Stonehill College will transition to a Division 1 athletic program starting in the 2022-23 academic year, the administration announced Tuesday.
Stonehill will compete in the Northeast Conference, which includes Merrimack, Sacred Heart, and Central Connecticut State among its New England-based members.
In a statement, Stonehill president John Denning said, “I am deeply appreciative to the Northeast Conference for inviting us. As the College approaches its 75th anniversary, this move to the Northeast Conference and NCAA Division 1 athletics signals that Stonehill is prepared to achieve its fullest potential — both athletically and academically in the years to come.”
The Northeast Conference recently lost Bryant to America East (Bryant football will compete in the Big South).
Since 1980, Stonehill has competed at the Division 2 level in the Northeast-10 Conference, finishing in the top three of the final standings for the NE10 Presidents’ Cup in 15 of the last 16 years.
Stonehill’s success includes a pair of East Regional championships in men’s basketball (2012 and 2016), an Elite Eight in women’s basketball (2018), and a pair of national championships in women’s lacrosse (2003 and 2005).
Over the last decade, 51 teams at Stonehill have qualified for their NCAA Division 2 tournaments.
“Stonehill’s move to Division I and membership in the Northeast Conference is a transformational moment in our history,” said athletic director Dean O’Keefe. “Our students, alumni, coaches, faculty, staff and the entire Stonehill community have together created a special tradition of athletic and academic excellence, and we are eager to build upon that strong foundation as Stonehill begins a bold new chapter of its exciting story.”
Stonehill will become a full member of the NEC in 2026-27, after the four-year NCAA reclassification period is completed.
During this time, Stonehill is allowed to compete within the league during the regular season but is barred from participating in NEC championships.
Only men’s and women’s cross-country, indoor and outdoor track and field, and women’s swimming will be allowed to compete in postseason play in the NEC before 2027.
“As we progressed through the membership evaluation process, it became abundantly clear that Stonehill will be a tremendous fit for the NEC from an academic, athletic and mission perspective,” said NEC commissioner Noreen Morris. “The Skyhawks have a strong history of success in all three realms, and they are well positioned to elevate to the Division 1 ranks and strengthen the NEC.”
Stonehill currently offers 22 varsity sports, with women’s hockey set to join in 2022, competing in the New England Women’s Collegiate Hockey Alliance.
Men’s hockey will be an independent at the Division 1 level, and equestrian will continue as a member of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association. The other 20 varsity teams will compete in the NEC.