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.”