The Little East Conference (LEC) Presidents Council announced on Thursday the addition of Castleton University as the league's ninth member, marking the first expansion of conference membership in 20 years. Castleton University will join the LEC for the 2018-2019 academic year and participate in 18 of the 19 championships offered by the Little East, specifically in baseball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, women's field hockey, men's and women's lacrosse, softball, men's and women's soccer, men's and women's tennis, men's and women's indoor and outdoor track and field and women's volleyball.
"We are absolutely delighted to be a member of the Little East Conference and we hope that we can contribute over the coming years to the league's impressive and storied traditions," said Castleton President Dave Wolk. "The Little East aligns well with us both academically and athletically, and we think it's a perfect fit. We look forward to measuring ourselves against some of the finest public colleges and universities in New England. While the other members each more than double our size, we anticipate many years of healthy competition and sportsmanship among our counterparts."
Castleton becomes the first LEC member from Vermont, completing the New England states as the ninth public college or university in the conference, joining Eastern Connecticut State University, Keene State College (N.H.), University of Massachusetts-Boston, University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth Plymouth State University (N.H.), Rhode Island College, University of Southern Maine, and Western Connecticut State University.
"On behalf of the Presidents Council of the Little East Conference, I am pleased to add Castleton University to our membership effective for the 2018-19 academic year," said Elsa Núñez, President of Eastern Connecticut State University and Chair of the LEC Presidents Council. "Adding another institution to our league enhances our competitiveness, gives us greater Automatic Qualifier flexibility, strengthens our budget and enhances the student- athlete experience."
Castleton University becomes the first member institution to be accepted into the Little East Conference since 1997-98 when Keene State College joined the conference as a primary member as the conference started expanding its sports offerings with the addition of field hockey, indoor and outdoor track and field and volleyball.
"Our student-athletes commit countless hours on the playing fields, in the classroom, and in the community," said Castleton Associate Dean for Athletics and Recreation Deanna Tyson. "We feel strongly that in the Little East we have found a home that matches that commitment and will enhance the student-athlete experience."
The 2017-18 academic year will mark the last for Castleton in the North Atlantic Conference (NAC). Castleton has been a member of the NAC since 2001-02, a period of unparalleled success and tremendous growth in Spartan athletics. Castleton won 49 conference titles across 14 different sports during that span while more than doubling its athletic offerings, quintupling the number of student-athletes, and building or renovating every athletic facility on campus.
"For more than a decade we have been investing in our student-athletes with the vision of competing among the very best in the region," said Tyson. "Today is a very rewarding day as we feel as though we've taken a major step towards achieving that vision. While we are very excited at the forthcoming opportunity, it is also somewhat bittersweet to look back on the growth we've experienced along with our friends in the NAC. We will carry with us strong relationships and healthy rivalries from the past 16 years."
In the midst of its 30th year, the Little East Conference serves as New England's premier athletic conference for public institutions in the NCAA Division III. Featuring 19 championship sports, the conference and its members are dedicated to an ongoing fulfillment of the Division III mission of passion, responsibility, sportsmanship, and citizenship.
"The addition of Castleton University adds value and strengthens the Little East Conference's competitive position, thanks to their commitment to the Division III philosophy of academic and athletic excellence and broad-based sport sponsorship," said LEC Commissioner Cora H. Brumley.