CASTLETON, Vt. – After 16 years as a member of the North Atlantic Conference, the Castleton University athletics department has become the newest member of the Little East Conference, effective July 1, 2018.
Of Castleton's 28 varsity sports, 18 of them will be competing as part of the Little East: baseball, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, field hockey, men's and women's indoor track and field, men's and women's lacrosse, men's and women's outdoor track and field, men's and women's soccer, softball, men's and women's tennis, and volleyball.
Castleton becomes the ninth full member of the Little East, with the league expanding for the first time since Keene State joined the conference for the 1997-98 season. The Spartans become the first athletic program in the Little East to represent the state of Vermont, giving the conference at least one school in each of the six New England states (2 each in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, 1 each in Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont).
The first genesis of the Little East came about in September 1984 when discussions began about establishing a New England regional basketball league in order to secure an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Basketball Tournaments. Talks continued throughout 1984 and 1985, with six schools from an original list of 14 committing to the establishment of the Little East Conference in September 1985.
On April 28, 1986, Eastern Connecticut State, UMass-Boston, UMass-Dartmouth, Plymouth State, Rhode Island College, and Southern Maine accepted the league's constitution. Western Connecticut State would become the seventh full member before the 1993-94 academic year, followed by Keene State as the eighth member four years later.
Besides the nine full members, six other schools compete as affiliate members: Bridgewater State (field hockey, men's and women's tennis), Fitchburg State (field hockey), Framingham State (field hockey), Salem State (field hockey, men's lacrosse, men's and women's tennis), Westfield State (field hockey, women's swimming and diving), and Worcester State (field hockey, women's tennis).
Men's and women's basketball would be the first sports sponsored by the league in 1986-87, with the other 17 sports added over the years, the last being women's lacrosse in 2001-02. Women's swimming and diving is the only sport with a championship sponsored by the Little East in which Castleton does not field a team.
The Little East Conference office is located in the Hope Artiste Village mill complex in Pawtucket, R.I. Cora Brumley has served as Commissioner of the Little East Conference since 2013 after spending several years as an athletic administrator at Oswego State. Darryl Konicki took over as Assistant Commissioner in September 2017 after stints as Athletic Communications Director at both Arcadia and AIC.
At the end of each academic year, two major awards are handed out to signify an athletic department's overall success within the conference. Established in conjunction with the Little East Conference's 15th anniversary in the 2000-01 academic year, the Commissioner's Cup measures an institution's overall athletic performance in the 19 sports sponsored by the league. After Keene State won 16 straight trophies from 2001-2016, Eastern Connecticut State has won the Commissioner's Cup in each of the past two seasons.
Established in the 2009-2010 academic year, the Presidents' Cup measures an institution's overall academic performance in the 19 sports sponsored by the Little East Conference. Each institution calculates the cumulative GPA for all its student-athletes that competed in the league's 19 championship-sponsored sports, and the institution with the highest cumulative grade point average is awarded the league's highest honor. Plymouth State took the Presidents' Cup in June 2018 after four victories by Eastern Connecticut State (2010, 2015-17), three by Keene State (2011-13), and one by UMass-Dartmouth in 2014.
Over the next two months, each Little East school will be featured to give Spartan fans an opportunity to become familiar with the new conference rivals. Also, the regular season and postseason formats for each sport will be explained in the Castleton season previews starting in late August.