NORTHFIELD, Vt. - Norwich University and the North Atlantic Conference (NAC) have reached an agreement that will see the Cadets' football program join the league as an associate member beginning in 2009.
Norwich will play in the Empire 8 Conference, a league in which it has been a member of since 2004, next season before making the move to the NAC.
"We are thrilled to be a part of a league, whose members are primarily New England schools because the majority of our fans and alums are from that area," said Norwich president Richard Schneider. "The Empire 8 schools are all good schools, but many of them are located so far away from our campus that our student-athletes were missing significant class time in order to travel to games. By competing against other New England schools, that issue should be resolved."
Husson, Mt. Ida, Becker, Gallaudet and SUNY Maritime are the other institutions that will comprise the new league. While Norwich will play five league games, university officials are exploring the possibility of renewing old-time rivalries in order to round out its 2009 non-conference schedule.
"I believe that entering the North Atlantic Conference will give us the opportunity to bring Cadet football back into New England," said Norwich Director of Athletics Tony Mariano. "It is an exciting time for our football program."
Norwich head football coach Shawn McIntyre, who is thrilled about the decision, echoed Mariano's statement.
"I'm very excited about the opportunity to enter the North Atlantic Conference in 2009," said Norwich head football coach Shawn McIntyre. "Making the move into the NAC will also give us the chance to play primarily in the New England area.
"Entering this league will give our alumni base in the New England area the ability to support Norwich football by traveling to more games, since the majority of them will be played in this area," added McIntyre. "I think there will be a lot less travel involved on Fridays for our players, which means that our players will be missing less academic time, which is also a huge factor."
When Norwich plays Gallaudet, it will give the program a chance to showcase its product in front a great deal of NU alums in the Washington, D.C., area.
"Every other year we will have the opportunity to play a game in the Washington, D.C., area in front of a great deal of our alumni," said McIntyre. "I think it will be great for a military school like Norwich to play in our nation's capital."
Former Norwich head football coach Mike Yesalonia is excited about the future of NU football as it enters the NAC.
"Becoming a member of this league will afford Coach McIntyre an excellent opportunity to make a mark as a young head coach," said Yesalonia. "It will be an exciting fresh start for Norwich football, and I think that Coach McIntyre will lead the Cadets to great things."
Barry Mynter, who preceded Yesalonia as head coach of the Cadets, agrees with his successor.
"I think this is terrific," said Mynter. "This is a great opportunity for our program to play primarily in New England against teams that it can really compete with. I think the possibility of renewing old rivalries is exciting as well."
Current members of the Norwich team are also pumped up about the future of Norwich football, as it begins to embark on a new chapter.
Sophomore quarterback Chris Gilding, who will be a senior at Norwich when the Cadets enter the NAC in 2009, is excited about what lies ahead for the football program.
"I think that every guy was pumped up when Coach McIntyre told us the news about switching leagues in a couple of years," said Gilding. "I am looking forward to the new challenges that will be presented. I am also excited about playing more games in the New England area."
Norwich University Board of Trustees member Gary Terry, who is serving as the chair of the athletic committee, gave his approval for the NAC as well.
"I think it is going to be exciting to be part of a brand new football league," said Terry. "Norwich football will be able to directly influence the dynamics of the NAC, and I think that will give us extra motivation to work hard and get better."