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Conference Realignment: Northeast Conference Adds St. Joseph's

The NEC started the week with five teams. It goes into the holiday break with seven.

St. Joseph's has played as a member of the MAAC, the CAA, and, starting in 2014, the NEC. One more league and the Hawks get a free sub at the local sandwich shop. To the press release!

Saint Joseph’s University has accepted an invitation to join the Northeast Conference (NEC) as an associate member in men’s lacrosse, it was announced on Wednesday by NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris. The Hawks will begin play in the 2014 spring season.

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Saint Joseph’s has made considerable improvement in the past two seasons under Wray, totaling more wins in two years than in the previous three years combined. The Hawks went 6-9 in 2012 and 5-11 in 2013, which included a 7-6 win over 2012 CAA champion Massachusetts. Freshman Pat Swanick was named to the 2013 CAA All-Rookie team to become the first men’s lacrosse player in program’s history to earn CAA postseason honors.

Saint Joseph’s sports a 19-17 all-time record against NEC programs, including a 3-2 mark since the NEC began sponsoring the sport officially in 2011.

“The changing landscape of college athletics and conference realignment created this opportunity to join the NEC, providing an option that suits our long-term interests and positions us for future success,” said Saint Joseph’s director of athletics Don DiJulia. “We are extremely excited to join the NEC and to compete with these fine institutions as we continue to grow our men’s lacrosse program.”

So, that's something. The NEC is now guaranteeing its members six conference games in 2014 after only having four on the slate following the end of the 2013 season. That's some crazy stuff, man. I'm freaking out over here. Not only is the NEC auto-bid protected, it's insulated to the tune of having an extra team.

This move -- one that will occur for the coming lacrosse season -- potentially exacerbates an issue with the ECAC: Will the league have enough members in 2014 to viably exist as a conference? Ohio State, Michigan, Bellarmine, Air Force, and Fairfield are -- as of right now -- hanging around for the ECAC's valediction (and Bellarmine and Air Force are running up phone bills looking for other opportunities), but with St. Joseph's clearing out of the CAA effective immediately, will Fairfield move to the CAA -- what was supposed to be its home starting in the 2015 season -- for the 2014 season? That would drop the ECAC to only four participating schools (assuming Bellarmine and Air Force don't find an immediate home), and that may not be enough to get the job done. If you had the NEC -- due to its acquisitions of Hobart and St. Joseph's -- as the potential deliverer of the ECAC's kill shot, you are both a liar and a winner.