Mid-Major and small conferences all across the country are thinking outside the box to keep what they have alive. It has led to some interesting ideas that are beginning to pop up. One of those ideas features the Northeast Conference and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. The idea involves three sports, baseball, and men’s and women’s golf. Schools from the MEAC will join the NEC in these sports in what can easily be described as an interesting collaboration that could become a model for other conferences in their situation to consider.
For the purpose of this article, baseball will be the focus. Four schools from the MEAC will come aboard for the 2023 college baseball season. The four schools are Coppin State, Maryland-Eastern Shore, Delaware State, and Norfolk State. It will bring the number of schools under the umbrella of the Northeast Conference to eleven. For the four joining programs, it will allow them to maintain baseball rivalries with each other while beginning to establish new ones with baseball programs in the NEC. How this will work from a schedule point of view is still to be determined. But what can not be understated is the thumbs up this is getting from the parties involved.
These four programs will have immediate access to participate in the regular season, conference championships, and NCAA automatic qualifiers in these sports. In baseball, for example, in the 2023 season, ten of the eleven schools will have a chance to play in the conference tournament at the end of the season. Merrimack, which still has one year left of reclassification from division two to division one, will have to sit out this year. How many teams make the postseason is still undecided.
Coppin State won the 2022 MEAC conference tournament and with it the automatic bid to the NCAA baseball tournament. Delaware State was the regular season champion. From the NEC, Long Island University was the champion of the league and moved on to the field of 64. The question becomes can this type of partnership work? If the answer is yes, then rest assured this will be copied by other mid-major and small conferences all across the country as these leagues try to find new ways to stay relevant in the world of college athletics.
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