The Northeast-10 Conference announced a new format for its football postseason this week, paving the way for a conference championship format and including another Division II opponent for all but one of its nine member institutions. On the final weekend of the season, the NE-10′s first place team will host the second place team for the right to be named conference champion. Previously, the conference handed its championship to the regular season first place team.
Under the new format, the NE-10′s top two teams will meet in the conference championship game, but six of the remaining seven teams will also factor into the postseason format. The third place team will automatically host the sixth place squad, while fourth places seventh, and fifth places eighth. Only the ninth place team will not compete in the conference’s final weekend of games.
For Division II teams, this is a chance to get more exposure against quality opponents in hopes of making national waves. In a statement, American International athletic director Richard Bedard said, “This is an exciting step forward for the Northeast-10 Conference. This will provide a truly wonderful experience for the conference’s student-athletes, and provide tremendous exposure for football programs in the Northeast-10 Conference.”
Conference commissioner Julie Ruppert added, “The creation of this slate of weekend games not only accomplishes that goal but also enhances the student-athlete experience by providing a postseason opportunity in the only sport that had not been included in the past. I commend the athletic directors for developing a great opportunity for our football student-athletes that at the same time offers a cost-effective solution to scheduling.”
Under last year’s standings, the University of New Haven went undefeated during the season by going 8-0 in NE-10 play. They would have hosted second place Southern Connecticut, who finished 6-2, in a rematch of a 59-38 shellacking earlier in the year. AIC, Bentley, and Merrimack, all finished in a three-way tie for third at 5-3, and all three would’ve hosted games on the season’s final weekend. The only team that wouldn’t have been included in the championship weekend would’ve been Pace, who went 0-8 in conference play.
For Division II teams, it now provides an added weekend of games where they can play quality opponents from their own division. The first-place Chargers only loss during the regular season last year came at Division I-FCS foe William and Mary, with their second loss coming during the Division II tournament. It will now provide them with an added game against an upper-tier Division II opponent, which will provide quality experiences as that conference champion readies for postseason play. It also adds a postseason feel to the league’s regular games, providing more emphasis on winning than was already required.
Football now becomes the 23rd conference championship game for the NE-10, which offers athletics at the Division II level. With a long history honoring athletic greatness, NE-10 teams excelled in previous years at both the regional and national level. Men’s basketball saw Stonehill advance to the Final Four last year, while women’s basketball saw Bentley advance to the same national semifinal. Southern New Hampshire was able to beat Minnesota State-Mankato in the first game of the Division II baseball tournament before being eliminated by the Mavericks later in the double-elimination bracket. And the conference is currently the only Division II hockey league, even though the NCAA doesn’t officially sponsor the sport at the level and several of its members compete at the Division I level.