LATHAM, N.Y. – The Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC) and the United East Conference have finalized their merger, officially operating as one entity starting from July 1, 2023. The decision to merge comes at a critical time for higher education, offering a proactive solution to the ongoing membership shuffle in NCAA Division III and addressing anticipated challenges for institutions and conferences in the coming years.

Under the new structure, the merged conference will retain the name and brand of the United East Conference. Conference leaders accelerated the timeline to ensure the completion of the merger by the desired deadline. Retaining the United East Conference name helps promote inclusivity throughout the league, considering reservations around the continued use of the term “colonial.” Additionally, the merged conference will capitalize on the United East’s comprehensive rebrand in 2021, which includes a range of institutional and sport-specific championship marks.

With a total of 17 full-member institutions, including ten from CSAC and seven from the United East, the merger provides added stability and sustainability for both conferences. The new United East Conference aims to solidify student-athlete competitive opportunities, expand sports sponsorship, and achieve financial stability. As integration progresses, the conference looks forward to collaborating with NCAA and Division III colleagues to find further ways to support student-athletes during these challenging times.

Stephanie Dutton will lead the conference, who has served as the United East Commissioner since August 2019. The conference office staff will be assisting her, including Assistant Commissioners Jake Ayers, Sam Carges, and Tone Cockrell. Marie Stroman, a significant CSAC/United East contributor, will depart from her role on July 31, pursuing new opportunities outside the conferences.

Dr. Todd Williams from Cairn University will chair the United East Presidents’ Council for a two-year term starting on July 1, with Dr. Tommy Kiedis of Lancaster Bible College serving as Vice Chair. Crystal Gibson from St. Mary’s College of Maryland will assume the Chair role for the Board of Athletic Directors, accompanied by Vice Chair Ashley Hodges from Notre Dame of Maryland University.

“The merger of these two athletic conferences has been gratifying, ” Williams expressed. “All who have been a part of this process believe it will benefit our student-athletes and institutions tremendously. The spirit of cooperation and shared vision, as well as the wisdom and practical insight that has been brought to the table by both groups, can serve as an example for others to follow.”

Acknowledging Marie’s contributions, Williams added, “We also want to acknowledge the service and leadership that Marie has provided CSAC members since joining the conference in 2021. We support her decision and wish her great success in the future.”

The merged conference will sponsor 20 sports in the 2023-24 academic year, allowing for a transition period as the two conferences work toward full integration. While widely sponsored sports will adhere to previously approved league schedules, sports such as men’s and women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, and women’s tennis will follow a divisional model. Division champions will compete in a crossover championship to determine the conference’s automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament.

The remaining sports, including field hockey, men’s volleyball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, and men’s tennis, will adopt a unified structure, competing against all institutions that sponsor the sport during the regular season. A postseason tournament will determine the conference champion. Men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s track & field, and men’s golf will culminate in a conference-wide championship at the end of their respective seasons.

During the Fall 2023 season, the Seahawks field hockey team will temporarily compete in the Atlantic East Conference before transitioning to United East play the following fall.

To ensure a seamless transition and long-term planning, the conference has enlisted the expertise of the 3 Fold Group, a national consulting firm specializing in NCAA Division III. The 3 Fold Group will assist in developing the conference’s long-term scheduling philosophy and championship structures for the 2024-25 academic year and beyond.

Dr. Tuajuanda C. Jordan, president of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, emphasized the benefits of the merger for student-athletes, stating, “Importantly for our student-athletes, this merger provides enhanced opportunities for both camaraderie and competition. For our college, it provides a single conference affiliation for the majority of our varsity sports, a sense of stability, and strong partnerships with institutions focused on providing balanced experiences for student-athletes. It is an all-out win-win situation.”

The merger between the Colonial States Athletic Conference and the United East Conference signifies a proactive and forward-thinking approach to the challenges facing NCAA Division III and higher education as a whole. The new United East Conference aims to strengthen competitive opportunities for student-athletes, enhance financial stability, and foster inclusivity throughout the league by combining resources and creating a unified entity. With a clear vision and the support of dedicated leaders, the merged conference is poised to impact the collegiate sports landscape positively.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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