Anna Maria and Johnson and Wales to leave the GNAC
Two core Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) members are making the switch to different conferences. Anna Maria College and Johnson and Wales University (JWU) are both saying goodbye to the GNAC beginning in the 2024 season.
Announced early this month, Anna Maria will be departing the GNAC and heading for the Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference (MASCAC). Their hockey program will make the jump in 2024, while their remaining programs will complete the move in 2025.
The AMCats will become the first private college and ninth member of the MASCAC joining the likes of Fitchburg State University, Bridgewater State University, Salem State University, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Worcester State University, Westfield State University, and Framingham State University.
Since joining the GNAC in 2011, the AMCats have never captured a GNAC Championship in any of the 11 sports through men’s or women’s programs. Unlike the AMCats, The JWU Wildcats have had lots of success as of late. Since 2021, the Wildcats have captured eight different GNAC championships, including back-to-back championships in baseball, while the women’s soccer team captured their third straight GNAC championship.
Within the three-peat for women’s soccer, JWU faced the Lasers in the 2021 and 2022 GNAC Championships, winning both bouts. In 2019, the Wildcats took down the Lasers enroute to claiming their first championship of the three-peat. There was no GNAC Championship held in 2020 due to COVID-19. The Wildcats are currently the number one seed for the 2023 women’s soccer playoffs, as they chase down what could be their fourth-straight and final GNAC Championship.
JWU had announced their departure from the GNAC in December of 2022, as they’ll be joining the Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC). Other members of the CCC include Suffolk University, Endicott College, University of New England, Wentworth University, Roger Williams University, and Curry College to name a few.
“A big negative to losing JWU would be most of their teams, if not all, compete at a very high level which does add value to the GNAC and allows good competition,” GNAC Representative Caitlyn Smith said. “A positive to losing both teams is making sure field hockey does not have to be split into north and south divisions, this would not be ideal for field hockey. Since field hockey has 13 teams within the conference… losing teams makes it manageable that we do not have to split.”
Earlier this year, the GNAC gained two new members in New England College and Mitchell College, which bumped the conference’s number up to 16 schools. Now, with Anna Maria and JWU on their way out, the conference drops back down to a total of 14.
“Throughout the years we have seen lots of teams that want to enter the conference so that has to say something about the GNAC being a good conference making teams want to enter and play,” said Smith.
The 1851 Chronicle reached out to both Anna Maria and Johnson and Wales’ athletic directors and received no response from either. Lasell Interim Athletic Department Leader Jennifer OKeeffe did confirm that JWU was leaving the GNAC, however declined to comment.