Hamilton Finalizes its Transition into the NESCAC: 3 Hamilton Teams Debut in the ‘CAC

By Christie Crawford’13

Rumor on the Hill is that an old basketball coach from the 1970s switched Hamilton teams from the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) into the Liberty League because he wanted his team to win a championship.  As juicy as it sounds, it’s about as true as the last rumor you heard. The field hockey and the men’s and women’s soccer teams made their debuts in the NESCAC this fall, but what were they doing in the Liberty League in the first place?  Athletic Director Jon Hind and Fitness Center Director David Thompson shed some light on the true history of Hamilton’s unique position in the NESCAC.

Hamilton has been a charter member of the NESCAC since its founding in 1971; however, according to Coach Thompson, today’s NESCAC is different than the NESCAC that Hamilton helped found.  Originally, the NESCAC allowed its members to move around, playing both NESCAC and other teams in New York State, such as Union and Saint Lawrence. Coach Thompson explained that the NESCAC wasn’t so much a league as it was a loose association of teams like Hamilton, Middlebury, and Williams who agreed to uphold high academic standards, but were given more freedom in regards to who they played in athletics.

The NCAA changed its ways in 1999, and forced leagues to solidify the teams who played in them.  According to Coach Hind, small NCAA conferences used to pick and choose what teams received bids to the NCAA tournament.  As more college teams joined the association, the NCAA realized that they needed a set standard to judge teams, which they dubbed the “Automatic Qualifier” or “AQ.”  The AQ required leagues to set their team memberships in stone, because for every league of at least seven teams, the first place team would automatically qualify for a bid to the NCAA championship tournament.

For several years, Hamilton enjoyed the freedom of playing both NESCAC and Liberty League teams, but when the NESCAC was forced to solidify itself, Hamilton had to pick a side. Hamilton was at a crossroads of two very different paths, and they chose…both.  Coach Thompson claims that the decision was easy for hockey and football to join NESCAC because they were already playing almost exclusively NESCAC teams.  However, the soccer, field hockey, lacrosse and basketball teams played a few ‘CAC teams, but ultimately had tighter ties with New York teams in the Liberty League.  Coach Thompson described it as a “collective decision of convenience, honoring traditions that already existed.”

So why move these seven teams back to the NESCAC now?  Coach Hind first explains that the Hamilton teams in the Liberty League had to follow NESCAC rules, which put Hamilton at a “competitive disadvantage.”  For instance, preseason for basketball teams in the Liberty League starts on October 15th, but even when they played in the Liberty League, Hamilton basketball could not start until the NESCAC started on November 1st.  In addition, the Liberty League is quite competitive with a respected reputation, but ultimately, the NESCAC is an all around stronger league, both academically and athletically.  Coach Hind is excited about the teams’ transfer to the NESCAC because Hamilton students are “high achievers, hard workers, and goal setters” who deserve to play with the best of the best.  Hamilton has been associated with the NESCAC since its founding, but this fall, as the final Hamilton teams transition into the league, Hamilton will show the NESCAC that they are a force to be reckoned with.

In 2010, McNally played a crucial role in leading the Conts to finish 2nd in the Liberty League championship.  In 2009, Hamilton field hockey took the Liberty League by storm when they earned their way to the first round of the NCAA championship for the first time in Hamilton field hockey history. Even though they were the new kids on the block this fall, Hamilton field hockey was determined to carry their recent successes into the NESCAC.

Sarah Boak led the women’s soccer team to their 3rd performance in the NCAA tournament in the 2010 season.  Hamilton defense proved to be unstoppable when they shut out Virginia Wesleyan 1-0 in the first round of the NCAA championship.  Hamilton finished 10-4-3.  Boak and Hamilton’s powerful defensive line had NESCAC offenders shaking in their boots this fall.
In 2010, Campagnano set the pace for a successful season for men’s soccer.  Campagnano set up the men’s offense to reach a winning record of 9-3-3.  The Continentals made it to the semifinals of the Liberty League Championship, and looked to shake things up in their debut in the NESCAC this fall.