May 8, 2008

Northeast Conference Football Gains Championship Access Through Bracket Expansion

May 8, 2008

Somerset, NJ -- As a result of the NCAA Board of Directors' approval of a new budget that allows for the expansion of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision post-season bracket, the Northeast Conference will gain automatic access into the Division I Football Championship beginning in 2010. NEC Football is also eligible for automatic qualification into the championship bracket during the 2008 and 2009 seasons if its champion meets specifications of the bridge program.

"This is great for the NEC and its student-athletes," commented league commissioner Brenda Weare. "It provides greater opportunity for our league on numerous levels. It should bolster our recruiting efforts and overall competitiveness, while also helping us brand our league."

The recently-approved budget contained a proposal from the Division I Football Championship Committee calling for an increase in the number of FCS playoff participants to 20, a 25 percent rise from its current 16-team format. The NEC will acquire one of the four added berths and be guaranteed an opportunity to play for the 2010 FCS Championship.

Currently, the playoff bracket grants eight FCS leagues an automatic qualifier while awarding eight additional schools with at-large bids. The expanded format maintains the 1-to-1 ratio of automatic qualifiers and at-large teams. In addition to the NEC, the Big South, which will be a championship eligible conference by 2010, will gain automatic access.

"This is great news for NEC Football," stated Monmouth's Vice President and Director of Athletics Dr. Marilyn McNeil, who serves as the chair of the NEC Athletic Directors. "I applaud the NCAA and its Presidents for a decision that will further the opportunity of our student-athletes. I thank Commissioner Weare for the tremendous work she has done in spearheading this expansion effort."

The NEC's automatic access could come sooner than 2010 if its champion meets each of three specified criteria. The Football Championship Committee has determined to award a guaranteed at-large position to any conference champion team that: 1) accrues at least eight Division I victories, 2) wins a minimum of two non-conference games against Division I teams from a league that has earned an automatic berth in that given year, and 3) ranks 16th or higher in an average of the last regular season media, coaches and/or computer polls.

The expansion of the football bracket is the first in 21 years. During that interval, sponsorship of the sport at the FCS level has increased by 28 teams.

"This is not just good news for the NEC, but it is good news for the entire landscape of FCS Football. It allows for more opportunities across the board and makes the championship stronger," said Weare.

Founded in 1996, Northeast Conference Football has a current membership of eight teams including the addition of Duquesne for the imminent 2008 season. The league saw two of its teams, Albany and Central Connecticut State, crack both the Sports Network Top-25 Poll and the College Sporting News Top-25 Coaches' Poll during the 2006 season. The NEC has yet to place a participant into the FCS playoffs, but numerous NEC teams have enjoyed other post-season opportunities throughout the years including the ECAC Bowl and the Gridiron Classic.