Merrimack to Play 2024 Season as FCS Independent

Merrimack College will play an independent FCS schedule for the 2024 season alongside Sacred Heart. Both schools are leaving the Northeast Conference after the 2023-24 academic year and will join the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) in 2024-25. The MAAC discontinued football after the 2007 season and has not sponsored the sport since then.

In late January, it was reported that Sacred Heart would play as an independent and a few days later the NEC released its conference schedule, which confirmed that neither Merrimack nor Sacred Heart would be competing in football for the 2024 season. The NEC’s schedule released revealed that both future independent teams would play multiple schools from the NEC in 2024.

It is uncertain where Merrimack and Sacred Heart will play football beyond the 2024 season. While the NEC appears to be off the table for now, it may only be a temporary break. Robert Morris left the NEC before the 2020 season and joined the Horizon League as a full member. As a result, the NEC did not keep RMU around as a football-only member, which led to them joining the Big South for football. Robert Morris is returning to the NEC as a football affiliate in 2024 as the conference needed another member to stay at the minimum required for an automatic qualifier to the FCS Playoffs (Stonehill will be in the reclassification process from D-II to D-I through the 2025 season is not counted towards the minimum until 2026).

The 2024 season will also allow both schools a chance to increase their scholarship limits for football as the NEC has a lower threshold than the 63 maximum limit afforded to FCS programs. It may allow either Merrimack or Sacred Heart (or both) the opportunity to move to a different conference for football should they find the higher scholarship limit beneficial. Another possibility is one or both of the schools prefer the lower scholarship limit and pursue a football affiliation with a conference that has a lower scholarship threshold.

Photo Credit to Merrimack College Athletics / Jim Stankiewicz

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