The first piece of the long-expected shuffle of football teams in New England has come, though it wasn’t the wide-reaching change that has been talked about.
In the end, the North Atlantic Conference’s addition of football doesn’t disrupt too many homes. Norwich, which is an affiliate member of the Empire 8 as part of the dispersal that folded the Freedom Football Conference, is the only team switching homes to make this happen. Maine Maritime, which is a NAC member in other sports and could play football in the NAC at any time, is currently sticking with the NEFC. Gallaudet, Becker, Husson, Mount Ida and SUNY-Maritime have no other football home.
But it’s not going to affect, at least at the moment, the possibility that keeps looming over the NEFC — the chance that some of its teams may split off and play with their home conferences.
The 16 NEFC teams come from the following all-sports conferences: MASCAC, six (Bridgewater State, Fitchburg State, Framingham State, Massachusetts Maritime, Westfield State, Worcester State); CCC, five (Curry, Endicott, Nichols, Salve Regina, Western New England); NEWMAC, two (Coast Guard, MIT); Little East, two (Mass-Dartmouth, Plymouth State); NAC, one (Maine Maritime).
The MASCAC or CCC could far more easily pick up one or two affiliate members and be eligible for an automatic bid in two years. The NAC has no real route to an automatic bid right now, as configured.
And none of this addresses the rest of Division III, where a new league (average Kickoff ranking of the six NAC teams: 204 of 238) or a split of the NEFC would eventually add an automatic bid, and take an at-large bid away from someone else.
Then again, by the time we get there … there may be bigger fish to fry, in terms of the potential split of Division III into two divisions.