Norwich football team will join NEWMAC Conference, renew some old rivalries

FOOTBALLLLLNorwich University Football has competed in the Eastern Collegiate Football Conference (ECFC) as a founding member since 2009. In those years it has squared off with Castleton State College, Mount Ida College, Gallaudet University, SUNY Maritime, Becker College, Anna Maria College, and Husson University, winning the conference in the inaugural year in 2009, and in 2011.

Although Norwich has not hoisted a conference title trophy in the last three seasons, the Cadets have had their share of success including six-straight appearances in the post-season.

However a big change is in the works. On April 8, it was announced that Norwich has plans to join the NEWMAC (New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference), which is now sponsoring football. Norwich will join Maine Maritime, MIT, Coast Guard, Springfield, WPI, and the Merchant Marine Academy, with the latter five being former rivals in the Freedom Football Conference that existed from 1992-2003.

Norwich will now compete with three other military-based institutions, while likely retaining the fierce rivalry with the Castleton Spartans for the perennial “sap bucket” game.

According to President Richard Schneider via the ECFC website; “I am very pleased to be joining the NEWMAC as the schools represented here adhere to our values and are fine academic institutions that believe in Division III principles of being a student athlete with student first and athlete second. This conference also allows us to continue long-held rivalries, especially with our sister military institutions.”

Head football coach Mark Murnyack is just as pleased with the conference transition. “It’s a great opportunity for our institution for traditional rivalries to be reborn. When I first got here (in 1997) that was the trophy game (Coast Guard) we played for the ‘mug’, and they have it,” he said, noting they have had it since 2003.

Murnyack also touched on the prestige of the other schools. “Most Division III schools don’t recruit outside their region, but Norwich Football is a national brand and playing schools like Coast Guard and MIT and Springfield is going to help grow that national image.”

Murnyack noted there was an odd number of teams in NEWMAC. “There’s been rumors of them added an eighth team but I really have no idea who it may be.” Schools like Massachusetts Maritime and current Norwich rival, the Privateers of SUNY Maritime, are obvious candidates, but only time will tell.

Norwich will remain in the ECFC for the next two seasons before switching over to the NEWMAC, meaning only the team’s current freshmen will be able to play in the new conference, and with the NEWMAC being a brand-new conference for football, it will need to wait two years to offer its yearly champion a bid at the NCAA playoff.

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