(Sports Network) - The conference carousel refuses to stop spinning across
Monmouth has been taken for a ride it didn't want as the private university
along the Jersey Shore learned on Thursday that the Northeast Conference has
denied its application to be an associate member going forward.
The next stop for Monmouth? Perhaps the Big South Conference.
Monmouth basically brought on its problem and kind of surmised the NEC's
decision in the last month. The Hawks had been a member of the NEC since 1996,
but their administration announced in mid-December a move to the Metro
Atlantic Athletic Association beginning with the 2013-14 academic year.
It's a clear upgrade in basketball and other sports for Monmouth, but the
problem for the football team is that the MAAC doesn't sponsor football.
Monmouth reapplied with the NEC to remain as an associate member in football,
field hockey and bowling, but the NEC only accepted the field hockey team,
presumably to keep enough members for an automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA
Monmouth, which won an outright NEC title in 2006 and shared four other crowns
after joining the conference behind coach Kevin Callahan, will have its ties
with the NEC severed in June, but free agency is here. The Hawks, 5-5 this
past season, may have to spend at least the 2013 season as an FCS independent,
and they surely have to fill some holes left in their schedule.
"When Monmouth University decided to accept an invitation to join the MAAC,
they did so with full knowledge that the MAAC did not sponsor the sports of
football, field hockey and bowling," NEC commissioner Noreen Morris said in a
"Monmouth subsequently submitted an application to be an associate member in
the NEC in each of those three sports. The NEC Council of Presidents evaluated
the associate membership requests separately, and in doing so made their
decisions relative to the long term stability and interests of the conference.
We look forward to continuing our partnership with Monmouth in the sport of
field hockey, and wish Monmouth success in the sports of football and bowling
as they seek new partnerships in those sports."
Monmouth, having already started to look elsewhere in football, released a
statement that read: "Recently the Northeast Conference Council of Presidents
voted on and made the decision to decline Monmouth University's application to
join the NEC Football league as an associate member. We are disappointed in
this decision in light of the fact that Monmouth has always been an exemplary
member of the conference, both on and off the field, particularly in the area
of securing an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I playoffs. On the other
hand, we knew this was a possible outcome so we have been actively pursuing a
new home for MU football and we anticipate a positive outcome in the near
The conference options for Monmouth football are few. Monmouth was an outside
candidate for CAA Football when it sought new membership last year, but the
leap was just a bit much and the conference went the way of Albany from the
NEC and Stony Brook from the Big South.
The Patriot League also is pursuing expansion, and Monmouth will chase any
possibility there. But Monmouth may not be a strong enough fit academically,
and Patriot League football is just moving to the scholarship level this year.
So the answer could come from the Big South. Stony Brook may not have
been a great fit geographically, but it brought a Northeast footprint to the
conference, not to mention great football. The Seawolves won at least a
share of the title in its final four seasons in the conference, and won FCS
playoff games - the first in Big South history - in each of the past two
Monmouth was not at the NEC limit of 40 scholarships this past season, but
it's a capable program, having defeated CAA teams (Villanova, then Rhode
Island) in the last two seasons. With an upgrade in its football facilities -
which appears likely considering what the Hawks have gotten out of their
multi-purpose recreational center which opened in 2009 - they make for a
strong fit for the Big South.
Despite the loss of Stony Brook, the Big South will still have an automatic
playoff bid. But now that it has fallen to six schools, and scheduling has
gotten tougher, the Big South needs to expand again.
The Sports Network