So long Northeast-10, UMass-Lowell is off to the America East. As of July 1, 2013, the UMass-Lowell River Hawks will be joining the Albany Great Danes, Binghamton Bearcats, Hartford Hawks, Maine Black Bears, UMBC Retrievers, UNH Wildcats, Stony Brook Seawolves, and Vermont Catamounts as the 9th team in the American East conference, filling the void that will be left by the BU Terriers when they leave for the Patriot League. The America East board unanimously approved the new addition, and couldn’t be happier to admit the school into its conference.
Except for its hockey program, UMass-Lowell’s sports teams currently compete at the Division-II level in the Northeast-1o Conference. They have been a member of the Northeast-10 since 2000. The move from Division II will be exciting for the school as it will raise its prestige and level of competition, while paving the way for the addition of both men’s and women’s lacrosse programs. Yet, despite the upgrade to Division I in the next few months, UMass-Lowell will be ineligible for postseason play until after the four year reclassification period from DII to DI, which will end in before the 2017-18 season.
However, even though reclassifying may strengthen the school’s reputation, especially in the Northeast, upgrading divisions never comes without a cost. For example, it is almost certain that the cost of running the athletic department will increase. Coaches’ salaries will increase, and new coaches will be brought in, in particular to coach the new lacrosse programs. Recruiting budgets will rise as the school will need to spend more money finding higher caliber athletes to propel it to the levels that other America East schools are competing at. Additionally, the NCAA requires that Division I schools provide a greater number of scholarships to be awarded; as such, scholarship expense may increase dramatically in some sports.
Although these increased expenses may come as a burden in the short-run, UMass-Lowell’s addition to the America East, especially if its teams find success, may have great benefits in the long-run. Having a school with a great sports program is a pull factor for many prospective students. This may cause applications to rise, which will allow the school to increase its academic profile even more than it has over the past several years.
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