On May 24, President Black formally accepted an invitation to join the Middle Atlantic States Collegiate Athletic Corporation starting in the 2008-2009 academic year. The announcement was presented in front of a small audience of faculty, administration, athletes and guests.
“This is a great day for Eastern University,” said Harry Gutelius, Eastern’s athletic director at the time of the announcement. “I am very happy.”
By accepting the invitation, Eastern will be leaving the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference after 16 full seasons of competition. Founded in 1912, the MAC is currently made up of 13 teams located in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Eastern will compete in the MAC’s Freedom Athletic Conference along with Wilkes, Kings, DeSales, FDU-Florham, Delaware Valley, Alvernia and Misericordia.
“We have long known and competed with the fine institutions comprising that conference,” Black said in a press release. “Importantly, we share their commitment to academic rigor and to the formation of scholar-athletes into ethical people who will lead and influence our complex society.”
Eastern made the decision to switch athletic conferences based mainly off the increased level of competitiveness that the MAC offers. Gutelius believes that the MAC is also a better fit for Eastern in terms of its commitment to the values of the conference.
“We liked the direction and the vision of the MAC and of the schools in the MAC,” new Athletic Director Mark Wagner said.
Also leaving the PAC with Eastern will be Alvernia, Arcadia and Misericordia, all destined for the MAC. Wesley has also decided to leave the PAC and become a member of a new conference.
“I will miss the PAC-the way that it was several years ago,” Gutelius said.
Cabrini has yet to indicate any intentions of moving conferences and has responded vaguely to rumors of possibly leaving the PAC.
“The PAC has been our home since 1992 and we continue to value our conference experience,” Cabrini’s Athletic Director Leslie Danehy said in an email interview.
The conference switch will most likely change the number of times Eastern plays Cabrini each sports season, but plans are to continue the rivalry. Both Wagner and Danehy indicated a strong desire to see the two schools play each other.
“It should add to the prestige of the game,” Sports Information Director Dan Mouw said.
Wagner commented that Eastern has successfully competed in the PAC and won championships for many years now. He noted that overall the move is a jump in the level of competition for Eastern.
Shortly after accepting the invitation to join the MAC, Gutelius stepped down from his position as Athletic Director in order for Wagner to step in. In 1968, Gutelius began his tenure in collegiate athletics as a head coach in the MAC. He pointed out the significance of his beginning in the MAC and ending in the MAC.
“I am truly excited at the prospect of Eastern’s entering competition with the MASCAC in the fall of 2008,” Gutelius said in the press release. “I think our new partner colleges will open an excellent set of relationships for our university.”