Busting Brackets

MAAC Basketball set to expand with additions of Sacred Heart and Merrimack for 2024-25

The landscape of NCAA sports is an ever-changing phenomenon as traditional sports conference face continual realignment. Without conference changes, colleges and universities face falling into a media black hole. Television and internet coverage are crucial for many collegiate athletic programs to survive and conference realignments are viewed by university presidents based on how they can generate new revenue for many schools who hold onto NCAA sports by a single thread.
Iona v Mount St. Mary's
Iona v Mount St. Mary's / Mitchell Layton/GettyImages

In a day and age where NCAA conference realignment is a constant reality, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) is set to grow this upcoming basketball season as well. The MAAC, while considered a "mid major" conference, nevertheless has grown its share of fans nationwide through exposure via outlets such as ESPN and ESPN Plus which carries many men's and women's college basketball games throughout the season, as well as good coverage of conference post-season tournaments. I clearly remember watching with great interest the MAAC conference tournament games such as Iona-Fairfield and like many other hoops fans began to take real notice of MAAC basketball.

The modern NCAA model for survival seems to be predicated on "televise or die" and so the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, in an attempt to expand its appeal in terms of multiple sports but especially basketball, is set to expand next season from eleven to thirteen schools in total. The addition of both Sacred Heart University and Merrimack College brings far more team depth into this conference and for Sacred Heart creates a new natural rivalry with other local schools Fairfield and Quinnipiac. The addition of Merrimack College expands the MAAC coverage into more of New England including metropolitan Boston.

Since joining the Northeast Conference in 1999, Sacred Heart has claimed no less than 73 sports titles for both men's and women's sports and the Pioneers bring an exciting level of competitiveness upon arrival in the MAAC. Merrimack brings an equally strong tradition of sports success. It should be noted, however, that the realignment of both Sacred Heart and Merrimack to their new conference has created "hiccups" in sports other than basketball.

Both incoming schools also play football at the Division I FCS level and arriving into essentially a basketball conference creates more scheduling and alignment woes for these two football teams. As a result, both Sacred Heart and Merrimack will play FCS independent football during the 2024 season and look for other football conference opportunities down the road.

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The expansion of the MAAC represents a growth in the brand name as a serious basketball conference and will no doubt translate into even more television exposure nationally for many of the schools in the MAAC. As platforms such as ESPN Plus continue to develop more programming for "mid-major" basketball conferences, the revenue stream from this growing exposure can only serve to help these schools invest more money into student-athletes and their respective sports.