Mercyhurst Joining Northeast Conference

Mercyhurst University will begin the reclassification process from NCAA Division II to Division I and join the Northeast Conference beginning with the 2024-25 academic year. The four-year reclassification process means Mercyhurst will not be a full Division I member eligible for NCAA Championships (FCS Playoffs) until the 2028-29 academic year. Located in Erie, Pennsylvania, Mercyhurst is currently a member of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) for most sports, including football.

The Lakers established football in 1981 at the Division III level and competed as an independent through the 1992 season. Mercyhurst moved up to the Division II level in 1993 and competed as an independent initially. In 1995, Mercyhurst moved to the Division II level and joined the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) but football did not join the GLIAC right away. The football team continued to compete as an independent through the 1997 season before joining the football-only Midwest Intercollegiate Football Conference (MIFC) in 1998. Mercyhurst began competing in the GLIAC for football in 1999.

Mercyhurst joined the PSAC beginning in 2008 and had some early success reaching the Division II playoffs in their third season. The Lakers made the quarterfinals but fell to Shepherd 49-14 and finished the season 10-3. The Lakers finished 9-2 overall in 2012 but haven’t made the playoffs since their initial appearance in 2010. Since joining the PSAC in 2008, Mercyhurst has 6 winning seasons but only one of those occurred since 2015 when the Lakers went 6-5 in 2019.

The NEC has been a revolving door in the latest realignment shuffle and has often reached into Division II for new members. Bryant (America East/CAA), Mount St. Mary’s (MAAC), Robert Morris (Horizon League), and St. Francis (NY; dropped athletics) have all left the NEC in the past five years. In addition, Merrimack and Sacred Heart are leaving the NEC following the 2023-24 academic year and both will play independent FCS schedules for the 2024 season. In response, the NEC has added Chicago State, Le Moyne (no football), Merrimack (now leaving), Robert Morris (football-only), and Stonehill.

For 2024, the NEC will have Central Connecticut State, Duquesne, Long Island, Mercyhurst, Robert Morris, Saint Francis (PA), Stonehill, and Wagner as football members but Stonehill is still reclassifying from D-II (Chicago State, Fairleigh Dickinson, and Le Moyne are full members but do not sponsor football). Robert Morris was brought back as a football-only member to maintain the 6 minimum full members needed to retain the NEC’s automatic qualifying bid status to the FCS playoffs. There’s also the possibility that Chicago State may add an FCS team although that may be a few years away.

Photo Credit to Mercyhurst University Athletics

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