The 23 sports at York College will soon have a new home.
York will leave the Capital Athletic Conference at the end of the 2019-20 season and will join the Middle Atlantic Conference in 2020-21.
"We are excited to join the MAC and compete among the outstanding colleges and universities that are members," said York president Pamela Gunter-Smith in a news release. "Membership in the MAC is a great fit for York College and will provide a more regional travel schedule for our teams. As founding members of the Capital Athletic Conference, we are both grateful for, and proud of, the affiliation we have shared over the past 29 years in the CAC."
Why leave the CAC? Paul Saikia, the assistant dean for athletics and recreation at York, said the administration made the switch for several reasons, with “stability” being the focus. The CAC has lost members in recent years, and Saikia said the inability to recruit other schools, and the real possibility of losing automatic bids from the NCAA in certain sports, caused York to look at changing conferences. In the news release, Saikia called the move a "monumental change."
“One of the most important things for me as an administrator is that (the MAC) provides an automatic bid in all sports,” Saikia said. “The stability in knowing the numbers are there and not having to worry about our conference, which had become normal for us, is something that won’t be happening in the MAC.”
Saikia said there is “no question” that automatic berths to the NCAA Division III Championships from the CAC were “dwindling.” He also said the eight-member CAC became “very top heavy,” with schools such as Salisbury and Christopher Newport performing as high-level programs.
“I think the greatest challenge we had in the CAC was that we were a collection of schools that didn’t have anywhere else to go,” Saikia said. “Without common ground among your membership, you start to divide. The teams at the top of the CAC, and I would include York among them, became a challenge with the other schools that were looking for equal ground.”
York was a charter member of the CAC, which was founded in 1989. The Spartans have won 33 team CAC championships and Saikia said York is thankful for its time in the conference.
“We’ve made a lot of great relationships and had awesome competition,” Saikia said. “The CAC has been great for York College.”
Why the MAC? Saikia said the best part of York joining the MAC is all 23 of York’s athletic teams have a home in the MAC. For example, wrestling isn’t a sport supported by the CAC, meaning the Spartans’ perennially strong wrestling program has been forced to make other accommodations.
“This is great for our wrestling program,” Saikia said. “MAC has wrestling as one of its sports. We’ve not been in a conference for wrestling for quite some time.”
While Saikia said the CAC always provided difficult competition, he added the MAC will also be competitive.
“I look at the MAC as being solid across the board, whereas you may look at the CAC with lacrosse as being a dominant sport,” Saikia said.
Geographical advantages: Saikia said the MAC is also a better fit geographically. The CAC is spread out across multiple states, with Christopher Newport in southern Virginia and Salisbury on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Of the nine schools in York’s division in the MAC, all are in Pennsylvania except Stevenson and Hood, which are in northcentral Maryland just below the Mason-Dixon Line.
“We have the opportunity to develop some very strong rivalries,” Saikia said. “As formidable as some of our opponents are, we didn’t travel well. It’s hard for our student body to get to a game at Christopher Newport, which is 5 1/2 hours away.”
Saikia added the long commutes in the CAC can be tough on athletes, especially in the spring season when they are forced to miss classes.
“It will cut down on travel time,” he said. “It will allow us to create a schedule that is more conducive for our student-athletes.”
About the MAC: Ken Andrews, the MAC’s executive director, said York’s entrance will increase the number of MAC schools to 18. In other changes, Manhattanville will leave the MAC at the end of this season, and Stevens Institute of Technology will replace it in 2019.
“In the case of York, they’re a strong athletic program and a strong academic school,” Andrews said. “They fit our profile.”
The MAC, which was founded in 1912, is currently split up into two divisions, the MAC Commonwealth and the MAC Freedom. Both divisions operate as separate conferences and earn their own automatic bids.
“We’re in a unique situation,” Andrews said. “The two (automatic bids) is a major benefit. … It’s a pretty stable situation in the MAC. We have numbers, a legacy and schools right now that are happy where they’re at.”
York will be a member of the MAC Commonwealth, which currently has nine schools — Alvernia, Arcadia, Hood, Widener, Stevenson, Albright, Messiah, Lycoming and Lebanon Valley.
The MAC Freedom’s members in 2019 will be: DeSales, Wilkes, Eastern, Delaware Valley, Misericordia, FDU-Florham, King’s and Stevens Institute of Technology.
Reach Jacob Calvin Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.