By Jordan Dunn ’18
One of Merrimack’s major selling points to incoming freshman is to press the excitement of having a Division 1 hockey teams on campus.
The administration announced in 2011 to other media outlets that Merrimack wanted to make all its sports team Division 1. Recently, some students pressed President Christopher Hopey on its progress. This question came up mainly due to the addition of another Division 1 program with the Womens’ hockey team this year.
Jeremy Gibson, director of athletics at Merrimack, was asked whether the school’s facilities could handle the jump from Division 1.
“Facilities will change, but they will grow along with the school,” he said.
It takes a lot of funding and a significantly dedicated staff to support a full flight of Division 1 sports programs, but most of the staff is already in place due to the presence of the hockey teams, Gibson said. One specific hang-up Gibson mention was that the jump up a division “hinges entirely on conference.”
While the school may get the required offer needed to join a Division 1 conference, it needs to make sense in terms of geography., he explained. The teams would certainly bring a lot of exposure to the school, but with more competitive sports comes a greater sense of school community around the teams.
Division 1 teams used to be reserved for large schools that had bigger campuses, student bodies, and large budgets. Recently however, Merrimack has begun to grow a bit larger than its divisional opponents.
Gibson stressed that we “need to grow into a conference more our size.”
While the school has expressed significant interest in becoming a full division one school, it will not happen overnight. On top of a bona fide offer from a Division 1 conference, there is a five-year period of transition the school goes through where the NCAA monitors athletic activity.
During that five-year period Merrimack would continue to play divisional opponents as the school’s programs and facilities transitioned under the eye of the NCAA.