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A New Sports League for BU

Patriot League reflects University’s academic and athletic strengths


In a move that reflects Boston University’s commitment to both academic and athletic excellence, the University has accepted an invitation to join the Patriot League, beginning with the 2013–2014 academic year. BU will be leaving the America East conference, of which it was a founding member in 1979. The University will be the ninth full member of the Patriot League, which, like America East, is a Division I conference. Division I is the highest competitive level recognized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Membership in the Patriot League, which was recommended by President Robert A. Brown and approved by the University trustees, follows this morning’s formal vote of the Patriot League Council of Presidents. All but four of the University’s intercollegiate teams will join the Patriot League, which played its first season in 1986. Men’s and women’s ice hockey teams will remain in Hockey East, one of the nation’s premier collegiate hockey conferences. Because the Patriot League doesn’t sponsor men’s rowing or wrestling, BU teams in those sports will remain in the Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges and the Colonial Athletic Association, respectively.

“We are very impressed by the academic quality of the institutions in the Patriot League and by the league’s commitment to student athletics while effectively competing at the NCAA Division I level,” says Brown. “We believe that the philosophy of the league is a good match for Boston University and that the schools in the league will give our athletes a rich competitive environment.” Brown has overseen a drive to increase the selectivity of BU’s admissions and to enroll ever-better students.

Member schools competing in Patriot League sports include American University, Army, Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh, and Navy. Three associate members participate in one sport each: Fordham and Georgetown in football and MIT in women’s rowing.

BU “has a strong tradition of excellence in academics and Division I athletics, both of which reflect the core values of the Patriot League,” says Carolyn Schlie Femovich, the league’s executive director. “They will strengthen the league both in the classroom and on the field of play.”

Daniel H. Weiss, president of Lafayette and chair of the league’s Council of Presidents, welcomed BU’s membership as demonstrating the council’s “commitment and vision to the stability and long-term positioning of the league.”

Michael Lynch, BU assistant vice president and director of athletics, says about 400 students play for the teams that would be included in the new affiliation. The Patriot League’s policy on athletic scholarships mirrors America East’s.

Todd Klipp, senior vice president, general counsel, and secretary of the BU Board of Trustees, says that while the University is larger than the other Patriot schools (the biggest of which is American University in Washington, D.C.), “we are in other respects similar in our commitment to academic excellence and, along with that, athletic competitiveness.” Klipp compares the Patriot League to the Ivy League, its principal out-of-conference competition in many sports.

Like the Ivies, says Lynch, each school in the Patriot League calculates an academic index, a composite of GPA and other academic measures, for each recruited athlete. Both individual indices and team averages are expected to be consistent with those of the student body as a whole, and member schools hold each other accountable for any exceptions. On its website, the Patriot League says it has maintained the highest graduation rates for student athletes among Division I conferences since 1998, as measured by the NCAA’s graduation rates report.

“This is a really unique opportunity for us to challenge ourselves,” Lynch says. “We’ll be entering a league that reflects the best ideals in the country—valuing academics as its highest priority together with very competitive athletics. That is our commitment too.”

Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

23 Comments on A New Sports League for BU

  • John on 06.15.2012 at 5:39 pm

    Good move by BU. Academically it’s a better fit and it’ll be great to catch a basketball or lacrosse game for Philly, DC, and NYC-area alums.

  • Jess on 06.18.2012 at 8:35 am

    All BU needs is a football team now!

    • Been There on 06.18.2012 at 9:27 am

      Nah, we really don’t. Trust me, having a mediocre team that goes 5-7 at best is far worse than not having a team at all. College football in the Northeast just isn’t a thing like it is in the Midwest/South. Let’s focus on academics; it’s the reason that most of us are here anyway.

  • Brian on 06.18.2012 at 8:39 am

    I really like this move as well. The Army / Navy games are always fun to watch, and becoming a part of this league can really help to ramp up BU athletic participation.

  • James on 06.18.2012 at 8:41 am

    I don’t understand why BU would do this. As a school of BU’s size, it’s joining a conference of schools that are small- mid sized. With the amount of budget and the facilities BU has, it will not attract quality student athletes unless it joins a quality conference. Unfortunately the PL and CAA aren’t those conferences. BC is a 1/3 the size of BU, yet it is in the ACC Conference. I know BU doesn’t have football any longer, but compare the facilities of BU and BC and tell me why we can’t attract better basketball players? It’s because of our conference. And I’m sorry, but playing Lehigh or Bucknell or Lafayette doesn’t really make me want to come out (and I am from Pennsylvania so it SHOULD mean more to me). Until BU is able to play in a respectable conference (which won’t happen for quite some time now), I’ll be hard pressed to get excited to go watch a game. Thank god we are not moving hockey out of Hockey East. I go to as many BU Hockey games as I can because 1. we have some of the best young talent in the country 2. we play some of the top teams in the country and 3. there is a chance BU hockey can win a NCAA title each year. Playing b- level talent doesn’t get your fans excited and it certainly doesn’t attract top recruits. And please don’t give me the scholastics argument- BU has CGS where it can plug all those “1 and dones” and you’re telling me that Georgetown, Duke, Villanova, UVA and so on aren’t top-flight universities that are consistently strong and get quality recruits? Yes, we may have to down our standards for a couple underachieving point guards, but we can cancel out a couple applicants of rich girls from Long Island that will go into COM anyways.

    • A on 06.18.2012 at 10:30 am

      I agree with some of your points, but BU has always been a school that prides in its academics; that’s the school’s priority before sports. The Patriot League is a great fit for the school’s basketball program.

      Instead of degrading CGS and some of the school’s demographic, you should take pride in our school. We still have – though recently, some would argue otherwise – a good hockey program. Perhaps if having a great basketball team is one of your priorities, then you should have considered other schools. BU basketball is what it is.

      • M on 06.18.2012 at 3:30 pm

        I really don’t see how moving to the Patriot League is good for our basketball team (which is the only sport I really follow at BU).

        We were a pretty sad 4-10 in interconference play, with one game coming against a bottom feeder of the CAA and another against a URI team that booted out its coach this year. BC wasn’t even that great this year. UDel win was pretty solid, I’ll give them that.

        I just don’t see how going from a conference where the winner gets a 16 seed (which we have a decent shot of winning) to a conference where the winner gets about a 15 seed (and a much lower shot of winning) and 0 at large bids is a good fit for this team.

        If you meant it’s a good fit academically that’s another thing, but I don’t watch the basketball team for their academic prowress.

      • James on 06.19.2012 at 1:54 am

        My point is that there are some other great conferences that boast high academics as well. The ACC, Big 10, PAC 10 and so on all have fantastic schools in them. The only reason why I point to basketball and soccer is because those are the only two major sports BU has besides Hockey (which is staying in Hockey East). You could argue that Lacrosse may still benefit as several PL schools have good programs, and the wrestling team may benefit going against competition such as Lehigh (if Lehigh decides to choose to wrestle BU as Wrestling isn’t a PL sport). I am not saying I chose BU because of sports- if I was going on sports alone I would have selected another school. But the fact is that BU is a huge school that has amazing facilities. It is the type of University that COULD be stellar at athletics- and as I mentioned before, you don’t have to give up on the “student athlete” portion of things (Duke, UVA, Syracuse, Michigan, Stanford, and so on).

        Regarding CGS, I am very proud of my BU education, however, I am not proud of our University supporting a CGS program while depleting a University Professors program. We basically admit students who can’t make the cut into any of the other colleges into a (2) year “post high school” education and then let them stroll into SMG, CAS and so on with only two years to complete. It’s unfair to the students who didn’t take “social studies” for 2 years and transfer. CGS is the reason why Boston University is not as highly ranked as other universities. Look at the rankings- do you really think some of those schools are more difficult than BU? I worked my butt off to graduate in good standing at BU and still wonder why my University is consistently ranked above #50 (thus bringing down the worth of my education).

        At the end of the day, my argument was that BU should have taken a couple more years to build a better and more well-rounded program and then taken a shot at a top tier conference that people will pay attention to. I think one of the major issues at BU is lack of school spirit and having a sports team you can actually support (I’m sorry but hockey is… well, hockey- and trust me i went to 85% of the games at BU as a big hockey fan, but it’s not a huge collegiate sport). There’s no reason why BC should have a better athletic program and be in a better conference than a school 3x its size that spends considerable amount of funds on athletics and facilities.

        And by the way, I was a student athlete at BU and I have great pride in the program. I just wish that it was more nationally recognized.

        • Fernando Valdivieso on 09.19.2014 at 11:02 pm

          I am a CGS graduate and I thought it was the best program/courses I had at BU. I graduated with a triple major in Economics, Geography and International Relations, Cum Laude, GPA of 3.5 in 3 and a half years. Went on to London School of Economics to do a masters and ranked top of my class. If it was not for CGS I could not have done any of this, so please…

    • Ace on 06.18.2012 at 5:59 pm

      Think about how many hockey teams there are nationally compared to other sports like basketball, soccer, track, etc. no disrespect to the hockey program but when competition is so small in comparison to every other sport, chances are you’ll be in contention more often and have a “bigger” program. You go to BU hockey games as much as you can? Well until other sports like basketball get that same attendance, they will struggle bringing in top recruits and winning with more student and alumni support.

    • John on 06.19.2012 at 12:37 pm

      Well, joining the ACC has proven to be a mixed bag for BC. Their football and basketball teams have underachieved and have been strangely inconsistent. For all sports BC has only been able to win only one conference championship since joining the ACC in ’05.

      The reality is that it’s difficult for a school in New England to out-recruit southern and midwestern schools for major sports like football and basketball. And as BC has been learning for all other sports, as well.

      • James on 06.20.2012 at 12:39 am

        I can’t take away anything from the hockey program- BU and Jack Parker do a fantastic job of bringing in some of the highest recruits out there and have strong local competition from BC, UMass, and Northeastern- all of which have solid programs. Yes, the sample size is smaller, but they have a great arena that draws in local, alumni, and student crowds regularly- and the atmosphere is great. As for soccer, BU has done a fairly good job recruiting some great international players, but that is our bread and butter (as well as with Crew, but they aren’t varsity so not worth the discussion). If you look at the teams making it to the final four for soccer it’s usually ACC, Big 10, or Big East schools. With basketball, I’m not interested in a conference that has it’s conference champion as the only participant because it’s an automatic bid (and you can make the case every once in a while the PL gets an at-large bid). Wrestling won’t be joining the PL as it’s not a league sport. Lacrosse BU is just beginning the program so it will be tough to hang with some of the PL schools like Lehigh but joining the ACC or Big East would have had the same learning curve. My point is that the 2 major sports affected by the move are soccer and basketball- and the competition and reputation is not far from America East for Patriot League. To me, this is a lateral move and only makes it more difficult for BU to jump to a major conference in the future as we don’t want to give the impression we jump conferences every 5 years. At the end of the day it’s all about brining recruits- and for a school with 50,000 students, a HUGE alumni base nationally and internationally, and with the facilities of Agannis Arena, Fit-rec, and the New Balance Field, going to the Patriot League is a waste of our AD’s time filling out paper work. It’s a wash and won’t improve alumni support, and it won’t bring anything new to the table from a player acquisition standpoint.

        • John on 06.20.2012 at 11:22 am

          Joining the Big East or ACC is simply unrealistic or practical. The Big East has become a collection of schools with no geographical logic. Not surprisingly several major eastern schools (BC, Cuse, Pitt) have left or want to leave (Rutgers, UCONN). Joining the ACC would not make much sense, as well. Realistically, a New England school would not be able to out-recruit those southern schools in football or basketball. And with Cuse and Pitt joining in ’14 recruiting just got tougher in those major sports and all other sports like lacrosse.

          • James on 06.21.2012 at 8:55 am

            You’re telling me that BU can’t hurdle a school like University of Pitt? Or what about University of Cinci (especially with OSU next door)? I don’t care about out-recruiting these schools. Look at St. Johns- no real football team and perenially recruit great bball players. Most of the NE talent stays east coast so their family can attend games. How does St. Joe’s, Villanova, Temple recruit with the saturated recruitment market in Philly- and they are all competative to make the toruney each year. And yeh, Rutgets and UConn may want to leave, but they aren’t going to the Patriot League are they? They will go to another major conference. I don’t give a hoot about out-recruiting Univ. of Florida or Duke for players. There are enough good athletes in the North Atlantic for BU to offer a strong academic backbone, solid facilities, and a major city that family members from NY, Philly, DC can drive or take a train to visit and support. If we had the right recruiting staff, a good schedule and a top conference, BU could ABSOLUTELY out-recruit St. Johns Villanova, Temple, St. Joe’s, UVA, Rutgers, and so on.

          • John on 06.21.2012 at 11:54 am

            Reply to James @8:55am. James, I don’t think you’re being realistic. The Big East is fairly unstable and bloated now. Major eastern schools have left or are looking to leave that conference for good reason. W/ so much conference instability I wouldn’t be surprised if the A-10 gets raided by other conferences. Already Temple has left and others may follow suit.

          • James on 07.02.2012 at 3:35 am

            Temple left the A-10 because it is looking to get into a BCS conference for football- it had nothing to do with academics or location. Not to mention the A-10 can annually put 2-3 teams in the tournament. BTW, although some schools may leave the Big East, they seem to be doing an alright job finding replacement schools such as Boise State. Don’t get it twisted, BU doesn’t have the academic reputation that the school continuously shoves down our throat- Syracuse, Villanova, and so on are all ranked higher than BU. Heck, Penn State is ranked higher than BU (along with many other Big 10 schools). I love how the board at BU sticks it’s nose up to schools that have a better reputation as well as alumni support/ base

          • Julian on 07.11.2012 at 3:01 pm

            James, I’m not sure if I follow with your notion that BU has a lower academic reputation than Villanova or Syracuse. Your statement seems to be based on “rankings”, which are almost surely the US News rankings. Unfortunately, these rankings are a silly way of accessing academic caliber. Even then, if I were to go along with these rankings as properly accessing academic rigor and reputation, BU ranks above Syracuse while Villanova is not even ranked in the same category as BU. BU is a nationally and globally known major research and liberal arts university. Villanova is a regional school that is not very well known on the West Coast of the US, much less outside of the US. Just pointing out some fallacies in your statement.

  • Dan on 06.18.2012 at 4:19 pm

    Good move. America East is garbage. Patriot at least is respectable, although the overall quality of athletics may be only marginally better.

  • Tony on 07.14.2012 at 2:47 am

    I don’t know why any BU student or alum wouldn’t be overjoyed by this move. The Ivy League will never have an opening. The Patriot League is the next best thing in Div. I. BU is now included in a group of schools with a tremendous academic reputation. BU will be a Patriot League school. That will help us recruit…better students. BU is never going to be a big-time sports school (other than hockey), but now it definitely has positioned itself to be a truely elite school. I’m a huge sports fan, but I would much rather be a graduate of a Patriot League school than a school with a bunch of one and done basketball players. I only hope BU has the good sense to never leave the Patriot League.

    • Bill on 11.05.2012 at 7:20 pm

      That’s my take as well. BU will never be a major sports power and membership in the ACC or even Big East is unrealistic and probably undesirable. Instead, its affiliation with other high-caliber schools like Colgate and Lehigh will help recruit quality students and cement its identity as an elite Eastern school. I also think that the schools in the Patriot League keep sports in the proper perspective, one that is consistent with BU’s values and attitudes. In fact, I think that in a league like this, BU could compete effectively in football and I would like to see it return someday. I think a low-key football program that exists primarily for fun and school spirit, and couldn’t care less about the BCS or national rankings, is just fine. Let BC pretend to be big time and bang their heads against the wall.

  • Leo the lion on 07.23.2012 at 2:57 pm

    Agree that this move makes sense for BU. The Patriot League is a cohesive association of private high quality academic instittions and that is where BU wants to be. America East was a hodge podge of private, semi private and state institutions, some with less than impressive academic reputations. You are who you hang out with.

  • Henry on 11.07.2012 at 8:21 pm

    James,have you seen the 2013 U.S. News ranking and BU’s rank relative to Syracuse? You really should do your research before you rant. You sound like a fool.

  • Shaemus Commins on 10.14.2014 at 12:50 pm

    My question is why the PATRIOT League would want BU? They have few sports in common.

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