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Conference Realignment: Hobart to the Northeast Conference

May the ECAC not even make it through 2014?

Corey McLaughlin floated in Lacrosse Magazine last week that Hobart was in talks with the Northeast Conference and the America East Conference about doing a lacrosse-only thing together. The piece didn't indicate the stage of the Statesmen's talks with either league, but apparently it was pretty serious with the NEC -- Hobart has announced that it will join the NEC as an associate lacrosse-playing member for the 2014 season. To the press release!

Hobart and William Smith Colleges are pleased to announce that the Hobart College lacrosse team will accept an invitation to compete in the Northeast Conference as an associate member beginning in the 2014 season. The Statesmen will join NEC members Bryant, Mount St. Mary's, Robert Morris, Sacred Heart and Wagner.

"After careful consideration of the generous offers available to the program, the Northeast Conference is the best fit for our student-athletes," says Hobart and William Smith Colleges Vice President for Student Affairs Robert Flowers. "We have been impressed with the league's commitment to academic and athletic excellence as well as its principles of sportsmanship and student-athlete community involvement. These priorities mirror the mission of Hobart and William Smith Colleges."

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In addition to five regular season NEC games, Hobart will also maintain its long-standing rivalries with non-conference foes Colgate, Cornell, and Syracuse.

The most interesting aspect of the announcement isn't that Hobart is headed for the NEC; rather, it's that the Statesmen will play under that league's flag in 2014. That means that the ECAC, as of this moment, will have a 2014 membership roll of Ohio State, Fairfield, Bellarmine, Air Force, and Michigan. If Bellarmine or Air Force find a new conference situation -- the ECAC is beyond dead at this point, and poking it with a stick is just cruel -- that requires them to affiliate for the 2014 season, that could drastically change the league's offering next spring (if it could even sustain itself as a viable league). Would that potentially accelerate Fairfield's move to the CAA? What about Michigan and Ohio State, two programs that are patiently waiting for the Big Ten to start its lacrosse concern in 2015? It's not clear whether Air Force or Bellarmine (if they can find a new home) would hang around the ECAC next season based on the league's constitution following Hobart's departure, but that's a lingering issue as realignment continues to turn things into dust.

This was a big move not just for Hobart and the NEC, but for all the programs in the ECAC that were potentially hanging around for 2014. There are ramifications here that could be desperate, and the time to maneuver is running somewhat short.