- Chris Jastrzembski
Merrimack joins America East as associate member in men's lacrosse
Merrimack has a new men's lacrosse home, albeit a temporary one for the time being.
After the Atlantic 10 announced they would begin sponsor men's lacrosse and ending the Northeast Conference's current sponsorship of the sport, the Warriors announced they will join the America East as an associate member in men's lacrosse for the next two seasons, beginning with the upcoming 2023 campaign. Merrimack will become the eighth program to sponsor men's lacrosse in the conference and the second program to join the conference this summer. Former NEC foe Bryant joined the America East as a full member on July 1.
"America East is excited to welcome Merrimack as an associate member in the sport of men’s lacrosse," said America East Commissioner Brad Walker in a press release. “Merrimack has built a competitive men’s lacrosse program within our region and will be a great fit for our conference.”
Due to reclassifying from Division II to Division I during the 2019-20 academic year, Merrimack will be ineligible to compete in the 2023 America East Tournament. They will be eligible to do so beginning in 2024, along with being eligible for the NCAA Tournament.
Since moving up to Division I, the Warriors have 12 wins against D1 opponents, including six last season and a 3-4 record against NEC opponents. They also defeated now conference foe UMass Lowell 16-10.
"We are excited at the opportunity to play in a great conference like the America East," said Warriors head coach Mike Morgan. "We look forward to competing against programs with rich history and tradition in lacrosse."
The NEC lost Bryant to the America East and Mount St. Mary's to the MAAC as primary members, along with associate members Hobart and Saint Joseph's to the new Atlantic 10 conference earlier in the year. That brought their total men's lacrosse sponsoring school count to four. A conference needs at least six schools to be awarded with an automatic qualifier and five for a potential two-year grace period if they get below six. LIU, Sacred Heart, and Wagner joined the MAAC as associate members earlier in the year, which is also for two years.
In a statement back in May, commissioner Noreen Morris said she was committed to bringing back men's lacrosse in the near future.
For now, every Division I lacrosse program has a conference home with the exception of Hartford. The Hawks, who did not play in the 2022 season, are an independent for the 2022-23 academic year as they prepare for a move to Division III and the Commonwealth Coast Conference beginning in the 2023-24 year.