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Le Moyne College turns D-1; becomes full-time member of NEC

The Dolphins hope to carry a rich history of athletics to Division 1. We break down what it means. PIC: Dennis Nett, Syracuse.com

The above picture gives shades of one of college basketball's rare occurrences: a Division 2 team beating a Division 1 powerhouse.


Granted, this was a more recent picture. It captured a 2021 exhibition contest between Syracuse and the Division 2 Le Moyne Dolphins, separated by only four miles in Upstate New York. Isaiah Elmore (#24 in green) is pictured defending Jesse Edwards, a mainstay of sorts for the Orange over the past four years (he's now moved onto Bob Huggins and West Virginia).


But twelve years beforehand, Le Moyne etched itself in history, even if it was an exhibition game. In an Orange tune-up-gone-wrong in November 2009, the Dolphins walked away from the Carrier Dome with an 82-79 victory.


"Did we ever think that a day like this would happen? Probably not," said then-Le Moyne head coach Steve Evans. "But we put together a game plan. We didn't want to play Syracuse's way. We wanted to play our way. It was just one of those days for Le Moyne basketball. The kids will remember this forever."


Now, Le Moyne forges a new step in its athletic journey; its hypothetical games against Syracuse will mean much more than a tune-up now, as they'll count in both their records.


The school announced on May 10th that they would transition all athletic programs to Division I, effective July 1. Le Moyne will become a full-time member of the Northeast Conference (NEC), which adds its third member in five years (Merrimack & Stonehill did the same in 2018 & 2022 respectively).


The NEC has been mauled by changes to conference membership over the past few years. Notably, the exodus of both Bryant and Mount St. Mary's in 2022 caused heads to turn. Robert Morris left for the Horizon League in 2020. Monmouth and Quinnipiac both left for the MAAC in 2013. And just months ago, St. Francis College (Brooklyn) announced it would terminate all its athletic programs. Luckily, the NEC had a familiar blueprint to source new schools; the Northeast-10, from which it took Bryant, Merrimack, and Stonehill.


And now, Le Moyne College becomes another NE-10 promotion.


Here was my excerpt from an article on schools that could transition to D1 in the near future, which ran here just a few weeks ago.


LeMoyne has a rich culture of athletics, having been a nationally-recognized name in most of their active programs at different times throughout history. Over 75% of students are involved in some sort of athletics at LeMoyne, and despite being small, their love for sport is mighty...LeMoyne would more than likely need to consider adding another major sport - likely to the tune of football or hockey - but it's clear they'd immediately compete for championships at the conference and national level if they made the switch. I again think the NEC could be a good fit here.


Overlooked in my analysis was the fact that Le Moyne's baseball team had played at the D1 level from 1988 to 2011, sending multiple players to professional leagues and nearly earning a bid to the College World Series in 1989. They'll immediately compete with NEC foes, as they're off to another solid season, boasting a 32-19 record and heading to the D2 East Regional.


Le Moyne should expect to field multiple championship teams based on their rich history of athletic success. Men's lacrosse has won a whopping six national championships at the D-2 level, and Women's lacrosse took one home in 2018. It remains to be seen if they add another sport, possibly hockey or football.


But one thing the Dolphins most assuredly will be excited about; their games against Syracuse finally count.

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