WILLIAMSPORT – Eleven of Lycoming’s 17 athletic programs will realign in the Middle Atlantic Conference beginning with the 2020-21 academic year, with the school’s men’s and women’s basketball, men’s golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse, softball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis and women’s volleyball teams moving to the MAC Freedom, as the move was made official with the start of the new fiscal year on Wednesday.
The 11 sports will now compete in the MAC Freedom, along with Delaware Valley, DeSales, FDU-Florham, King’s (Pa.), Misericordia, Stevens, Wilkes and fellow new member Arcadia. All 11 sports will feature an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships and eight of the team sports (except golf and tennis) will be fully sponsored by the conference, meaning the conference championship will include five participants.
The move is a return to the MAC Freedom for the majority of the Warriors’ programs, who also participated in the then-Freedom Conference from 2000-06 and its precursor, the Freedom League from 1993-99. The conference, which has always been administered by the Middle Atlantic Conference, is the NCAA’s lone umbrella conference with the ability to merge teams to maximize NCAA Championship automatic qualifying bids.
The remaining six programs (men’s and women’s cross country, football, men’s and women’s swimming, wrestling) will remain in the Middle Atlantic Conference.
Currently, the MAC sponsors 27 sports, with the MAC Commonwealth and MAC Freedom supplying two automatic bids in baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, field hockey, men’s golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse, softball, men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s volleyball. The Middle Atlantic Conference supplies automatic bids in football, women’s golf and men’s volleyball. Sports are sponsored but bids are not earned through conference competition in men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s indoor track & field, men’s and women’s outdoor track & field, men’s and women’s swimming and wrestling.
The Warriors joined the MAC in 1952 and are currently the fifth-oldest continual member in the conference, behind only Albright, Lebanon Valley (1945), Widener and Wilkes (1946). Lycoming participated in the College Division North until 1974 when the conference realigned with the departure of the University Division, whose 11 member schools left to form the East Coast Conference. From 1975-92, the Warriors competed in the MAC Northwest Division before the departure of 11 members to form the Centennial Conference, which led to the realignment of the MAC into the Freedom and Commonwealth Leagues. In 2000, the two leagues were each given automatic bids in 11 sports, and became known as the Freedom Conference and Commonwealth Conference (and then MAC Freedom and MAC Commonwealth in 2015).
With the departure of five schools which sought to form the Landmark Conference in 2007, Lycoming moved from the Freedom Conference to the Commonwealth Conference, where it stayed for the past 13 years, winning seven conference titles (one men’s tennis, three men’s soccer, three men’s basketball) in that time.
The re-alignment to the MAC Freedom was announced in May 2019 by then-MAC Executive Director Ken Andrews, who said, “The nine-and-nine structure allows another team to qualify for conference postseason play in our [NCAA] automatic qualifier sports. Also with this new alignment, we prioritized missed class time by decreasing overall travel time for our membership as a whole.”
The MAC Commonwealth will feature Albright, Alvernia, Hood, Lebanon Valley, Messiah, Stevenson, Widener and new members Eastern and York.