Gannon and Mercyhurst formally accepted offers to join the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference on Wednesday, the first expansion in the conference’s 56-year history.
The Erie schools become the first private institutions to join the Division II PSAC, previously an affiliation of 14 state-owned colleges.
Gannon and Mercyhurst will play one more season in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletics Conference before becoming full-time PSAC members in the fall 2008. They should provide the PSAC a foothold in northwestern Pennsylvania, along with Edinboro.
C.W. Post is also expected to accept an invitation extended last week as an associate PSAC member for football and field hockey. The Brookville, N.Y., private school would become the first non-Pennsylvania institution to join the PSAC, although officials have said there are no plans to change the conference name.
The original PSAC members since 1951 include Edinboro, Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.
The only other variation to the alignment came in the mid-1980s, when West Chester explored a move to Division I.
School presidents from the original 14 PSAC schools voted unanimously earlier this month to expand. The presidents, at the same meeting, also approved increasing the number of athletic scholarships a school could offer from 70 to 125 across all sports.
The PSAC will also eliminate sport-specific caps on scholarships outside of NCAA requirements. For instance, currently the league restricts football scholarships to 25, while the NCAA allows for 36.
Each individual scholarship can be divided among multiple players.
Changing scholarship parameters was essential for league expansion, commissioner Steve Murray said in a phone interview.
– Associated Press
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