On Oct. 23, Sacred Heart University President Dr. John Petillo announced that Sacred Heart Athletics will be moving athletic conferences. They will be leaving the Northeast Conference (NEC), and will be joining the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) starting in the 2024- 2025 athletic season. Merrimack College will also be joining SHU and leaving the NEC for the MAAC.
They will be joining Fairfield University, Rider University, Quinnipiac University, Canisius University, Iona University, Mount St. Mary’s University, Niagara University, St. Peter’s University, and Siena College.
“The MAAC is a great brand with like- minded schools that are mostly Catholic, so we fit in very well. There are 12 schools our student-athletes and coaches are going to enjoy playing against, and we get a nice, local rivalry with Fairfield and Quinnipiac,” said Petillo.
Sacred Heart will be familiar with their competition. They have played Quinnipiac University and Fairfield University in the past.
“I think what the MAAC brings to the table is competition that we are familiar with. We’ve played MAAC schools on non-conference schedules. We know the competition.We know we can succeed with that competition,” said SHU Vice President of Enrollment, Student Affairs, and Athletics James Barquinero.
Sacred Heart has been a part of the NEC for a long time and have been successful during this run.
“We have performed exceptionally well athletically by winning 73 team championships and a NEC league best 9 Brenda Weare Commissioner’s Cups for overall athletic supremacy since joining the NEC in 1999,” said Director of Academic Services and Student Development, Tammy Petrucelli.
Sacred Heart has four sports that will not be joining the MAAC: football, men’s volleyball, field hockey and bowling.
“MAAC doesn’t sponsor football. Judy Ann Riccio is working on finding [those four sports] homes. There is a lot of opportunities out there. I’m sure she is going to making some announcements in the weeks ahead,” said Barquinero.
SHU is not the only school to be moving athletic conferences. Over the last few years, schools have been changing athletic conferences very often.
“We saw what was happening around us in the world of college athletics and with our own conference and wanted to help our programs have the best opportunities,” said Petillo.
The transition to the MAAC conference will be the most impactful for both of Sacred Heart’s basketball programs. They were both picked to finish first in the NEC this season. The women’s team is coming off an NEC Championship.
“The move to the MAAC is an exciting one for athletics and specifically for Women’s Basketball. The MAAC has historically been an extremely competitive basketball conference at the mid-major level receiving seeds as high as nine in the Women’s NCAA Tournament,” said Head Women’s Basketball Coach Jessica Mannetti.
As Sacred Heart says goodbye to the NEC and enters the MAAC, they will be looking to continue their athletic success
“I’m excited to be part of this monumental move forward for SHU athletics. It is a testament to our student- athletes, coaches, staff, and administration-both within the department of athletics and university wide, to value the important role being a student-athlete plays within the fabric of the SHU community. This opportunity is the next chapter in the evolution of SHU athletics, and I’m grateful and humbled to be part of the journey,” said Petrucelli.
Co-Sports Editor, Victor DiPierro, and Asst. Sports Editor, Marisa Musacchio, contributed to this article.