The MAAC expands to 13 teams: what it means for Canisius athletics
By Maggie Tifft, Contributor
The Metro-Atlantic Athletic Conference announced on October 23rd that the conference was expanding from 11 teams to 13, adding Merrimack University and Sacred Heart University.
With the addition of these two schools, the MAAC now covers six states and major media cities, like Boston. The expansion was one based on not only athletics, but also academics, as both schools have very similar emphasis on excelling at a high education while pursuing excellence in athletics as well.
One major concern for athletics that comes with having 13 teams spread across the Northeast is traveling. How are teams capable of competing against all other teams both on budget and within a reasonable time frame? For sports like basketball, both men’s and women’s have 13 teams that play one another twice in the regular season. This could potentially add another week onto teams’ seasons prolonging the start of post season competition.
“[It’s] probably not realistic to go to a 24-game schedule. If you’re not playing everybody twice, we look into splitting based on geography, on metrics, and on rivalries. You’d have a situation where two schools just wouldn’t play each other,” said MAAC commissioner Travis Tellitocci.
Another issue, especially for teams like Canisius who have a team in almost every sport the MAAC sponsors, is championship setups. With sports that have over six teams competing, there comes a point to which the MAAC cannot allow everyone to compete in the postseason. The staff at the MAAC has begun undergoing the strategic planning process in order to ensure the addition of the two schools runs smoothly in the 2024-25 seasons, looking into solutions for post season travel and bracket setups for different sports.
“Taking 26 teams to a neutral site is a pretty heavy lift, so we’re starting to have those discussions within our conference like, ‘Are we bringing 26 teams? Does [the championship series] look like a play-in on campus?’ There’s a lot of discussions on the table,” continued Tellitocci.
Merrimack and Sacred Heart are both on average six- to seven-hour bus rides for Canisius athletes, adding to the already grueling bus rides for teams traveling to Quinnipiac, Fairfield, or any schools in New York City. This causes concerns for travel budgets and scheduling as the MAAC tends to only host competitions on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This could potentially lead to travel partners or even split divisions amongst sports.
The MAAC is already discussing ideas for all sports and all teams in terms of traveling and schedule for both the regular season and the postseason. The decisions that will be made impact every school differently, and for Canisius University in particular it could mean many different things: more travel and more conference games, or possibly the opposite.
The MAAC looks to athletic directors, coaches and even the student athletes for input on the challenges they are facing. This choice to involve all of those who are impacted by the two school’s additions will only help the staff at the MAAC come to decisions and better the experience for everyone who represents the conference.