Mercyhurst marks new era in athletics with move to Division I

University joins Northeast Conference beginning with 2024-25 season

Erie, PA, April 04, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Mercyhurst University announced today that it has accepted an invitation to join the NCAA Division I Northeast Conference (NEC), marking a new era in athletics at the nearly 100-year-old institution.

Currently, the Lakers play at the DI level in men’s and women’s ice hockey while fielding 24 other varsity teams at the Division II level, most through affiliation with the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). Transitioning to Division I, effective Fall 2024, augments Mercyhurst’s exceptional academic culture and enables its student-athletes to compete at the highest echelon of collegiate athletics.

“Today marks a watershed moment for Mercyhurst University, amplifying our commitment to excellence in all that we do,” said Mercyhurst President Kathleen A. Getz, Ph.D.  “In making this transition to the Northeast Conference, we believe our Mercyhurst community, our alumni, and devoted fans will benefit from a new era of spirited competition and connectedness, forging an enduring legacy for future generations of Lakers. Further, we are truly grateful for the gracious welcome extended to us by Commissioner Noreen Morris and the NEC Council of Presidents, whose values and mission are strategically aligned with our own.”

Historically, Getz said, joining the Division I NEC rises to the level of Mercyhurst’s transformative decision in 1969 to transition from an all-women’s school to a co-ed institution, and again, in 2012, when Mercyhurst achieved university status. That this decision arrives on the cusp of the university’s centennial, to be celebrated in the 2026-27 year, is a most fitting tribute to the university’s Carpe Diem legacy and its time-honored tradition of Seizing the Day!

“By making the move to Division I and the NEC, we are not only raising the bar for our student-athletes but also elevating the profile and prestige of Mercyhurst University on a national stage,” Getz said. “This transition will open doors to new opportunities for recruitment, competition, and collaboration with universities and athletic programs in new and larger markets, including New York, Chicago, and Boston.”

NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris was equally positive. “Today, on behalf of the NEC Council of Presidents, we are delighted to extend a heartfelt welcome to Mercyhurst University as the newest member of the NEC,” she said. “Mercyhurst’s commitment to bringing out the best in their student-athletes, both on the field and in the classroom, alongside their focus on community engagement, deeply resonated with our mission and values. We appreciate President Kathleen Getz and Athletic Director Joe Spano for their exceptional leadership throughout this process. Their forward-thinking vision and meticulous planning have positioned the Lakers for a seamless and successful transition to Division I and the NEC. We’re eager to kick off this partnership, which promises to uplift the conference and invigorate both the vibrant campus life at Mercyhurst and the surrounding Erie community.”

Speaking to the Erie community, James Grunke, president and CEO of the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, said, "This is a bold and exciting step forward for Mercyhurst and for our community.  Division I is the toughest to get into and to compete in.  This move will attract more students and more athletes to Erie and I applaud the decision by President Getz and the Board of Trustees as this will further elevate Erie as an athletic destination."

Mercyhurst officials engaged in months of assessment on whether to make the transition and consulted the leadership of other colleges that have moved from DII to DI in recent years. Their research considered an array of perspectives in the everchanging field of intercollegiate athletics, including its effect on enrollment, alumni engagement, university finances, and local economic development, as well as its consonance with the university’s mission.

The motion to proceed was ratified unanimously by the Board of Trustees on March 29.

“For years, our athletic programs have showcased exceptional talent and dedication, both athletically and academically, at the NCAA Division II level,” said Mercyhurst Athletic Director Joe Spano. “We are grateful for the more than 15 years we spent as members of the PSAC and the competition and camaraderie we shared under that affiliation. In looking to the future, we see the immense potential for growth and achievement that comes with competing at the highest level of collegiate athletics and we are excited to offer this opportunity to our student-athletes.”

NEC full member institutions in the 2024-2025 season, when Mercyhurst begins play, include Central Connecticut State University, Chicago State University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Le Moyne College, Long Island University, Saint Francis University, Stonehill College, and Wagner College.

Spano added that having recently completed major updates to the university’s athletic facilities, Mercyhurst is further poised for the move to Division I.

In 2019, the university implemented a comprehensive facilities improvement plan, centered around the William Vorsheck Jr. Athletic Complex, providing Mercyhurst student-athletes with first-class facilities, including renovations to every on-campus competition facility, among them Saxon Stadium, and the baseball/soccer field, four new locker rooms featuring space for women’s soccer and softball, the Ice Center, a new turf field with lights that is used by the university’s softball program and shared with Mercyhurst Prep, and a totally renovated athletic center and basketball court.

“I want to extend my deepest gratitude to our dedicated coaches, staff, student-athletes, alumni, and supporters whose unwavering passion and commitment have made this transition possible,” Getz said. “Your hard work, dedication, and belief in the mission of Mercyhurst University have laid the foundation for this historic moment.”

To learn more about the transition and how you can be involved, visit our DI information site: (


Mercyhurst University marks new era in athletics with move to Division I

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