NEC replaces Bryant with D2 Stonehill College
When Bryant College announced that it was leaving the Northeast Conference for the America East, it immediately created a void in the NEC that needed to be filled. Bryant is the reigning regular season and tournament champion of the league, and Head Coach Jared Grasso’s program was elevating the standard of the league. The NEC is composed of small private schools in the northeast, and they added another one, in Stonehill College on Tuesday.
The Skyhawks represent the Easton, MA institution and have been playing out of the Division II Northeast 10 since 1980. They’ve won four men’s basketball conference tournament championships, 1981, 1982, 1988, and 2012, and they went 15–12 last season. Their current head coach is Chris Kraus, who led the program to the NCAA Tournament in 2020 before the COVID shutdown.
Stonehill’s former coaches include former Seton Hall coach and UConn assistant George Blaney as well as current Dartmouth headman David McLaughlin. During McLaughlin’s tenure, the Skyhawks made two Division II Final Fours, and Kraus replaced him when he left.
A notable member of the Skyhawk family is current Providence head coach, and Naismith Coach of the Year, Ed Cooley, who played at Stonehill from 1989 through 1994.
Founded by the Congregation of the Holy Cross in 1948, Stonehill ranks in the top 100 National Liberal Arts Schools and Best Value according to US News & World Report. The Skyhawks also have strong programs in women’s cross country and track & field, which won 14 straight NE10 Championships between 2015 and 2020. The women’s lacrosse program is a two-time National Champion, and currently ranks in Division II’s top 25.
Stonehill has already signed a Division I transfer, in former Hartford guard Briggs McClain.
Here were the comments from NEC Commissioner Noreen Morris
And these were the comments from Stonehill’s Director of Athletics Dean O’Keefe
The Skyhawks will not be eligible for the NCAA or NEC Tournament until 2026–27 in automatic-qualifier sports, like basketball, due to the NCAA’s four year Division I reclassification period. The NEC is now back at ten teams, but with two for next season in the reclassification period, will only have eight teams in their conference tournament. Reports have also come out that Mount St. Mary’s is expected to eventually join the MAAC, which would drop the league to nine teams, and would leave Saint Francis of Pennsylvania as a geographic outlier. Stonehill joining the league becomes the second school in Massachusetts, and replaces Bryant somewhat well geographically.