NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Merrimack College and the Northeast Conference made their partnership official on campus on Thursday morning, commemorating the beginning of a new era with a formal press conference and celebration in the Merrimack Athletics Complex.
As Merrimack College President Dr. Christopher E. Hopey, NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris and Director of Athletics Jeremy Gibson delivered remarks, hundreds of students, faculty, staff and coaches were on hand to celebrate the Warriors becoming the 11th core member of the NEC after the College accepted an invitation from the conference earlier this week.
"Warriors, this is our time," exclaimed Hopey. "Thirty years ago, Father John Deegan made the historic decision to move our men's ice hockey program to Hockey East and Division I. He believed in the College and saw where it should go and he laid the foundation for what we are building today. The Northeast Conference is where we belong. It's not simply an athletic recognition, it's the kind of school Merrimack is today. We could not ask for a better group of institutions to associate with, or better company to be judged by."
"If the energy and enthusiasm in this room today is a sign of what's to come, then I think the NEC better be ready for the wrath of the Warriors," Morris stated. "This day is a celebration of strategy reaping success, of
hard work paying off and of dreams coming true for both Merrimack and the Northeast Conference. We are so excited to start this partnership."
"Over those past five years, every email and every phone call [to Commissioner Morris] has had a new story to tell," said Gibson. "The story of new dorms being built; the story of new schools and academic programs being established; the story of a freshman class larger than the one before; the story of capital campaigns; the story of a new stadium; the story of conference championships; the story of national championships. It was a story of ambition and transformation. Collectively, it has been the story of Merrimack College, and it has been a fun story to tell."
The celebration concluded with a hearty "Go Warriors!" from President Hopey, a cannon of streamers firing overheard, the eruption of the band and the applause of hundreds of student-athletes eager to start the journey toward Division I competition.
The timing for the invitation coincided with Merrimack's most successful year ever in terms of athletic success in 2017-18, highlighted by winning the NCAA DII men's lacrosse national championship and three NE10 championships (baseball, men's lacrosse and men's soccer). Likewise, seven teams qualified for the NCAA tournament (baseball, men's basketball, men's cross country, men's lacrosse, men's soccer, softball, men's tennis) in their respective sports, a school record.
Merrimack won the 2017-18 NE10 Presidents' Cup, awarded annually to the top athletics program among the 15 member institutions that make up the conference. The Warriors also finished 44th out of 268 schools in the Learfield Director's Cup standings.