by Dan Gardella
PITTSBURGH- Even after game one at the UPMC Center last season, it was evident that Robert Morris had the facilities and success to take a step up.
On Monday afternoon, they did just that.
It was officially announced that Robert Morris would leave the Northeast Conference (NEC) for the Horizon League in 10 of its Division I sports. The move will take place for the upcoming 2020-2021 athletic season.
“The Colonials align with the Horizon League’s mission, vision and core values. Their addition brings competitive potential, especially in men’s basketball, the engaged and vital communities of Moon Township and Greater Pittsburgh, and membership diversity. Their addition positions the Horizon League perfectly for the future,” said Horizon League commissioner Jonathan LeCrone.
The Colonials won nine NEC Tournament championships, the most in the league since the conference was formed back in 1981. Under Andy Toole’s tenure over the last decade, Robert Morris has appeared in five NEC Tournament Championship games and made six appearances in postseason tournaments, including NCAA Tournament bids in 2015 and 2019.
“While we are disappointed by this news given its founding member status in 1981, we thank RMU for its long-standing partnership with the NEC and the many memories we’ve shared over the years,” said Northeast Conference commissioner Noreen Morris in a statement.
With Robert Morris departing the NEC, the conference drops back down to ten teams in its basketball conference. The league added Merrimack to the conference prior to the 2019-20 season. While the league was planning on moving to a 20-game, double round-robin style of conference play, they will instead continue their 18-game conference play, keeping the double round-robin style.
Due to Merrimack’s postseason ineligibility until 2025 as a result of the transition period from Division II to Division I competition, there will be nine teams competing for eight spots in the conference tournament moving forward.
It’s unlikely that the league will seek to add another team in the near future until Merrimack is eligible for postseason competition.