskill, and SUNY Polytechnic Institute complete the western half of the conference and provide balance to the membership, allowing the development of creative formats for regular season schedules and championship events.
"Our Wildcats have found an exciting new home with the North Atlantic Conference," remarked Kevin Grimmer, SUNY Poly Director of Athletics. "SUNY Poly intercollegiate athletics will now align with like-minded and competitive programs from New York, Vermont and Maine, and we look forward to working with and playing against the excellent institutions which comprise a solid and welcoming conference. NAC leadership and membership are first-rate and we are looking forward to beginning competition with our new association with the NAC this year."
The three new members are the most recent additions to a rapidly growing conference. Fifty percent of the current membership became affiliated in the past three years.
"Adding new schools to the NAC speaks volumes to the strength of our conference and the direction we are headed," said SUNY Canton Director of Athletics Randy B. Sieminski, chair of the NAC Athletic Directors Council. "Growing to twelve schools adds to our scheduling flexibility, travel options and budget savings as well as our level of competitiveness and student athlete experience."
SUNY Delhi began full membership in the NAC with 12 sports in the fall of 2019. The Broncos will sponsor NAC softball and men's and women's basketball in 2020-21, bringing their total NAC sport sponsorship to 15. SUNY Canton and University of Maine at Presque Isle entered the conference at the start of the 2018-19 academic year.
"I'd like to commend Commissioner Marcella Zalot and Associate Commissioner Kate Roy on their efforts to help our conference grow and expand," added Sieminski. "Their outstanding leadership has helped to make the NAC a very appealing conference to join and one of the fastest growing conferences in the nation."
Maine Maritime Academy is a founding member of the conference, dating back to the 1996-97 academic year. Northern Vermont-Johnson became a full member in 2002, followed by Thomas College, Husson University, and the University of Maine at Farmington in 2003. Northern Vermont University-Lyndon joined the NAC in 2008.
With new perspectives anchored in history, the NAC embraced an opportunity to reinvent itself to suit the needs of member institutions and provide exceptional competitive experiences for student athletes. Conference leaders spent a year developing new regular season schedule and championship models, featuring a mix of divisional and full-conference schedules, with championship tournaments and events to match.
"We have truly enjoyed forming new relationships with the NAC conference office and member institutions," remarked Pete Way, Cazenovia Director of Athletics. "We are excited about the opportunities for Cazenovia athletics as a part of the next chapter of the NAC through creative scheduling, championships, and planning around the student athlete experience."
With the addition of new members also comes an expanded slate of conference-sponsored sports. Men's and women's swimming and diving will be under the NAC umbrella for the first time in 2020-21. The conference hopes to conduct the first-ever NAC swimming and diving championship event this year, as health and safety allows.
Conference leaders continue working on future chapters of the strategic plan, including expanded leadership development and professional growth opportunities for students and staff, expanded competitive opportunities for student athletes, and inclusion initiatives. One of the first actions taken by the expanded Council of Athletic Directors was to add the NCAA Athletic Diversity & Inclusion Designee from each campus to the conference leadership team. This expansion provides leadership opportunities for 12 campus leaders while adding richness and vital perspective to the work of the conference.
Commissioner Marcella Zalot is enthusiastic about the outlook for the conference. "The addition of our three new members achieves the first phase of our strategic plan to grow the NAC regionally. It has been exciting to work with 12 institutions who believe so strongly in a common vision to shape the future of the NAC and offer increasing transformational growth opportunities for our student athletes. I am excited for our future together."